Tuesday Dec 08, 2009

Rencontre avec Lucien Lapasin, un BA engagé !

Lucien Lapasin est administrateur de Novaris Equity, une société d'investissement de business angels et Vice-Président de VAL'Angels, une association de business angels du Val-de-Marne.

Bonjour Lucien. Vous êtes administrateur de Novaris Equity, une SIBA. C'est quoi, une SIBA ?

Une SIBA est une Société d'Investissement de Business Angels. Cette structure – une SAS - rassemble des business angels individuels qui cherchent à investir collectivement en mutualisant leurs moyens dans des entreprises pour accélérer leur développement. Une SIBA regroupe des actionnaires. Certains business angels débutants, avant de rentrer dans une SIBA, souhaitent bien comprendre tout l’écosystème par une adhésion à une association. Ainsi parallèlement, une association a été créée, VAL'Angels, soutenue par l’Agence du Développement Economique du Val-de-Marne qui souhaitait se doter d'une véritable structure pour accompagner le financement des jeunes entreprises du département.

VAL’Angels créée en 2008 (une cinquantaine de membres) accueille tous les BA qui souhaitent s'impliquer dans cette démarche et découvrir l'activité de financement de l'innovation. Créée en 2008, Novaris Equity compte aujourd'hui 35 actionnaires, et une cinquantaine est prévue à mi-2010. Elle a effectué 6 investissements jusqu'à présent, et son objectif est de participer au développement d'une quinzaine de projets sur la durée de vie de la SIBA (8 ans). La souscription est ouverte jusqu'à juin 2011.

Quel est l'intérêt d'une SIBA pour les entrepreneurs ?

Pour les entrepreneurs, c'est la possibilité d'obtenir des financements plus importants que s'ils s'adressaient à des business angels, un par un, et c'est aussi un moyen de mettre en place, par un pacte d’actionnaire adapté, un actionnariat réduit mais beaucoup plus efficace dans la gouvernance et le développement.

Les SIBA permettent également de combler efficacement le fameux "equity gap", c'est-à-dire le "trou d'air" entre le love money (quelques dizaines de milliers d'euros pour la création ) et le venture capital (quelques millions d'euros pour le développement). Pour prendre une image, je dirais que les BA sont les "accoucheurs" des projets d'entreprise alors que les VCs sont les éleveurs. Les BA jouent un rôle stratégique pour faire grandir le "bébé" dans de bonnes conditions depuis sa naissance et pendant ses premières années de vie, là où l'avenir se détermine et où l’entreprise acquiert sa valeur.

Et pour les business angels ?

Pour les BA, outre les avantages fiscaux attachés à ce type d'investissement (IRPP et ISF) , c'est la possibilité de bénéficier d’un « deal flow » plus important sur des projets présélectionnés, de mutualiser leurs fonds et de limiter leurs risques en répartissant leurs mises sur plusieurs dossiers dans des placements diversifiés et équilibrés. A titre d'exemple, Novaris Equity s'intéresse au secteur des TIC, mais aussi aux services (à la personne et aux entreprises) ou encore à la santé ou à l'énergie. Cependant, être investisseur au sein d'une SIBA laisse toute possibilité d'investir à titre personnel, ce qui offre le maximum de souplesse dans ses choix. Nous voyons ainsi régulièrement des dossiers où des personnes physiques investissent à la fois au travers d'une SIBA et à titre personnel. C’est le cas de certains investissements réalisés par Novaris Equity; l'effet de levier de la SIBA joue ainsi à plein.

Quelles sont les tendances du financement par les business angels aujourd'hui ?

La première grande tendance que je constate, c'est la structuration et la professionnalisation de cette activité depuis 2 ou 3 ans. L'investisseur individuel fortuné qui met un ticket de plusieurs centaines de milliers d'euros dans un projet existe toujours, mais les petits investisseurs se regroupent de plus en plus pour industrialiser leur approche et avoir un impact plus important dans le développement des entreprises qu'ils accompagnent. Les SIBA adoptent désormais les mêmes outils et les mêmes processus que les VCs. Elles montent des comités d'investissement très professionnels et font appel aux meilleurs experts pour évaluer le potentiel et le risque associés à chaque dossier. De fait, les VCs voient aujourd'hui d'un très bon oeil la présence de BA dans une startup, car c'est le signe pour eux que la société fait déjà l'objet d'une attention soutenue et que les risques de gros investissements sont ainsi plus limités.

