Raphaele Leyendecker is the Managing Director of Techstars Sustainability Paris. Raphaele is a sustainability and digital entrepreneur, startup board member and early stage investor. She is also versed in strategic innovation and venture building, working with 55+ corporations such as Engie, Suez or Schneider Electric over the years.
Less than a year after my nomination as Managing Director of Techstars in Paris, I am really happy to announce today that our accelerator is becoming the Sustainability accelerator of Techstars, thus renamed into Techstars Sustainability Paris. How did we get here?
I like to say that we invest in founders willing to build a better world - tackling some of the century’s biggest issues such as water, energy or waste management. Our investment thesis therefore is set on impact and sustainability, but remains industry and tech agnostic as we adopted since April 2022 a wide variety in our portfolio including hardware, software but also deeptech, biotech and fintech early stage companies.
As France is building what it takes to bring french startups to become the next green unicorns, it will inevitably go through bridging the actual gap between the franco-french ecosystem and the global economy. This is where Techstars Sustainability Paris envisions to become a major player thanks to Techstars worldwide network of mentors, investors and corporate partners to help our portfolio companies go to the next level thanks to our international footprint.
For instance, Kumulus water (France) who just announced a 1M euros pre-seed round and has been created by Iheb Triki and Mohammed Ali Abid two talented engineers seeking to solve the access to drinkable water issue starting in North Africa, thanks to their machine producing water out of the air with a pay per liter solution already lining up an impressive waitlist of corporate clients. Iheb says “The “give first mentality” is rooted in Techstars network; and this is what makes Techstars an unmatched source of mentors and people from whom you learn”. Our German company Mavuno Technologies, led by the three Rohrenbach brothers, operates in Tanzania and Kenya empowering thousands of farmers thanks to their prepaid service to double harvest yield thanks to satellite imagery and machine learning. Johannes, the CEO, emphasized that “the most exciting aspect of our accelerator experience surely was to be part of a peer group of extremely talented and experienced founders sharing the same vision of sustainability”. We also account in our portfolio, Rotterdam based biotech Outlander materials, producing unplastic materials out of organic waste and co founded by scientist Lori Goff and Francois Schockaert, saying “We found the program to be exceptionally curated, it was personalized & tuned to our specific needs and phase of development (rare among programs) and elegantly combined with 11 other phenomenal companies making real, tangible contribution to sustainability across the globe”. Only with the 12 first investments of 2022, we aim at saving 4Mt CO2 within 5 years.
We have built a unique network and content crafted for sustainable ventures. We enable them to measure their impact and assess their carbon footprint during our 3 month program while they meet with leading mentors, investors and firms on the impact field. As an early operating investor, we give them the best tools and mindset to embed ESG from their early days on.
As we have a global ambition, we invest in startups coming from everywhere - not only Paris. Actually, 16 of our 24 portfolio companies are not French. Many international startups indeed see France as a great entry to the European market where we can get them access to a broad network of corporates and investors. With the evolution of the Venture Capital market, Techstars thinks Paris can become the capital of Sustainability for startups.
With a unique regulatory and political framework, starting back in 2015 with the Paris agreement during COP21 (aiming at reducing GhG to limit global temperature increase), France has set in place ground breaking rules in terms of ESG reporting, agriculture, environment or energy. The French Tech (french government’s body promoting innovation) also took strong positions recently to promote greentech, agtech and deeptech to fight climate change. The city of Paris announced a few days ago the launch of its climate innovation fund and is partnering with the startup ecosystem to develop pilots in order to make the city more green.
If Europe is the home of large VC investing in climate tech such as the World fund, Speedinvest, EQT Venture or Octopus Venture, France accounts for a large number of deals with growth VC such as Eurazeo or BPI France. Partech, Elaia or X Ange are also leading the way in France when it comes to early stage investing in purpose driven companies, together with Citizen Capital, Ring Capital or AFI Ventures - all of them working closely with Techstars Sustainability Paris.
Home of talented scientists and developers, France has recognized engineering schools, Labs and R&D facilities when it comes to biotech, energy, space or agriculture. INRIA et CEA have supported the development of numerous game changing innovations seeking their entry to market.
As the VC ecosystem is shifting with the recent economic downturn, with still a lot of liquidity in the market, I believe there is a strong opportunity for the Deeptech revolution to finally see the light as investors will not only pursue growth and ROI but also focus on building the new fundamentals of our society. And again this is where France could not only be the home of french impact tech but of any impact tech.
To know more about Techstars Sustainability Paris and our current application for the April 2023 program, visit our page.