© The Martian

The 100 potatoes club

about French start-ups who reached 100m$ valuations

In France, it’s been a great couple of months with three exits over 100m$: Withings, acquired by the part of Nokia that does not belong to Microsoft, StickyAds, acquired by Freewheel (a Comcast subsidiary) and CaptainTrain acquired by Trainline for 189m$.

Gabriel and I decided to rise to the occasion and give you a review of the whole [100 potatoes club*], i.e. of all the companies which valuation went above 100 millions.

*in France, a “potato” is “a million” in slang. No idea why.

We decided arbitrarily to only include the companies whose exit or defining round happened after 2004. For instance, although BusinessObjects was acquired in 2007 for over 6B$, it had reached a 800m$ valuation during its ’94 IPO and therefore does not belong to the list.

Although we have been very thorough, we could have missed a few deals, especially the ones whose valuation has not been communicated and cannot be assessed from the setups of the deal.

Feel free to correct us in the comments

The hundred potatoes club

Then we have the minicorns who reached a 100m valuation while remaining private and independent, during a financing round.

First getaway:

→ only 42% are B2B start-ups.

Among the 13 B2B success stories, an astonishing 2/3 are algo or data-centric companies: Kelkoo, Aldebaran, Withing, Exalead, Sigfox, Talend, Criteo, Scality:

→ Yay maths :-)

Lets look deeper at the numbers.

Lesson 1: it takes 8 years to grow 100 potatoes

Not a complete surprise to anyone close to the venture world, it takes time to grow a company to the point where someone wants to buy/invest in it for over 100m€. Namely 6 to 10 years.

On average, it takes 8 years to grow a start-up over 100m€

More interesting — if you look at the founding dates, you’ll notice that there is a definitive trend to found success stories during economic down times.

I’ll venture a theory: (1) companies created during economic crisis find ways to be more capital efficient, and (2) when they’re mature enough to become a target, the market has usually turned, making their chances better.

Last: as you can see bellow, the French ecosystem seems to be maturing as there seem to be more and more 100m events occurring.

Good for us!

Lesson 2: their founders are serial entrepreneurs

Let’s look at the teams for a minute.

Most common setup is a team of two founders. 20% are one man shows.

of the CEOs are repeat entrepreneurs

→ A whooping 72% of the CEOs are repeat entrepreneurs
If you look at the whole founding team, serial entrepreneurs still represent 2/3 of the population.

Having done demanding jobs such as M&A or Consulting in top firms doesn’t seem relevant. Betting on repeat entrepreneurs seems more efficient.

Regarding the founders background, top universities are overrepresented. French elitism? Note that a significant part of the founders had attended more than one school (we picked the most relevant).

→ Finally, it’s interesting to notice that there seem to be two ideal periods in life to launch a success story. At 30 — after a first entrepreneurial attempt, or a first work experience, and at 40, at a career crossroad.

Lesson 3: they had an international network

→ Hard lesson: 72% of the exit deals over 100m happened with a foreign acquirer. The French M&A market doesn’t seem to be able (yet) to absorb thriving start-ups. It translates to a logical, yet disappointing consequence:

Over 50% of the companies who reached a 100m valuation had convinced a foreign VC to invest at some point

And it’s accelerating (thanks Joris Thomas for the analysis)…

To conclude, here’s the list of the happy VCs and investors who successfuly bet on a 100 potato success story



ps: we still have a few seats left for our Workshop about Seed & Series A.
You can manifest your interest here <


About Serena Capital

Leading Venture Capital investor with 250 M€ under management, dedicated to support great innovative startups.

A few words on our philosophy of being a capability-driven investor: https://blog.serenacapital.com/join-the-dark-side-971de57fa73

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, Icontainers

Find out more about us at www.serenacapital.com

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