La deuxième grande tendance, c'est l'implication de plus en plus importante des seniors dans l'accompagnement des jeunes pousses, un vivier à mieux exploiter. De nombreux chefs d'entreprise ou cadres dirigeants qui ont cessé leur activité se prennent au jeu et, si investir dans une SIBA est un moyen efficace pour eux de réduire leurs impôts, ce n'est pas la motivation principale de leur engagement. Ce qui motive véritablement les BA, c'est la possibilité qui leur est offerte d'aider la jeune génération à réussir dans la création et le développement d'entreprise par un accompagnement adapté. Il n'y a pas de plus grande satisfaction pour un patron ou ex-patron qui a réussi que de partager son savoir-faire et, en quelque sorte, de connaître une seconde réussite "par procuration".

Que doivent faire les entrepreneurs pour séduire les business angels ?

Face à des BA de plus en plus professionnels, les entrepreneurs doivent se montrer à la hauteur, et il faut reconnaître qu'ils ont encore des efforts à faire, notamment dans la partie business. Nous recevons encore trop souvent des dossiers qui proposent des technologies très innovantes, mais qui ne parlent pas du marché ou des marchés adressés. J'estime que 70% des dossiers que je vois passer manquent de dimension économique. Pour les hommes d'affaires que sont les BA, avec une perspective de sortie à terme, ce qui compte avant tout, c'est de comprendre comment les porteurs de projet vont créer et développer du business.

Les questions fondamentales auxquelles les entrepreneurs doivent répondre clairement, que ce soit en 5 minutes ou en 50 minutes, c'est :

  • quelle est l'offre et quel est son avantage concurrentiel ?
  • à qui s'adresse-t-elle?
  • quelle est la cible ? Qui est prêt à payer et combien ?
  • quel est le modèle économique et le business plan correspondant ?
  • quelle est la création de valeur et à quelle échéance ?
  • quel est "l'ancrage" (la légitimité) des porteurs de projet par rapport au marché visé ?

Au final, les BA veulent comprendre s'il y a une réalité économique au projet ou non et si l'équipe va tenir le choc. Un bon projet, c'est à 50% un bon business et à 50% une bonne équipe, et pour détruire une légende qui court sur le milieu du financement, je peux vous dire qu'un bon projet n'a pas de problème pour être financé par des fonds privés venant de BA en co-investissement et des fonds publics. Ce qui veut dire à l'inverse que si le projet ne trouve pas de financement, c'est que l'entrepreneur doit se poser sérieusement des questions sur la solidité ou la légitimité de sa démarche.

Quels conseils donneriez-vous à un entrepreneur qui veut lever des fonds ?

Montrer qu'il est un vrai businessman et qu'il s'est posé les bonnes questions pour mettre tous les atouts de son côté :

  • quel est le marché que l'on veut adresser, pour y faire quoi et dans quelles conditions ?
  • l'offre est-elle en adéquation par rapport à ce marché et à ses besoins ?
  • que faut-il faire pour préparer son arrivée et commercialiser l'offre sur le marché ?
  • quelle intelligence, quelle équipe dois-je rassembler autour de moi pour maximiser mes chances de réussite ?
  • quels sont mes vrais besoins de financement (ni trop ni trop peu), et sur quelle base de valorisation ?

Il n'y a pas de miracle : face à des pros, il faut se montrer pro. C'est la seule mesure valable dans le monde des affaires.

Merci Lucien et bon courage pour la suite !

