/join the dark side

A few weeks ago, I joined Serena Capital as Principal, after an amazing time at Chausson Finance, where I helped entrepreneurs at Series A stage raise smart money from smart investors (including Alkemics, Take Eat Easy, Habiteo, TabMo…).

I still have a fresh eye on stuff and it’s probably a good time to tell you what Serena Capital is all about (spoiler: as far as I can tell: support, hard work, night time phone calls, sportsmanship).

Founded by Marc Fournier, Xavier Lorphelin and Philippe Hayat in 2008, Serena Capital is now recognised as one of the major VC players in France. We back bold entrepreneurs who think big and are committed to building the next major players in technology.

The only thing you actually need to know about us is that we thrive to be an entrepreneurial VC. The kind of VC we’d like to have as an entrepreneur. This expression, “entrepreneurial VC”, was good enough to describe our added value in earlier days when we were one of the rare to define ourselves as such — that is, when the ecosystem was less mature, when most VCs were all about finance and when entrepreneurs were a necessary evil to the ROI.

Now it’s more like

If everyone says he’s an “entrepreneur VC”… as a founder, how do you know who actually does follow up on the promise?

An excellent framework to understand what we’re trying to achieve at Serena Capital is to use Mike Trap’s VC Value Pyramid. This is how it goes:

Good read: https://medium.com/swlh/whats-so-special-about-andreessen-horowitz-85416438a414#.iipbdgo42

It summarises the role of a VC, from the obvious “bringing some cash in” to more subtile areas aka Contacts, Content and Capability. As for us, it goes like this:

1. CASH

“By definition, every VC firm brings Cash to the table”, Mike says.
Our philosophy on that matter is to bring you cash (obviously) at the round of financing, and to be deep pocket enough to follow up afterwards. Especially in times of crisis, when cash is most needed.

With about €250m under management, and more to come soon, we’re one of the biggest VC in Paris and keeping up on that promise.

2+3. COUNSEL AND CONTACTS

As for counsel, our spirit is to provide a framework to encourage a constructive maieutic process, because ultimately the CEO knows best — and we have a huge phone bill in that regard. You can take our word on that, or we welcome you to call companies among our portfolio to make sure of it ;-)

The exception to this rule is when our companies have questions that require expertise (how do you structure subsidiaries in Germany? How do you improve a sales conversion ratio?), for which we offer access to a bunch of experts and internal resources (see next part).

Regarding contacts, we do A LOT of events and workshops. They are really exclusive so you might not have heard about them, unless you’re part of our portfolio or we are currently trying to seduce you.

Workshops: w/I-Prospect about all things SEO, w/Amazon Web Services about CDN, load balancing, machine learning, hadoop…, w/Stanislas Vailhen — tax lawyer @ Alerion about CIR, VAT…, w/Image 7 about lobbying and crisis communication…
Breakfasts: w/Jean-Louis Missika, Deputy Mayor for Digital @ Mairie de Paris, w/Antoine Denoix CDO@ Axa France, w/Jean-Noël Penichon, CDO @ McDonald’s, w/Patrick Hoffstetter, CDO @ Renault…

4. CONTENT

Plain honest, we are not contributing enough, and it’s something we want to improve on.

:o

5- CAPABILITY

“What makes [the best VCs] special is that they added a whole new cap to the pyramid of VC value-add: Capability. There’s a huge difference between helping someone understand how to do something (“Content,”) and doing it for them (‘Capability.”)”

That’s where we are true to our “entrepreneurial” word. Capability.

We provide our entrepreneurs with access to expertise and insights in strategy, execution, executive and operational talent, communication, business development, financing and global expansion.

Yes. We are really proud to have built a network of external and internal resources dedicated to get shit done for the companies that have chosen us as their investor.

Let’s start with two of our most trusted advisors, who joined Serena as Venture Partners: only those two are public for now ;-)

  • Amélie Faure — board member of Avanquest, TVTY, FinalCAD and Dataiku, Executive Chairman of Augure’s Board and independent board member at BPI: Amélie co-founded GénériX, served as VP Southern Europe at Augeo Software, was CEO of Pertinence, sold it to Intercim (US), became the GM of Intercim Europe, and strongly contributed to sell the group to Dassault Systemes.
  • Bertrand Diard — board member of Bonitasoft
    Bertrand is the founder of quasi-unicorn Talend, an ETL company that went places (and to the US) with over 4000 clients over the world. Today he has left his executive fonctions at Talend to start a company: Influans

To support our portfolio companies, we have also hired a team of Growth Enablers who are all on the payroll of Serena Capital.

  • Communication and PR expert
    Alexandra, our Head of Com successfully managed her own firm for 11 years (she sold it in 2013): Vecteur d’Image was a consulting firm specialised in influencer strategy, working mainly for digital companies (aufeminin, Sarenza, Dailymotion, Lafourchette, RueduCommerce, Enviedefraises, …). She now assists our portfolio companies with the execution of their Com&PR strategies.
  • Finance and structuration expert
    Before Serena Capital, Charles, our CFO built up experience for 9 years at EY in audit and transaction services. He now uses his experience and the RETEX we got from our most advanced portfolio companies to advise younger portfolio companies in their financial and admin decisions.
  • Market analysis ressources
    We are one of the rare VCs to have a team of four (brilliant) associates and analysts who dedicate part of their time to analysing strategic opportunities for our portfolio companies.
  • Fundraising support
    When our portfolio companies go for their next round without the help of an advisor, yours truly has been hired to spend a sizeable chunk of her time helping them create the supporting documentation and fundraising strategy.
  • Corporate correspondant
    The team has established and animates connections at senior level in dozens of large corporate for biz dev and M&A perspectives. On top of that, Nicolas, one of our partners specialises in getting preferred access and outstanding features from blue chips companies for our portfolio.
  • (soon) Talent hunter
    We are in the process of hiring a Talent Hunter who will be 100% dedicated to finding the best profiles for our portfolio companies. 
    ps: don’t hesitate to recommend profiles ;-)
  • (soon) Silicon Valley / GAFA correspondant

Parting thoughts

At Serena Capital, we think that our hands-on, capability-centric approach is one of the best ways to contribute to the success our portfolio companies.

Since it’s not in our DNA to just sit around waiting for entrepreneurs to do all the hard work unsupported, we are really happy to have reached the critical mass in terms of fund size necessary to fund these internal operational resources.

And ultimately, you will be the judge ❤

Cheers,
Marie

ps: it would mean a lot to me if you could share or tweet this post :-)

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About Serena Capital
Leading European Venture Capital Fund with 250M€ under management, dedicated to support great innovative startups.

At Serena Capital, we are early-growth investors, investing in European companies which have proven business models and the capacity to grow quickly and become market leaders.

Our investment range goes from €3 million to €15 million with a focus on a variety of technology sectors including internet and media, big data, software, telecom and mobile, consumer electronics, IT services.

Serena I portfolio companies :
Augure, Aramis Auto, Bonita Soft, Coach Club, Groupe Arlety, La Fourchette (sold to Tripadvisor), Melty, Prestashop, Prixtel, Sequans (NYSE : SQNS), Santé Vet, Selectron, RSI Video Technologies, Worldstores
Serena II portfolio companies :
Work4, FinalCAD, Qualtera, Dataiku, TextMaster, Habiteo, Cheerz, Lengow, Evaneos

Find out more about us at www.serenacapital.com