Sophia Business Angels News - Volume 4 

Summer Edition 2020

From the President's Desk

Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” St. Francis of Assisi.

In this issue of SBA CONNECT, we are delighted to share with you the profile of Olivier de La Meslière, SBA board member in charge of liasing with Funds/VCs. Olivier fits in this role as if it was tailor made for him. He dazzles us with his out of the box creative recommendations as well as down to earth reality checks.

We are also thrilled to present you with a short bio of the five new members who joined us this year.

Check out the Start Up Factory in the events sections. This September we are back to Cannes for the event that will be hosted at CréACannes as part of our partnership with them. Save the date and register now!

What a better time than summer to catch up on your readings - we recommend you add the below articles to your list. Some are related to our ecosystem as you would expect and others have more to do with personal development. Aneace Haddad’s piece on how to reinvent yourself at 50 is my personal favorite. Aneace has launched successful companies - last one in the tech and payment industries - out of Aix en Provence. He sold his company and moved to Singapour and reinvented himself successfully - very inspiring! I also recommend an article written by our very active member Jerome Nollet on joining the 1%.

We are halfway through the year and I would like to share what we/you, as a team, have accomplished so far on the deal flow front despite the pandemic situation :

  • Streamlined and enforced a lean deal flow process 
  • Over 200 funding applications received since Mid-January
  • 98 reviewed during several screening committees 
  • 23 were selected to pitch - and e-pitch due to the sanitary situation
  • 2 closings about to materialize shortly
  • 4 projects currently in due diligence

Well done everyone for the hard work led by Jonathan Laroussinie SBA Vice-President! 

Kudos also to Valérie Gooris who volunteered for the business manager role and to Thomas Pinder our intern, who work efficiently in the back stage getting things done.

With the joyful anticipation to see you at the Startup Factory on the 10th of September ready for a busy autumn full of more deal flow meetings, investment opportunities and outstanding events! 

I wish you a restful and enjoyable summer. 

Daniel Dib, President, Sophia Business Angels

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 member Olivier de La Meslière.


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

A. I have a knack for teaching what I know, and I like helping people when I feel I can be of assistance. Plus, the startup ecosystem is a Noah Ark of so many types of people! It’s fascinating to be in the middle. I always enjoy sitting in a meeting where you have people speaking different languages, say, tech people, seasoned investors and conscientious lawyers… and help them understand each other! It’s funny how many times I have witnessed startup founders unwillingly wrongfoot investors while pitching their business plan. That’s when they need an Angel to put the discussion back on the right track.

Q. Can you tell us about an interesting startup you are involved with now?

A. There are several startups I could spotlight, like Nuritas in Ireland, or OnOff Telecom in France… but let’s talk about my latest investment in, an Israeli startup that came with a wonderful promise: get vital signs in less than a minute from a simple video of a person’s face, taken by her smartphone!

Through a unique mix of signal processing and artificial intelligence technologies, the app can extract: heart rate (within 10 seconds of a video of your face!) oxygen saturation, respiration rate, mental stress levels and heart rate variability. Hemoglobin levels and blood pressure will be added next.

In a nutshell, this startup has created a product and a service that dramatically improves patients care through remote health monitoring. This has many applications in today’s post-Covid world. And that captivated me..

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

A. There is no doubt the human factor plays a decisive part in the success of the startup: of course, hearing about all those crazy new ideas from founders is really the fun part for an investor in startups. The dynamic of creation, the unchartered territory of innovation, the creative genius and the wild dreams…that’s exhilarating. But it all comes down to execution. So you’ll need people with the ability to execute the plan. Operators. Not inventors. Finding someone with both qualities is a rare jewel. So when you meet one, don’t let him go!

A good rule of thumb is to back a serial entrepreneur. You know he has weathered the storms of setting up and scaling a company, plus he has already walked his way to success…so it is almost a no brainer to back up a repeat entrepreneur 

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

A. Many young would-be entrepreneurs confuse starting a business with raising money to start the business…

A standard business normally goes this way: clients pay good money for a product or service they like, the company can then pay its employees, use the funds for R&D, and ultimately send dividends to its shareholders.

A startup business, as it is understood nowadays, goes the other way: shareholders put money into the fledgling company, which then uses the funds for R&D and to pay salaries, then the startup looks for clients who will, hopefully, buy their product or service…

when you think about it, it is exactly the opposite process of a standard business. And it does not help young startups to get a lot of money upfront. My advice to young founders: Remember that you should raise money from your clients first… that’s the essence of a business. Don’t raise the money to develop something nobody needs.

