Sophia Business Angels News - Volume 5 - Autumn Edition

From the President's Desk

"Victory is in having done your best. If you've done your best, you've won."

 Bill Bowerman, American track and field coach and co-founder of Nike. 


In this issue, you will learn about the prowess of several SBA members who participated in a 1 million euros closing at the end of August in France - Kudos.

We had a tiny window of opportunity in September to organize a “mask-to-mask” event, the Startup Factory, that was met with great success. Given our attendee restrictions, we unfortunately had to turn down over 40 delegates. It was another opportunity, beyond hearing the quality pitches of the startups, to reinforce the ties with the regional innovation/entrepreneurship ecosystem. 

With the confinement episode II, we had to reinvent the International Venture Academy this year and transform it into a “Pitch & Coach” session that was more suitable for online coaching.  Both of these events were made possible by the dedication and countless organizational hours of our Secretary General, Annie Prod’homme and the support of Valérie Gooris and Thomas Pinder.  A warm heartfelt appreciation to all of the coaches who gave their time and expertise to make it a true priceless moment for the startups. 

To help us perform in the new normal, Barbara Saxby, our Marketing Guru and board member, finalized a partnership that will allow you, and the startups you are involved with, to master Digital Marketing.

Please join me in welcoming 3 new members to SBA who hit the ground running in the Pitch & Coach online event. 

We are happy to feature our esteemed Vice President, Jonathan Laroussinie, in our Member’s View section in this 5th issue of SBA CONNECT. 

Before the year ends, the deal flow team invites you to the 8th and 9th pitch sessions of the year with 7 very promising startups. Check your inboxes for the exact dates; BTW, I will personally be checking attendance! 

Wishing you and your loved ones, a safe end of year and for 2021 a new opportunity for great success!

Daniel Dib, President, SBA.

You don’t need to see the whole staircase to take the first step 

Martin Luther King.


Startups Spotlight


Sophia Business Angels participated in €1 million seed round raised by Pharmedistore

Pharmedistore is the first vertical B2B marketplace for pharmacies in France serving over 10 000 pharmacies across the country. 

One of SBA members (Jerome Nollet) met Pharmedistore founder Antoine Laurent at EBAN summit in Brussels in November 2019 where he attended by invitation of Marcel Dridje and suggested him to pitch to SBA members. After pitching to SBA members in April 2020 the project got some serious interest among the investing members with 4 of them making to the final stage of the deal.

Alex Vassiliev, who was the lead investor from SBA side was very optimistic about the prospects of the project: "The traction shown by Pharmedistore during challenging COVID-19 times shows that there is huge uncovered potential in digitalization of pharmacy industry and pandemic was actually one of the factors accelerating this process. I believe that Pharmedistore is doing the right thing at the right time and its future prospects may lie way beyond French market"

The leading investor of the round GO Capital also structured the deal. More details in their official press-release published in September 2020.


SBA Events


Start-Up Factory - 15th September 2020

For this 17th edition, the SUF featured 12 companies pitching their new ventures for 3 minutes without visual support. This event was special, due to the COVID, but went very well with socially distant and mask-wearing attendees.

The winners of this edition are :

Mira Izobel MCLEAN, CEO of FRED that provides an alternative channel to Uber ;

Stephane ASIKIAN, CEO of Pollustock an innovative trap nets to help keep the sea and the oceans clean.

We'd like to thanks all the judges for their dedications : 

Philippe CHEREAU - Director of SKEMA Ventures

Alexandra GOLOVANOW - Région Sud Investissements

Candace JOHNSON - Emerita president of Sophia Business Angels

Jonathan LAROUSSINIE - Vice-President of Sophia Business Angels

Laurent MASSON - Directeur of PACA Est Incubator

Alain PRETTE - In charge of Partnerships and Innovation at INRIA

Annie PROD'HOMME - General Secretary of Sophia Business Angels

Daniel DIB - President of Sophia Business Angels



Pitch&Coach - Online session - 18th November 2020 

As many of you know, we could not hold our traditional International Venture Academy this fall due to government limitations placed on social gatherings. We at SBA are delighted that we collectively transformed a constraint into an opportunity to create a new event with a new format that is more suitable for online engagement. The first Pitch & Coach (P&C) online was held on Wednesday, November 18th from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm. 

The Zoom-based event featured eight early stage startups.

Each individually had one hour for a Pitch & Coach session. The entrepreneurs made a 7-minute presentation and dedicated coaches provided verbal feedback on the strengths and areas for improvement for investment readiness during 45 minutes of interactive coaching. SBA non-coach members and registered observers made comments and suggestions in the chat section allowing the startups to take note of their observations. 

The benefit to the startups is they receive targeted feedback on their pitch content and form. No promises were made to startups for possible investment. Promising companies will be invited to attend a more detailed investment pitch session that will be scheduled at a future date. 

We also had an update on two startups: 

Trust-Place that pitched at last year International Venture Academy and is ready now for investment. 

GoMecano that SBA members invested in last autumn. 

The feedback we received from the startups, as well as from most of the participants, was highly positive and extremely encouraging. We are pleased to announce that The Pitch & Coach (P&C) online has been added to our ongoing SBA offerings. Stay tuned for details of future events.

Thank you to all who participated and helped to make this initial session a success.


SBA in the Community


New SBA Partnership Provides Digital Marketing Expertise to Early Stage Companies

Established in December 2017, Growth Velocity Academy has transformed businesses and careers of +3000 students across 7 countries. It runs a number of workshops & bootcamps on the subjects of digital marketing and growth hacking, enabling aspiring entrepreneurs & professionals to gain confidence using various tools and frameworks to target and acquire customers online.