Si vous voulez en savoir plus sur Novaris et VAL'Angels, envoyez un email à llapasin@novaris.fr

Tuesday Jul 14, 2009

Check Out BizSessions Tonight

For those in the Bay area, check out BizSessions tonight at Mighty (119 Utah St.) Join the discussion about funding models in current cash starved times. Boot strapping, Angel money, VC funding, micro funds, ramen profitability-  when, why and how you should choose each. How are companies, entrepreneurs and investors evolving after the lessons learned in the past decade? Those in attendance will include Accel Partners, First Round Capital, Socializr, Fotki, among others. Hurry though, starts at 6!

Register here: http://bs10.eventbrite.com/?discount=sunstartup

Tuesday Feb 17, 2009

Sun Microsystems, Cloud Computing and the premier European VC event 'Entrepreneur Country'

Entrepreneur Country At Sun UK we recently supported and attended "Entrepreneur Country" a major European Start Up and VC event.

Acting as a rallying cry to the entrepreneurial, VC and Start-up communities, the event affirmed that now is the best time to start your own company and that entrepreneurs were key to the recovery of the economy from the recession.

Almost 300 of the UK’s leading entrepreneurs, including Caffè Nero founder Gerry Ford and Betfair co-founder and Chairman Edward Wray, shared stories of success at the event. Roman Stanek, a founder of NetBeans, and now founder and CEO of Good Data Corp and successful serial entrepreneur, said "tough times create tough companies", whilst Gerry Ford, urged us to "be restless and relentless" in the pursuit of success. The seminars were held at the Institute of Directors (IoD) in central London and coincided with the official launch of Entrepreneur Country online.

Other highlights of the day included keynotes from Sir Paul Judge (from the Enterprise Education Trust on ‘Risk and Enterprise’), Glen Manchester (Founder and CEO of Thunderhead), Ed Wray (Co-Founder and Chairman of Betfair), Niall Harbison (Founder and Chef at iFoods.tv), and David Courtier-Dutton and Paul Brown (from SliceThePie).

The event was organised and hosted by Ariadne Capital, an entrepreneurial investment and advisory firm. Ariadne was set up by current CEO Julie Meyer; probably best known as being a founder of First Tuesday, the largest global network of entrepreneurs (which many credit for igniting the Internet generation across Europe).

The agenda also included two panel sessions discussing Online Gaming (and virtual worlds) and Cloud Computing (and, to an extent, it's impact on the entrepreneurial, VC and Start-up communities and how they might best capitalise on it). The later of which I had been asked to take part in of behalf of Sun. Cannily I kept mental notes and have been able to write the session up as a separate blog post "Cloud Computing panel interview with Sun Microsystems at 'Entrepreneur Country'" (for further background material on Cloud Computing you may also want to check out my "Cloud Relationship Model" article). The questions we were asked included:

  1. Surely we’ve heard all of this before in various forms and guises? What is different this time? Why will it work? ...response #1
  2. For this stuff to become truly embedded it will need to move from the man in the street to the corporate. Corporate CIOs are a risk averse bunch especially when you move into some sectors (e.g. Financial Services). What will influence the CIOs' buying decision? ...response #2
  3. It was all very easy when you went out and bought or developed software, installed it yourself, ran it yourself, etc. Does working in the cloud bring new issues with regards to data ownership, IP rights, other legal issues, etc.? ...response #3
  4. What is your vision for the future and where this goes? ...response #4
  5. An audience driven Q and A session including responses to "What do you think of Microsoft's Azure Cloud initiative?" and "What is Sun's Cloud Computing strategy?" ...response #5

I really enjoyed the day and had a productive time networking and meeting people, all of whom shared with me their vision, enthusiasm and wonderful business ideas. I met people from MovieStorm, TechnologyDen, NewVoiceMedia, Broadcom UK, SaaSPlex, Spinvox, Teamer, and a quite a few others too. Some of these companies had been funded by Enterprise Ireland and it was very good to see them there as well as representatives from the UK's Technology Strategy Board.

Accompanying the days themes of Invention, Innovation and Entrepreneurism were handouts, books and other resources, and I picked up a copy of Jeremy Coller's new book "The Lives, Loves and Deaths of Splendidly Unreasonable Inventors".

