ISAI, a superangel fund started by some of France’s most experienced internet entrepreneurs, announced that it has closed his first fund, of 25 million euros (~$33 million).
What sets ISAI apart is that it is “by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs” and that it plans to invest in round sizes between business angels and traditional VCs.
It will try to be the lead investor in a startup’s first round and might follow on in a VC Series A. They plan to do one investment per quarter.
A big trend in early stage investing in general and in France in particular is the rise of so-called “superangels,” either groups or individuals, often experienced entrepreneurs themselves, who invest in startups as business angels but with the financial firepower of VC. For example, Meetic’s Marc Simoncini has pledged to personally invest over 100 million euros in startups in the next few years, which is more than a lot of VC funds.
The fund’s founding partners are Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet, founder of PriceMinister.com, France’s second most popular e-commerce site (who told me that even though ISAI is supposed to mean “Internet-Savvy Active Investors” they chose the name because it was available as a four-letter .fr domain name), Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, founder among others of Virgin Mobile, France’s first big MVNO (who looked more bored than anyone I’ve ever seen at the press conference and left early), Stéphane Treppoz, CEO of AOL France 1998-2004 (must have been quite the roller coaster ride) and now Chairman of Sarenza.com, a shoe-shopping site, and and serial entrepreneur Ouriel Ohayon, lately of AppsFire.
The fund will be led on a day to day basis by Jean-David Chamboredon, who was previously the head of 3i’s VC arm in France, and has a very impressive track record as a VC: out of his 11 early stage investments, one failed and the rest are either profitable, acquired or IPO’d.
What really sets ISAI apart from other venture investment firms is that they raised only a minority of the fund from institutions. The majority of the fund comes from 60 founders, C-level or former C-level executives at 45 successful French startups of every conceivable sub-sector of the web. These 60 entrepreneurs will act as a “brain trust” for ISAI and have the possibility to take board seats and co-invest personally in companies in which ISAI invests. This very impressive network is the fund’s “secret sauce,” the fund’s founders told me, in terms of getting the best dealflow and providing the best support to their portfolio startups.
All in all, ISAI looks like a very interesting addition to France’s venture scene, and a powerful model for other potential investment funds.
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