Otium Venture becomes Frst and raises €60m to seed the first French decacorn
After investing €40m over 4 years in a dozen seed companies including Payfit, Doctrine or Owkin, Otium Venture recently became Frst. Although the name and source of funds have changed, with €60m raised from institutional investors and entrepreneurs, the investment team remains the same as does the objective; to be the natural partner for the most visionary and determined entrepreneurs of their generation during the first 18–24 months, and thus contribute to the emergence of the first French decacorn.
4 years ago, we had the crazy idea that French startups were not condemned to “dwarfism”
French investors have always considered their ecosystem to be apart from the rest. That economic, psychological and linguistic barriers condemned companies to grow at a moderate pace to reach a medium size and, if successful, “exit” for a few tens or hundreds of millions of euros. This justified low valuations, modest tickets, and a rapid profitability objective that was not compatible with ambition.
When we began four years ago under the Otium Venture brand, with the financial support of Pierre-Edouard Stérin (SmartBox), we refused to accept this historic reality as a curse. Is it not said that past performance is no guarantee of future results?
Instead we saw in this a self-fulfilling prophesy, whose old justifications were disappearing one by one; political and fiscal obstacles gradually removed, a command of English on the rise, an evolution of the culture of entrepreneurial ambition and, like everywhere, access to all the knowledge and clients in the world in just a few clicks. Not to mention France’s historical strengths; excellent education programmes, the internal and European market, cultural influence and an attractive quality of life for international profiles.
With the firm belief that the ecosystem was about to see the birth of several future global companies each year but that this would only be visible 7–10 years later, we decided to build a new type of investor for this new type of entrepreneur. Quicker and more committed (the entrepreneur is our real client!), paying less attention to valuations, and considering that the risk is sufficiently limited by diversification to not seek to reduce it at a company level. You do not invest in the same way when you are targeting billions and millions.
This is just the beginning
This innovative approach allowed us to carve a place in the French venture capital world, when others said it was too closed for a new player with no track record to break into.
Extraordinary entrepreneurs placed their trust in us, and after €40m invested in 14 companies, we have never been more optimistic about the future of the ecosystem.
We are of course proud of Payfit, Doctrine, Owkin and the other great companies in our portfolio, but equally of those who are not; Doctolib, Alan, Meero, Shift, Dataiku, all proof that, at the very least, everything was not lost in advance.
Of course, this is just the beginning, and the famous and much feared crisis will most likely slow the process down in the end. But we are betting that this will not stop the greatest entrepreneurs from emerging.
Frst, optimised for the first steps of determined visionaries
We learned a lot during the first 4 years within Pierre-Edouard Stérin’s Family Office, and for this we thank him. Few LPs are able to entrust so much money and autonomy to a team just starting out in investment! A new chapter opened a few months ago with the creation of Frst, our own management company dedicated to seed investment in France. Frst is totally independent from Pierre-Edouard Stérin, but we nevertheless continue to manage the original portfolio through a consulting contract.
To be the best partners possible for the most ambitious entrepreneurs of their generation, we have brought together twenty or so institutional investors (European Investment Fund, Bpifrance, Axa Venture Partners) and European entrepreneurs such as Ilkka Paananen and Mikko Kodisoja (Supercell), Michaël Benabou (Vente-Privée) or Stanislas de Quercize (Cartier) around the raising of a new 80m€ fund, for which a first closing has just occurred at €60m.
The roadmap is clear; meet the most determined and visionary French entrepreneurs of their generation within the first few months of their venture, and rapidly provide them with the financial (€0,5–3m) and psychological resources required to meet the challenges. Then, be as useful as possible during these first 18–24 months during which the same mistakes are often made and the needs similar (particularly with regards to recruitment), then connect with the best international investors specialised in the next phase and its very specific challenges.
This is just the beginning, and for us it will always be.
email@example.com — www.frst.vc
P.S. We are hiring an analyst! It happens here.