On the night we went to an associated networking dinner where I fell deep into conversation with a number of people including Paul Flanagan, Executive for Digital Entertainment at Ariadne, Declan Cunningham, Director at Ariadne, and Tom Salmon, founder of AfterShow and Traffic Digital.

The event was supported by the Sun UK Internet Business team, led by Paul Tarantino, with additional support from Simon Culmer, Director of Sales from the UK executive management team, as well as myself. Here's the official write up, a variety of photos taken and also a selection of video recordings.

Thanks to Rebecca Temple, Manager of Portfolio Marketing at Ariadne, here's a variety of some of the other coverage of the day, much of it focused on the business messages we heard:

Please note that this article was originally written and posted at my blog and I've included it as a guest article here too for those interested in the 'Entrepreneur Country' event. The original article is hosted here: http://blogs.sun.com/eclectic/entry/sun_ariadne_capital_entrepreneur_country

All the best,

Wayne Horkan

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    Wednesday Jan 21, 2009

    28th Jan Manchester (6 pm start) - Thriving as a Tech StartUp in an UpStart economy - Beating the economic blues

    "Thriving as a Tech StartUp in an UpStart economy - Beating the economic blues", the first Northern StartUp 2.0 event of 2009 will be held on 28th Jan 08 at Howarth Clark Whitehill, Manchester, UK. Visit http://www.nwstartup20.co.uk/jan09 to purchase a ticket.

    2009 series of events will start with a lighthearted subject. Discussing how tech companies can survive, reposition and emerge as champions ready for exit when the economic turnaround takes place in 24 to 36 months from now.

    It all started with sub-prime mortgages followed by prestigious banks going under worldwide resulting in low liquidity and economic contraction. Large companies are cutting down costs and headcounts with significant hits on R&D. In most cases all R&D spend has been frozen or cancelled. This is a great time for tech startups to innovate, prove concepts and be there strong when the economy recovers.

    Whilst the last three years saw the emergence of web 2.0 startups with no clear focus on revenue generation, the current economic climate is forcing these startups to think otherwise. The startups with the right strategy will emerge, grow and have the opportunity to acquire struggling startups.

    The doors open at 6pm. We are fortunate to welcome a number of new speakers:

    1. Mike Butcher - editor of TechCrunch UK, the ultimate authority on tech startup news in the UK and Ireland - Mike will be staying overnight in Manchester, so come prepared with your 60s if you want coverage on TechCrunch
    2. James Brocket - CEO of Calibreone, the company that produces quarterly review of tech investments. See their reports at http://www.edocr.com/tags/calibreone
    3. Ed French - Venture Capitalist at Rising Stars. Ed will speak on the impact to venture capital and what he is looking for in
    4. Neil Parkin - Business Link North West. Large chunk of government funding will be channelled through BusinessLink/NWDA



    ----------------------------------

    Opportunities:

    1. Sponsor this event for £500.00+VAT
    2. Startup4Slaughter - would you like this slot (cost £50 + VAT for two people)
    3. Speaker: Tech founder/CEO - tell us your story if you had to drastically change your strategy to suit the credit squeeze

    Monday Dec 08, 2008

    Guest Post - Jof Arnold - VCs will die MEME

    VC will not die. There, I’ve said it. Again. This post addresses a number of points raised in a TC.com article which I feel are misleading.

    [Edit 2: VC = Venture Capital or Venture Capitalist in this context.]

    First though, let me open by mentioning a few things which are important background information to this post (and will help you decide if you want to read it further):

    • My degree was in mechanical engineering, not economics.
    • I’ve only been in the web industry since July 2007.
    • I’ve tried, and failed, to raise VC money for a startup.
    • I had a startup until recently.
    • 99% of all the people I know, and drink with, are in startups.