I have seen so many startups whose business model seemed to be “raising money” instead of attending clients.

Of course some business models need to be financed before they have a single paying clients, but it should be the exception, although it seems to be understood nowadays as the rule.

So when you ask for money, think about how you will be able to give it back, with a return, to investors who put their trust in you: if you are not confident with your answer, go back to work on your business model..

Q. Any advice for entrepreneurs pitching investors?

A. There are a couple of common mistakes entrepreneurs should absolutely avoid when pitching investors.

I think the most common mistake young entrepreneurs make when they pitch investors is to not fully grasp the competitive landscape: “We have no competitors” is the wrong answer a majority of startup founders throw back at you with great pride. This is an absolute red light for investors, as it shows the founders’ misunderstanding about the business they are in. 

Be prepared to tough questions when you pitch, be prepared to be challenged, to be interrupted during your presentation.

Questions entrepreneurs usually are ill-prepared to answer is: “What are the risks of your business?” or “How could it go wrong?”

Q.  Are there any specific industry sectors or product categories you prefer?

A. No. I like to fund successful businesses, not smart products. I try to resist funding a startup simply because I like their product. Or simply because I like the team. You should see behind the product, behind the team. The exit is all it is about. “Who will buy the product?” is a good question. However, “Who will buy the company?” is the one you should answer.

SBA Events

Start-up Factory at CréACannes

For the second time, SBA exports the Start-up Factory at CréACannes and will award two winners. They will benefit from a free and personalized 12-hour follow-up by members of Sophia Business Angels, spread over a period of three months, to help them mature and materialize their project for the next stages of its development and short-term external financing.

If you wish to attend the event follow the button bellow, if you have a project that you'd like to present, please send you're request by e-mail before 15th August to :

Register to the event

International Venture Academy :  This year we are planning to expand the program to two full days and have some new activities, but the tradition remains the same: 8 to 10 promising startups will pitch and be coached on investment readiness by business angels and industry experts. Attendees will enjoy the startup presentations and meet members from our angel, VC and community networks.

The announcement of the new dates for these events will be made. 

SBA in the Community

Re-Inventing the Future with the International Venture Academy 2020

International Venture Academy 2020 organized and hosted by Sophia Business Angels Network reaches out internationally to EBAN members, Business Jyväskylä and Finnish Business Angels Network, who are targeting cross-border investments in innovative scale ups in preventive healthcare and global wellbeing. There is no need to explain why investments in this sector are now needed more than ever before.

As the world was suddenly faced with a global pandemic at the beginning of 2020, a need emerged for agile capacity to create innovative solutions faster than ever. Investors and entrepreneurs play an important role in this regard. Entrepreneurs need the trust, connections and experience of the investors to be able to move fast during times like these.

During the International Venture Academy collaboration, nine Finnish scale ups have improved their blue ocean strategies, built to grow to market strategies based on their vision and planned execution and metrics. The first round of introductions to Sophia Business Angels mentors were made in March 2020 and detailed planning continued via remote-workshops throughout May. After four days of hard work on their growth plans, these scale ups pitched to SBA mentors in June and three of them got selected to proceed to events at the International Venture Academy in Nice in November 2020.

 ”I am thrilled to lead this awesome cross border partnership between the Finnish startup ecosystem, The city of Jyväskylä and Sophia Business Angels based in Nice, France and hence enabling Northern / Southern Europeans to engage in such exchanges through entrepreneurship and investments”, Sophia Business Angels President Emeritus and EBAN Board member Marcel Dridje commented on the partnership.

New Members

This month, we would like to introduce to you our new members

Jean-Philippe Baert

With more than 30 years of experience in the IT and Software Industry, Jean-Philippe Baert has managed and grew many companies in EMEA and APAC. With a great track of record in Enterprise and Mid-Market Sales, he has either develop from scratch or helped companies to reach their next level all around Europe. He has a tremendous Multi-cultural and international development background. Launching and building teams in those regions. He is based in Paris, but also lived in Stockholm and Frankfurt. This has allowed him to create a useful professional network. Specialist of the SaaS and Cloud based solutions, he sold and implemented with his teams a large range of solutions, either in the Enterprise Software world, but also Marketing Digital, Customer Relationship, IoT, and recently the AI space. He is a seasoned manager in all vertical industries of his region, whether Finance, Industry, Retail, F&B, Process Industry, Travel and Leisure, e-Commerce, etc. He did manage P&Ls ranging from €20 to €200 Millions. Building Strategic Plans, or simply applying Sales plans. He has also developed large Partners’ network. He is, finally, a public speaker, able to present and represent the company and products he works for. If you have plans to develop a GTM strategy for EMEA/APAC, you should consider talking to him.