Our partners at Growth Velocity Academy invite you to attend a free masterclass to help you become an in-demand digital marketer, get your business online and start seeing results:

Digital Marketing Secrets with Howard Kingston

5 simple steps to becoming a World Class Digital Marketer

Thursday, 3rd of December, 2pm UK Time

Register here

The masterclass will teach you:

The GVA 9 Step Growth Acceleration System™, that shows you how to Acquire, Activate and Accelerate your career and business.

Latest proven practices to help you create digital marketing strategies you can implement when you're back in the office to generate a steady stream of customers….

What makes some marketers succeed more than others?

The latest marketing tools used by the world’s fastest-growing businesses. 

Howard Kingston is the founder and lead instructor at Growth velocity Academy. He has helped thousands of like-minded entrepreneurs and marketers like you launch their businesses and careers successfully and we are ready to share their secrets with you.

Interested in joining the Free MasterClass?  Click here to register


New Members

Christophe Core

After a few years spent in Hungary and Singapore, I came back to where I grew up, The French Riviera in South East France.

Serial Entrepreneur for 15 years, I am specialized in International Marketing, Business Development and Corporate Financing. For 7 years, I've been one of the founders and CEO of Envoi du Net and Yourstore - HCDC Group.

The HCDC Group works with more than 500 clients and partners in the logistics, shipping and E-Commerce fields and will generate a consolidated turnover of 18€M in 2020.

Jean-Sébastien Maloney

Jean Sébastien Maloney holds a Master of Business Administration of Economics & Law. He is a multilingual finance professional with extensive experience in private and public company management. 

He started his career as a risk analyst for Suez and as a financial analyst for Lexmark International. He has been the Vice President of the investment bank Merrill Lynch between 2007/2008 and the Group Chief Financial Officer/Boardman of Charter Court Financial Services Group (CCFS) for 11 years. 

His key skills are listed and regulated company management, investor relations and fund raising, financial strategy and financial risk management, asset and liability management, asset securitization and asset-backed finance. During his career, Jean-Sébastien had the opportunity to work all around the world (Europe, Middle East, North America and Latin America).

Fouad Khodja

Fouad KHODJA is Civil engineer and has Master in Information System and Artificial Intelligence; he is also CEO of ICIA Technologies.

ICIA Technologies has 18 years of experience specialized in the design and development of IT applications using cartography data and trip optimization

ICIA Technologies has chosen to remain an expert of advanced development in the field of geomatics and artificial intelligence in trip optimization.

Our applications and services allow you to effectively manage the three pillars of GIS domains:

• Multimodal trip planner

• Data visualization

• Touristic travel optim

ICIA Technologies involve in many Europeans projects in the field within CEN (European Committee for Standardization: Public Transport and GIS)

• European Standardisation: Road Traffic and Transport Telemetric;

• Identification of Fixed Objects in Public Transport (IFOPT).


A Member's View

The advisors at Sophia Business Angels are a team of successful men and women who previously enjoyed careers as entrepreneurs or corporate executives and bring international expertise from diverse disciplines, industries and countries. We will be using this column to highlight a member to learn a bit more about them.

This month, please meet SBA Vice-president in charge of deal flow, Jonathan Laroussinie.

Q.  What brought you to the Cote d’Azur and how long have you been here?

A. Innovation, friends, family and obviously the climate.  I actually always lived here but I worked mostly abroad.

Q. What is the most amazing place you have traveled too (in the world)?

A. Every travel is amazing but if I had to choose a top 3, I would say in order: New-York, Hong-Kong and San Francisco.

Q. What is your favorite way to spend a day (no work involved)?

A. Enjoying time with my family is my priority. Also, I have to admit the kitchen is my kingdom, I like spending time there and pleasing my relatives with secret recipes… At least I try!. 

Q. What made you want to become a startup advisor and angel investor?

A. Becoming an angel investor, is a continuity in my professional life. I have been an entrepreneur for a majority of my career in France and abroad, so sharing those experiences and what I gained during those last 20 years is an evidence for me.

Q. What do you look for when evaluating a company to invest in?

A. The most important criteria are the mindset of the entrepreneur, the market traction and last but not least the scalability of the economic model.  For example, Go Mecano, one of my recent participation answered those three criteria, and they are now over-performing.

Q.  Any advice for entrepreneurs thinking about starting a business?

A. There are few pieces of advices I can give: to simply focus on one solution and not several, to always anticipate your cash flow and finally to not stay alone and recruit an advisory board as early as possible. 

Q. Do you have any projects that thrill you at the moment ? Can you tell us a little bit more about it ?

A. Beyond daily efforts deployed to support innovative start up to face the current crisis, one of the major project that comes directly to my mind is, we launched it last week. Open 2 Innovation, is a free platform that allows start-ups to showcase their innovative solutions and large groups, ETI, SMEs, institutions to submit their calls for projects. In my opinion, this platform really responds to a growing need for innovation and can only have a positive impact on collaborations between startups and large groups.


About SBA


Founded in 2002, the Sophia Business Angels (SBA) are dedicated to fostering and investing in innovative startups on the French Riviera. Sophia Antipolis represents one of the leading technology parks in France and Europe. The group features successful men and women who previously enjoyed careers as entrepreneurs or corporate executives and bring international expertise from diverse disciplines, industries and countries. SBA members are dedicated to mentoring, developing, and investing in promising startups that will deliver significant financial returns for the group and entire innovation ecosystem.

We are always looking for new members who are passionate about helping entrepreneurs build value for startup companies. Concurrently, if you are an investor (or thinking about becoming one) and would enjoy working with a team of smart, fun people, please contact us.

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