Record Sum for Paris-Saclay University Seed Fund
The brand spanking new Paris-Saclay University this week launched its Seed Fund by revealing it has already amassed over 50 million euros to back start-ups by its students and researchers. The fund will be managed by Partech Ventures and Kurma Partners.
How can ideas be transformed into start-ups with long-term potential in an increasingly competitive world? “By supporting the latter from the start,” advises Arthur Waller to a packed audience at the EDF Lab Paris-Saclay auditorium where the Paris-Saclay Seed Fund was formally launched on Monday January 12 2017. The founder of PriceMatch seized the opportunity to share some of the ingredients which led to the success of a start-up which expanded exponentially before being sold off to booking.com. “You are here to shoulder the growing number of young entrepreneurs at Paris-Saclay. Your investment is vital in the context of US competitiveness which has shown it has the capacity to invest very quickly.”
Waller’s speech is greeted with generous applause from the representatives of 18 of France’s best higher education institutions who hope to establish THE scientific pole of excellence at Paris-Saclay. This mega university includes 10,000 researchers, 65,000 students, 360 laboratories, two universities and nine grandes écoles (elite schools in engineering, agronomy, life sciences, telecommunications and management). It is the brainchild of HEC Paris and Polytechnique who began discussions back in March 2015. The Seed Fund was created to support and stimulate entrepreneurial innovation at the heart of the Paris-Saclay ecosystem. Partech Ventures has been chosen to coordinate the funds. This transatlantic firm specialized in capital risk in new technology is joined by biotech experts Kurma Partners. The latter is responsible for investment in medtech and sciences.
Privileged access to partners
“To begin with, we were given carte blanche, really,” explains Jean-Marc Patouillard, co-manager for Partech, “with the overriding objective of better serving humanity and respecting the environment, making it more carbon-free.” In a short lapse of time, Partech created a network of powerful partners around The Seed Fund. For some like Chanel or the RATP transport system, this kind of investment was a first. “We had bargained on 30 million euros but in fact the figure is now closer to double that! Current negotiations with new partners like the CEA energy authorities look very promising.”
The Seed Fund includes major industrial groups such as Bpifrance and its National Seed Fund, as well as major companies which have already invested in the Paris-Saclay ecosystem. The fund is to support 40 to 50 young start-ups created in the coming three years with pre-seed and seed funding ranging from 100,000 to 2 million euros and privileged access to business partners and mentors, many of which are part of the technological cluster set up in Saclay in 2004.
Eyes Set Beyond the Horizon
The start-ups are to receive as much as 3 million euros in funds over several rounds of investment. “Our ambitions must be on a global scale,” declared in unison the Director General of HEC Paris Peter Todd and the President of Paris-Sud University, Sylvie Retailleau. “A quarter of our students are entrepreneurs,” said Peter Todd, “but a start-up cannot survive long if it doesn’t link itself to the global economy. For the moment, our sights are not set far enough in that direction.”
“We will free up more time for our teachers-researchers to allow them to become more involved in innovation, create start-ups,” promised Sylvie Retailleau. “We have to encourage them to become our ambassadors.”
Strong desire to join the Plateau de Saclay
The average ticket Partech will administer will vary between 100,000 and 500,000€, topped up by other funds provided by co-investors. The investment will depend on the nature of the project pre-selected by the University’s panel of experts. “There is a strong desire to join Paris-Saclay,” declared its President Gilles Bloch, “and this could well accelerate in terms of investment. We are expecting a second and even third round of fundraising in the coming years to accompany the students’ enthusiasm and demands which are far greater than they were 10-15 years ago.” Partech is to begin its rounds in the 18 establishments making up the University next month and will be selecting an average of one start-up per month between now and 2020.