Why the business angels of Grandes Ecoles form a common network

“We primarily fund start-ups in the seed phase.” Rémi Uzzan is the president of the brand new ISEP business angels club. Consists of former students from the engineering school (electronics, IT, telecommunications) and was launched at the end of 2013. It is the latest of these clubs to bring together former students who want to invest their time and money insupport for promising young companies. In recent years, many alumni networks have thus created a structure of business angels. Most often it is a simple association, less often an investment association.

Polytechnicians gather other Grandes Ecoles networks

The oldest structure of business angels from former students comes from l’X. Polytechnicians had been interested in entrepreneurship since the late 1990s. At the time, they had set up a platform for exchanges between alumni, dedicated to business acquisitions. “As many requests for help set up came to us, we launched the XMP Business Angels Club in 2005, which allows former students from X, Mines and Bridges to fund start-ups,” explains Jacques-Charles Flandin, its founder.

XMP’s business angels are obviously interested in alumni project managers, but not only. Marie Davideau, an EDC graduate, was thus able to raise € 160,000 from l’X business angels to launch Lilibricole, DIY courses for girls in Paris and Lyon based on the principle of cooking workshops. “It does not matter what education the entrepreneur has! We take on projects, no matter where they come from, as long as they are innovative and have a beginning to implementation, ”the president confides.

After supporting and funding dozens of projects over eight years, XMP Business Angels created the Badge network in late 2012 – for Business Angels from Grandes Ecoles which is affiliated with a dozen clubsall from engineering or management schools that are members of the CGE (Conference of Grandes Ecoles): AgroParisTech, Centrale Paris, EDHEC, ENS Paris, ENSTA ParisTech, ESPCI ParisTech and ISAE are already part of it.

“In 2013, our network supported more than 40 young innovative companies, participated in the financing of 17 start-ups for one total invested amount of almost € 1,319,000, that is, an average of approximately € 77,500 per project, ”explains Jacques-Charles Flandin. With now 10 large partner schools and more than 200 active business angels on the clock, the Badge network has a critical size that makes it possible to receive more applications: between 800 and 1,000 projects come to it every year, 80% from older entrepreneurs. 25 to 35 years.

“At the end of 2014, our ambition is to have 20 to 25 partners to co-invest. Every major school that is a member of the CGE has a call to join us “, says Jacques-Charles Flandin. Among the institutions with which the discussions have started: Audencia Nantes, ESIEE Paris or even Paris-Dauphine University.

Polytechnicians - © S.Lecherbonnier

Arts and crafts stand out

But if there is one network that will not join the business angels of the Grandes Ecoles, it is Gadzarts. With about 110 members, the former Arts et Métiers want to remain independent. Their business angels Arts et Métiers Business Angels were established in 2008 and have six active branches in the region. “Since our inception, we have funded 35 projects,” explains Pierre Orsoni, its general secretary. The average amount invested in each project is around € 100,000. Our members like techno or digital economy projects, but do not practice exclusivity. Most people invest in one or two projects a year for € 10,000 to € 20,000. “

In the regions, the largest part of Gadzart’s business angels is that of the Rhône-Alpes, which has about forty members. In Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur there are about twenty former business angels. Arts et Métiers plays on their special character with decentralized establishments in the regions.

Gadzarts has also set up its own investment fund, Liancourt Invest, a SIBA (business angels investment company). This fund is reserved for members of the Arts et Métiers Business Angels enabling them to make total investments. Minimum subscription amount: € 10,000 equal.

Joining a network or building partnerships is the key to boosting the activity of business angel clubs

leadership schools: between timid beginnings and alliances

Amazing! While HEC has the slogan “Learning to dare”, former students from the big school Jouy-en-Josas do not have a business angel club in HEC Alumni, their alumni association. Explanation: many of them are already doing this on an individual basis.

At ESCP Europe, alumni-business angels were first created in 2012. It still needs to pick up speed, although it has already funded four start-ups for amounts ranging from € 50,000 to € 150,000.

As for the European Championship Lyon, it launched its club in 2011. Pragmatism prevailed: From the beginning, its designers turned to existing Lyon structures.
Same concern for realism ESSEC BA, established in 2010, has partnered with Paris Business Angels to take advantage of their know-how (10 years of existence) and the power of its network (150 members).

Joining a network or creating partnerships is really the key to boosting the activity of business angel clubs. Primarily, the French business angel market is still small. It is estimated at 4,500 people in France, according to France Angels, which brings together 82 networks in the territory – ten times fewer than in the UK, which would have more than 40,000 business angels.
So if a core of 5 to 10 active members is enough to start a club, it’s hard to run it and attract quality projects to less than 15. Especially sincea member who invests a year will not necessarily invest the following, less due to lack of money than time to monitor projects and coach young entrepreneurs. Belonging to a larger network therefore opens access to more files and makes it possible to co-invest in the capital of young companies. Founded in 2009, Dauphine Business Angels is a network of alumni, yet important with more than 50 members, and therefore plans in 2014 to join the Grandes Ecoles network of business angels.

It’s hard to run a business angel club and attract quality projects with less than 15 members

GEM, a business angel integrated into the curriculum

In Grenoble, GEM Angels, the structure created by graduates of the management school (Gem Graduate Network) has the form of an investment fund. “Our 31 business angels are all graduates of GEM and have management positions, commercial, financial, R&D and project management functions,” specifies Benoît Giroud, President of GEM Angels Participation.

Remarkable educational initiative: the links to the school’s specialized masters in business. “Save Angels” is the first business angel structure integrated into students’ academic curriculum, welcomes Benoît Giroud. The project’s sourcing and evaluation process is carried out in part by students by the MS contractors, allowing them to combine the academic side and the theoretical knowledge taught during their courses. ”
In fact, unlike other structures that originate from the Grandes Ecoles, Gem Angels intervenes projects carried out exclusively by its students or graduates. A skilled tactic that strengthens the uniqueness and positioning of the school, which strives to make innovation its trademark.

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