    The only reason I think I’m qualified to write this post is that I count amongst my good friends a number of VCs who’ve taken time to explain the industry to me over numerous beers/breakfasts. [Eternally grateful, btw; you know who you are ;-)]

    So, on to the opinions:

    Successful web companies are expensive (features aren’t)

    Bedroom successes like HotOrNOt - and TC.com for that matter - tend to give the impression that anyone with wordpress and EC2 can make a multi-million dollar web company in minutes. There are some occasions where this can happen, but as witnessed by the endless stream of tiny web companies that come and go, this is a rarity and not the norm. The key reason is that margins in web apps tend to be quite small (eg ads), so to start making serious cash you need scale.

    Unfortunately, scaling isn’t just about having the latest elastic-cloud infrastructure; it’s much more about brand, design, advertising and marketing… and that is where things start to get seriously expensive. For example, Netflix is reputed to spend >$1m pcm on marketing alone!

    A web app is not a company. It’s a feature. Don’t forget that.

    “But I’ll grow it organically”. WRONG. WRONG WRONG!!!

    Or rather “Perhaps, but unlikely”. But I understand where you got that notion from and I admit I was duped at first also; it’s all this talk about things “going viral” isn’t it? Well, sorry to disappoint but it just isn’t true for most people. Build it and they probably won’t come.

    Let’s suppose you build a really awesome web service/app that could appeal to 1 in 100 people in the entire world - a huge potential market of 70m users. That means you need to speak to 100 people before you stand a chance of even one of them telling someone else about it. And they will have to tell another 100 and so on. The problem is, most people outside of the web community communicate with <50 people on a regular basis so the maths are against you.

    All the while you are doing this slow ramp-up, someone else is going to borrow $Xm VC money, get a serious campaign together and obliterate you by seeding their brand in front of millions of individuals.  They’ll also have the money to hire the staff necessary to support such success.

    And let’s not even consider the notion that by the time you’ve organically grown your startup to the point you can start making money, the world will have moved on.

    Other fish

    Sometimes I wonder if web tech people bury their heads in the sand a little too much when it comes to things outside their industry. If that’s you then I have a newsflash: early stage web tech is not - and hasn’t been for a long time - the pillar of many VC portfolios. I know the tech industry think it’s the be-all and end-all because they always seem surprised when big firms like 3i pull out of early-stage.

    VC is all about investing large sums of money at high risk (which means new markets usually) for ridiculously high returns.  The fact that the technology side of web tech has been commoditised and ubiquitous means that in the most part the web is no long as hot as it was 5-10 years ago. What’s hot now is greentech - and there VCs are like pigs in shit; high startup costs, high risk, massive returns.  VCs haven’t died - they’ve just moved on to pastures new.

    Ok, so I’ll build my startup without VCs

    Most people (I can list the exceptions - there aren’t many) shouldn’t build a business on the assumption of funding ANYWAY - in any market conditions. I admit I’ve made this mistake and it was the reason why we closed our first startup this year; the business wasn’t predicted to breakeven for a long time and required two rounds of VC money to be interesting. And let’s face it, how many VCs in the UK were going to fund something that risky when they didn’t understand the business and we were a bunch of first-timers.

    But never mind the scarcity of money - you all know you are going to be shafted if you get funding early-stage, right? Simple rule: don’t take money when you need it. If VCs are approaching YOU for a slice of the action, then it might be worth considering what they have to offer because you know you can refuse any bum deals.

    Sour grapes

    I lept from my previous job into the tech industry because I saw a lot of incredible startup exits and wanted a piece of the action. It helps to be honest about these things. I wanted to be rich. But right from the start I knew my experience, knowledge and plain odds were against me so I spent a long time getting to know the market and the people. I also joined/founded a startup fairly early in my web career so as to see what it was like on the frontline.

    As I see it, the audiences of many tech blogs consist of a lot of people like me, but where I think many of them differ is in the sour grapes department. I get the impression that many people feel it’s some sort of RIGHT that they sell their niche app to Google for billions. By virtue of being denied success they have an in-built desire to dismiss the opportunies/success of others… and what better symbol of success in the web industry is there - second to an exit - than raising VC money.

    By dissing VC’s, they are secretly saying “fuck you for not making me successful”. And probably a little bit of “but I’ll take your money if you have some, please”

    Finally, it’s entrepreneurship!

