France Angels is a stronghold of the Angel community in Europe, having been a founding member of the World Business Angels Association and the Business Angles Europe. France boasts one of the largest Business Angel networks in Europe, of which France Angels brings together 82 networks with over 4100 Angels. KITE Invest discuss below with the President of the France Angels, Jean Louis Brunet, the intricacies of France’s Business Angel community.
KITE Invest: As a founding member of WBAA and BAE, how does France Angels use this experience in terms of bringing together France’s Angel community?
Jean Louis Brunet: Be a founding member of these two networks allows France Angels to make a benchmark to compare with the other methods that are practiced. It also allows for interlocutors (not a lot for the moment), who wish to develop outside national territory.
KITE:France has some of the highest recorded numbers of female Business Angels in Europe and the world. In your estimation what is it about the angel community in France that has led to having such a significant number of women Business Angels?
JLB: Over the last decade or so, there has been a significant presence increase of women in high positions in companies. Their access to positions in top management has moreover become statutory today in France.
The second point is the network “Women Business Angels”, which includes exclusively women Business Angels and is a member of France Angels, offers greater visibility.
The third point is that there is an objective of many networks of Business Angels to integrate more and more women within their network because they bring different points of view, and in particular towards the project leaders.
KITE:What are the trends in terms of industry or sector? Are there any specific sectors that you anticipate will attract a greater level of investment in the near future?
JLB: We invest mainly in sectors or in areas of innovation (not only technological innovation, but innovation in its uses: trade via the Internet and the domain in the digital sector).
Our networks invested in 2013, 25 % in the digital services economy, 16 % in software and mobiles, 15 % in health and the biotech, 11 % in energy and cleantech, 9 % in services and transport, 9 % in industry and chemicals, and 7 % in consumer goods.
Expanding sectors of the future are focusing on the digital services economy in all aspects: energy, medical, biotechnologies, transport, applications, and Internet. Also all aspects of trade digitalization and administration
KITE:We recently interviewed the Indian Angel Network, who this past year invested for the first time in a British company. Does France Angels work in this same capacity of investing in opportunities outside of its country and even geographic region?
JLB: It is not the practice in France; we focus on local investments.
It is actually possible that with the appearance of European and world networks co-investments are practiced, but it means joining a network that makes these investments. However, this is not an immediate and natural process of the networks of Business Angels in France. Their first goal is to carry out local investments (we use the expression “unless one hour in the car”), because the dominating aspect is the ability to follow-up at all stages of the project.
KITE: What were the reasons behind this decision and what is the current situation and anticipated outlook for the size of Angel investments?
JLB: It’s about the evolution of the tax system, which was very favorable to the investment around 2008. From 2012, this tax system was revised further to a bad understanding of the tax system of companies by public authorities, and in particular regarding the necessity of helping to create new companies.
In order to have a successful economy, the necessary condition is to have prosperous companies, companies which are renewed, and which develop. Today, this is now better understood.
The goal for the future is that the reforms join in the continuity over time.
KITE: What makes the French angel and entrepreneur community stand apart from its European counterparts?
JLB: Here, consideration is insufficient in accompaniments provisions (particularly in the seed stage). This has had the consequence of vocations of Business Angels not being created.
Companies and the capacity to accompany them in their development are also insufficient in France.