Sophia Business Angels News - Volume 1 - April 2020

From the President's Desk

I hope you and your loved ones are well!

This newsletter was one of the many projects of the new SBA board for this coming year. Current events precipitated the release of the first issue. Having gone through several major dramatic situations (Gulf War started a few months after I launched my second venture in Dubai, grabbing my son and running in front of the terrible Tsunami wave in Thailand in 2014 and the 2008 credit crunch) allow me to share with you my personal experience in such circumstance. We all go through stages that are similar to grief : denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Recognizing that there are stages and that they will vary in intensity and length by individual, helps us understand that there is a light at the end of the tunnel - that is not the train coming at full speed - and that, eventually, we come out of the crisis.

In the first issue our goal is to update you on what’s going on with the SBA and also address the issues of the today impacting both Start-ups and Business Angels. You will find :

1. A spotlight on a start-up with an innovative and refreshing way to address the current situation. 

2. One of our member’s views on the best practices on the subject du jour. Some of you might be currently dealing with how to stay out of harm’s way, other have the luxury of enough funds to go through this and want to use the time for self improvement. For many others it could be the right time to give real thought for joining forces with complementary or similar businesses out there.

3. SBA members are very active in the community!  Below you can read about the opening of the new Maison de l'Intelligence Artificielle in Sophia Antipolis with some great photos.

4. An SBA events section highlights our events and their current status.

5. And there is a section, Food for Thought. This issue we are sharing relevant articles about how to best weather the crisis and predictions for what is ahead.

We hope that you will find here some elements of hope to navigate through these troubled times.

“Watch your thoughts, they become words. Watch your words, they become deeds. Watch your deeds, they become habits. Watch your habits, they become character”. Lao Tseu

Stay positive, stay safe!

Daniel Dib, SBA President


Start-ups Spotlight

About Go Mecano

Go Mecano provides qualified, independent mobile mechanics to your door for vehicle maintenance and repairs, 7 days a week.  Prices are competitive and there are no hidden costs.

The groundbreaking concept is managed through an internet platform, which connects mechanics with customers.  The website allows customers to get an instant quote for any type of job.

Gomecano was established in 2017 by Alexandre Nivesse and Mathias Boutsen. Both are car enthusiasts and share a common goal: to build trust between customers and their mechanics.

Go Mecano mobilises against Covid-19

Go Mecano is mobilising its mechanics to carry out essential maintenance for all key workers during the covid 19 crisis.

For frontline healthcare workers, GOMECANO has partnered with Allianz insurance in France to offer free call outs, labour and parts.

For other key workers, GOMECANO is offering free labour on call outs and pledges to donate 5 euros from every job to registered charities in the PACA region.


Today it is very complicated for all those who are at the front to have their vehicle repaired with the majority of closed repair shops and very few suppliers available for spare parts. Gomecano and its partner mechanics are mobilizing to intervene on vehicles which are forced to move during the confinement period. Interventions can be carried out at home or at the workplace to best adapt to this very specific crisis context.

SBA Events

Due to the Coronavirus crisis, our spring events have been postponed :

1. Start-up Factory: Created by the Sophia Business Angels, and assisted by the Foundation Sophia Antipolis and the Nice Côte d'Azur Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the "Start-Up Factory" is the ideal meeting place for all those involved in a process of the creation or support of an innovative company.  Entrepreneurs give 3 minute presentations about their ideas and have the opportunity to mingle with incubators and potential investors.

2. 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 as soon as we have a clearer picture of the situation.  Please visit our website for more informations and updates for these events.


SBA in the Community

We had a great day at the opening of la Maison de l'Intelligence Artificielle (MIA) on March 10, 2020. The project was conceived and launched in partnership between the Alpes-Maritimes Departmental Council, the Community of Agglomeration of Sophia Antipolis, Université Côte d'Azur, and the Nice Côte d'Azur Chamber of Commerce and Industry.  It is run by Chairman Marco Landi (upper left), Our own Candace Johnson (Center) has been very active with the AI community and this project for many years. 

MIA is a place of education and awareness which aims to prepare and train the population thanks to a 300 m² showroom dedicated to the exhibition and demonstrations for the discovery of AI and its impacts on our lifestyles and society. It has been written that The House of AI is above all a vision. It carries with it the promise for responsible and ethical Artificial Intelligence for the development of our territory, where the Human is at the heart of our reflections.

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 :

For a good read on geopolitics and society, "que naîtra t-il", from Jacques Attali.

Humankind is now facing a global crisis. Perhaps the biggest crisis of our generation.  The decisions people and governments take in the next weeks will probably shape the world for years to come : "the world after coronavirus" from Yuval Noah Harari

For a perspective on how "the crisis will change the world of commerce"

"We’re not going back to the « normal » we had before coronavirus", do you agree ?

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 Sonia Dubreuil-Heymann.

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

A.  After 15 years at General Electric, the number one group in the world at the time, I chose to take an entrepreneur adventure. This choice represented both a homecoming (moving from Paris back to Grasse) and a new work experience with my husband. Together, we have created three startups.  All three have been sold since to Giants in the Biomedical industry.

However, these fulfilling 15 years as an entrepreneur did not allow me to experiment with the investor dimension. We had developed our companies leveraging equity, by choice. And we were very busy managing the other 3 dimensions of customers, employees and suppliers. So, this quest to explore this last dimension as an investor led me to join the SBA group.

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

A.  That's difficult as each entrepreneurial experience is unique. Nevertheless, with the benefit of hindsight, I think the advice that was given to me by Jack Welch, who was the president of General Electric, which seems to me the most relevant to any new entrepreneur is "THINK OUT OF THE BOX", because the challenges to overcome will be numerous and varied.

Q. What are your favorite non-professional activities?

A. After we sold our last two companies, I found myself with free time.  I took up two activities that greatly interested me, beekeeping, which I still do now. And the other is gemology and the art of diamond trading which I find really fascinating.

About SBA

Founded in 2005, 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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