    Most of what’s above is my naive interpretation of the world around me. But there’s a powerful force behind all this which guarantees there will always be VC - and that, dear reader, is entrepreneurship… or perhaps it’s capitalism, to be more brutal about it.

    If I’ve branded and targetted this blog well enough you are probably a founder of a startup - or at least involved in one. So you’ll know all about how you saw an opportunity and invested in it with your intellectual (and possibly financial) capital. When dissing the VC model, consider: Why didn’t anyone else do it? Why did you choose that particular thing? Would you choose something else if only you had more money or more skills?

    The fact you are able to start a startup is because you have something that someone else doesn’t - and you are leveraging that gap. Angel investors work on a similar principle, only they also bring lots of money; they use the fact that they have money, when others don’t, to take opportunities that might not be available to them otherwise. They are, in effect, also entrepreneurs in the same way entrepreneurs are investors.

    But what of people or organizations with vast amounts of money? Well, they have another layer of resource; people. These groups/individuals split their large sums of money amongst smaller groups who can invest it for them - which in a crude sense is how VCs work.

    So as for VCs dying, I think that’s highly unlikely. Provided there are people with large sums of money to invest, there will also be experts who will step in and help them. What do you think? Comment me!

    [Edit: in case you skipped to the end, I do indirectly make the point that I don't expect web startups to find raising VC easy. The writing has been on the wall for early-stage VC for a long time]

    This is a guest post from Jof Arnold 

    Wednesday Nov 26, 2008

    Techfluff.tv - Startup roundup - Like John cravens newsround but better

    So Startup Essentials is about supporting the community and offering out information, events and updates to that community. So you will be pleased to know we are the main sponsor for the new round up of the startup scene, mainly in London at present but branching out to other locations.

    So are you a startup ? Based in the UK ? Want to get yourself noticed and interviewed doing the Escalator pitch ?

    Make sure you sign up to Startup Essentials and drop me a line about what your company does and Ill put you forward to the panel, to get a slot on the show.

    So this weeks show, is a round up of the news, including Microsofts Startup Programme, the BBC Box competition and hear from the founder of Mind Candy and Firebox, answering questions from the startup scene, want to ask the Entrepreneurs a question, send it in.


    Monday Sep 29, 2008

    Startup Essentials - Advertisement - If you want a server the next two weeks is the time..

    So you want a server ?

    Do you want it black, brown, grey or just at a great price, built by engineers who know how to make things scale and make sure the worlds largest businesses keep on running....?

    I am pleased to offer clearance pricing on selected Sun Fire x64 and Sun Fire T1000 server configurations at deep discounts. This is members-only pricing, and while the savings are huge, the quantities are limited. Check out these configurations:

    - Sun Fire X2200M2: 2x2214 AMD (2.2 GHz) Dual Core, 4GB memory  £290 (SOLD OUT)
    - Sun Fire X4100: 2x254 AMD (2.8GHz) Dual Core 4GB memory, 1x73 HDD, DVD £520
    - Sun Fire X4100: 1x252 AMD (2.6GHz)Single Core, 1GB memory £340

    - Sun Fire X4200: 2x285 AMD (2.6GHz)Dual Core 8GB Memory, 2x73 Hard Disks, DVD £570
    - Sun Fire X4200: 1x252 AMD (2.6GHz)Single Core, 1GB memory £340


    - Sun Fire T1000: 6core 1.0GHz 2GB memory 1X80 SATA HDD £490
    - Sun Fire T1000: 8core 1.0GHz 8GB memory 2x73 SAS HDD £630
    - Sun Fire T1000: 8core 1.0GHz 16GB memory 1x80 SATA HDD £730

     These are limited stock items and thus to gain these prices, make sure you have joined Startup Essentials, then call the number on the site for a quote and order ASAP to obtain these, as they wont last long.

    Also if you want to know more about a T1000 and 32 thread servers, and what they can do for you as a startup, watch the video from Nic who explains it brilliantly, how he has used these to scale his company, reduce costs and beat the competition.


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