 Jean-Philippe Baert on Linkedin.

Mohammad Sh. AlRashidi

Mohammad is a Founder of Multiple ventures in Telcom, mContent, mHealth, mTourism, mEducation, mGovernment and Fintech. 

All his ventures are addressed under its Group One Global (Og), an idea Generation and incubation venture with business model adoption to the market needs and future growth. 

Mohammad as an aspiring entrepreneur with passion to mobilization of lifestyle services. He acts as a transformer to the current infrastructure of verticals markets. 

Diversity and unity of Og Group makes it's mission towards its "One" Vision achievable in 2020.

Mohammad, Founded Og Money (Formerly known as Payit), a mobile financial & Payment platform with strong presence in more than 12 countries cross GCC, Middle East, North Africa, East Africa, West Africa, Europe and US, offering Payments, Merchant services, mPos, Mobile banking switch, Mobile Wallet and Money Transfer. 

Mohammad invented recently a patent in Fintech industry registered in US and other countries for performing a card presence Transaction on the cloud. 

Mohammad driven by his philosophy, which is: Performing a mission is always requires brains and machines, automation of resources and map of thinking to processes to be successful. 

Mohammad, Active factor, Change Agent and catalyst required in the success of any business formula.

Mohammed Sh. Al-Rashidi on Linkedin.

Rémi Graille

Rémi graduated from EDHEC Business School and Nice University, both offering direct contact to the business world and focusing in finance and innovation. His motivation is to help to stimulate entrepreneurs, providing new solutions and improving our society. Rémi has worked for Bpifrance where he analysed and invested in several startups based in Paris and South of France. He is convinced that innovation is the best way to stimulate entrepreneurship and impact and has now joined FOUNDERS VENTURES. It’s a venture capital Fund who invests in “ImpactTech” projects. As a VC Associate, Rémi’s responsibilities consist of investing in new technology projects according to the Global Goals of the UN. Convinced by the ecosystem benefits, Rémi aims to connect entrepreneurs and experts to create and integrate an innovated financial system.

Rémi Graille on Linkedin.

Alexander Kondratev

Managing partner and co-owner at ASNA - Russian leader pharmacy integrator. From 2013 to 2020, the company's turnover grew ten times. The company is a partner for more than 200 Pharma and Beauty manufacturers and 12,000 pharmacies in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan.

Advisor of multinational pharma and healthcare companies in Russian and CIS pharma market. Helps healthcare and IT companies strengthen their business offer and business scalability. Have extensive experience in educational projects, including online education. Give lectures on multichannel promotion at leading universities in Russia.

Investment interests in educational projects, healthcare and pharma, marketplaces, IT projects. I like to travel and receive new knowledge from communicating with friends and colleagues.

Alexander Kondratev on Linkedin.

Julien Pseauté

Julien grew up in St Paul de Cence and Nice. He left the Riviera for his studies at Ecole Polytechnique and Ecole des Mines in 2001. Julien has 15 years of experience in consulting having worked for 11 years at the Boston Consulting Group and in the investment work having worked lately at Montagu Private Equity. Julien enjoys transformation of SMEs in particular digital aspects. 

Food for Thought

The SBA members, board and team are sharing articles, documents or even books to inspire you and give you a reason to stop and ponder :

Aneace Haddad - June 2020 - "What I learned from reinventing myself at 50" - ANEACE

The Economist Team - June 2020 - "An understanding of AI’s limitations is starting to sink in" - The Economist.

Jerôme Nollet - July 2020 - "Shrinking the Wealth Gap" - Wharton Magazine.

Fabrice Grinda - June 2020 - "FJ Labs’ Investment Strategy" - Fabrice Grinda.

Philippe Lentschener - November 2018 - "Réputation: Crise de la Vérité, Éthique, avènement des Plateformes, les nouveaux chemins de la Confiance" - Les Editions Du Net.

Global Data - April 2020 - "Wimbledon Shows How Pandemic Insurance Could Become Vital for Sports, Other Events" - Insurance Journal.

Chris Smith - June 2020 - "VCs Behaving Badly: 12 Ways Investors Can Harm Your Company" - Forbes.

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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