Xavier Niel, the most active “business angel” in France

Posted Apr 16, 2015, 1:01 a.m.

Xavier Niel, king of “business angels”. The ranking carried out by the company Fundme, which met in relation with start-ups and investors, confirms the essential position of the founder of Free in the financing of start-ups in France. The one who, in recent years, has created a school, 42, will open an incubator bringing together 1,000 start-ups at Halle Freyssinet and also invests each year in around fifty companies via his Kima Ventures fund. He has also injected 35 million since 2009, personally, in 230 operations. Xavier Niel has notably been active by investing in several online media (Atlantico, Marsactu, Electronlibre, etc.).

The second in the ranking is perhaps less known to the general public. And for good reason, he left France a few years ago. Founder of the Aucland auction site in the late 1990s, Fabrice Grinda then emigrated to the United States, where he launched two other start-ups, Zingy and OLX. He shares his life between France, the United States and emerging markets, where he has invested heavily. He also created a special structure responsible for investing all over the place. Result: since 2009, Fabrice Grinda has injected 26 million euros into start-ups, in 170 different financings. And some of these investments are quite successful: he was one of the first to put on Airbnb or the Chinese Alibaba…

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Finally, the podium is completed by the founder of Meetic and the online optical site Sensee. Marc Simoncini has invested 12 million euros in 23 companies, according to figures from Fundme (which do not take into account the investments of his Jaïna Capital fund). But he recently announced his intention to slow down and refocus on entrepreneurship. He could therefore, in the coming years, be overtaken by his pursuers, Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet (founder of PriceMinister, who is also working on a new business project), Pierre-Edouard Stérin (founder of Smartbox), or even the founders of SeLoger, Denys Chalumeau, of Fotolia, Oleg Tscheltzoff or of Vente-privée, Jacques-Antoine Granjon.

While the investments of “business angels” fell by 13% last year in France, Fundme also questioned them on their motivations: if 78% hope for a return on investment, the changes made are ultimately limited, to ten times the initial investment in the best of cases. This environment, which remains very masculine, claims not to be motivated by the tax exemption that investment in start-ups allows. And the average amount invested per start-up is 39,000 euros.

N.Ra.

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