Sophia Business Angels News - Volume 3 - June 2020

From the President's Desk

"Whatever you do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Johann Wolfgang van Goethe. 

As France is coming out of lockdown and the activity wheel is set in motion - with all the challenges caused by the inertia of starting the economy that was put to a halt for close to three months - the big questions on every body’s mind are: how bold can you be and how fast should you go? 

We bring to you in this issue - an article from Harvard Business Review (French Edition ) by Joe Tabet. I had the opportunity to attend his webinar on the same topic last week and Joe brings many down to earth nevertheless inspired and educated answers to what leaders could do to get out of this crisis and how bold they should be. A must read.

As always, we share with you the profile of one of our members in the member’s view. This issue, I am thrilled to introduce Barbara Saxby who joined SBA last year and has been elected to our board in January. She brings a high level of energy, marketing expertise and a fresh outlook to our international group. Get to know her better.

We also share with you some feedback on the many activities of our members - with a highlight on the hotline for startups. 

Furthermore, as we all have been busy managing the 1001 urgent tasks, we should not forget the important ones. In this issue, Eric Cokini - SBA President Emeritus - provides you with key information on how to comply with GDPR regulation. It is crucial for start ups to start with the right architecture in place and a clear road map for compliance from the beginning of their venture. Doing it later could be more costly and represents a risk that investors might not be willing to take. 

Moreover, I am happy to report that the SBA board took unanimously the decision to reschedule our long awaited landmark events. Look out for the announcements for the Startup Factory (September) and the International Venture Academy (November). Beware of imitations!

Wishing you all a successful “reprise”. 

Daniel Dib, President, SBA.

Startups Spotlight

Why to comply with GDPR regulation by SBA president emeritus, Eric COKINI.

Change the World!

Whether we have been witnesses, actors or victims, the management of this pandemic at the global level has been a first in the history of mankind.

It has demonstrated the direct and immediate impact of the decline in human activity on the quality of our environment, the absolute necessity of digital transformation for development in all circumstances ... and the immense temptation for economic or political powers to control, thanks to technology, at the risk of violating fundamental human rights, including the right to privacy.

Digital transformation is an imperative for improving competitiveness and adapting to the exponential changes of today and tomorrow ... and it is clear that the best people will be those who can best manage and manipulate data.

The General Data Protection Regulation has two objectives: to protect individuals in Europe against any abusive processing or violation of their personal data ... and to motivate, including under penalty of financial or criminal sanctions, organisations to make every effort to process only the personal data strictly necessary to achieve their purposes, protecting them against any breach, and in respect of the data subject.

And, to achieve this, only excellence in data management, from the conception of any project, understanding of the stakes, the markets, the people, anticipation, and an exemplary discipline in real time in the implementation of procedures designed to serve a well-integrated strategy, will not only enable the realization of all ambitions, but will also place startups in a position to seize all opportunities.

"Information is power," said JH Hoover, the founder of the FBI, and today, with the exponential growth of data and metadata being collected and managed, minimizing that data to only the truly useful ... finding it instantly ... using it properly ... protecting it ... is the goal.

In addition, startups looking for funds meet investors for whom risk aversion is, by nature, high. Investors have already begun to take into account the risks induced by a lack of compliance with the GDPR, whose observance, on the other hand, is a guarantee of sustainability, rigour, professionalism, responsibility and control.

Startup friends, take the GDPR as the opportunity it really represents, to change the world by creating more value for yourself and your ecosystem!

Good luck to you all,

Eric Cokini

SBA Events

Charles Sidman Webinar

On May 14th Charles Sidman in his webinar “Different Investor Approches to the Early-Stage Asset Class” gave his vision on the subject to a panel of investors, entrepreneurs and academics. The session ended with a dynamic and interesting Q&A session.

Paris Tech Webinar

A successful webinar between SBA and the Paris Tech Incubator was held on Tuesday, May 26th led by Daniel Dib, President and Jonathan Laroussinie, Vice President.

The objective was to provide all interested entrepreneurs incubated at Paris Tech with feedback on the position of investors in the context of the crisis we are facing:

- Position of the Business Angels

- VC position

- New elements to be taken into account for future fundraising activities.

Kudos to Marion Landes for organizing this webinar.

SBA in the Community

Institut EUROPIA - L'IA dans votre vie quotidienne !

Several of us from Sophia Business Angels participated in the virtual IA Demo Day that Institut EuropIA held May 29th. Other sponsors included EBAN, Anges Quebec (Canada), ClusterIA, Element AI (Canada), OBVIA (Canada) , and OTESIA.  The whole event is labelled by 3IA and was under the umbrella of the Metropole of Nice. The event featured a full programme of speakers on both sides of the Atlantic from the private, public and academic sectors. The presentations addressed AI in our daily lives as well as an "Apercu" into what young entrepreneurs are doing in AI. And lastly, 5 startups from various regions, sectors and stages of development shared their projects.

SBA HOTLINE: a clear success - a promise kept and a bet won!

We had to be there to offer our support to entrepreneurs during the COVID 19 containment period: yes, but how? Quite simply by organizing an SBA hotline both in French and English on the zoom platform.

For the companies that were going to compete during our cancelled Startup Factory in April at Innovagrasse, promise kept: we promised them two hours of free coaching and we delivered. 

For the entrepreneurs who were curious to get to know SBA by sharing their current issues, a bet that paid off: in 5 sessions, 19 entrepreneurs were able to exchange ideas with 11 members of Sophia Business Angels from 6 different nationalities with complementary areas of expertise.

The process: after sending a joint opening session during which each member briefly explained the reasons for their visit, then exchanged in a virtual private room with one or more of our members to discuss more confidential subjects in complete peace of mind.

Furthermore, each entrepreneur has since been accompanied by at least one of us, seven have been invited to share their documents on our collaborative platform GUST, four have passed the pre-selection phase, and two are in the due diligence phase.

An opportunity for all to learn in this unusual period that there is always a way to achieve one's goals. A beautiful human adventure rich in spontaneity and lessons to be reprogrammed, that's for sure!

We will keep this successful complimentary service from SBA with a monthly Hotline.

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 Barbara Angius Saxby.

Barbara is a strategic marketing executive with 25 years of experience in the tech industry. As an interim VP/CMO from Silicon Valley, she positioned and launched dozens of software companies. As marketing automation systems emerged on the scene, Barbara built a successful consulting firm to a team of 30 and oversaw complex projects for mid-large enterprises to improve marketing and sales operations using these tools. Her work has her assisting US companies to expand in Europe and advising European companies how to be successful in the US. With the SBA, she is dedicated to helping startups with positioning and messaginng, innovative business strategies, and actionable go to market plans.

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

A. I moved to Antibes (Juan Les Pins) in January of 2019 after living in Paris for three years.  Originally from San Francisco, I had worked and vacationed in France for over 20 years, but now its home. The Riviera is like a French California; the sea, climate, the wine, the vegetation and having a mini Silicon Valley here provides the best of both worlds!

Q. Do you have a favorite song or piece of music that inspires you?

A. Yes, it is called While You See a Chance by Steve Winwood. It is a song about achieving personal freedom. About finding and living your dreams and as heard in the refrain “because it’s all on you”. It was released 40 years ago and it is my personal anthem even today.

Q. What do you enjoy doing the most?

A. Besides spending time with family and friends (when I can), it is exploring new places and being in, on or under the water. Just booked a two week adventure in Croatia in August with friends that includes 7 days of sailing through the Dalmatian Islands. After being in lockdown for months, the thought of travel again is so exciting. 

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

A. It seems my career has come full circle. After a decade of serving mid to large enterprises to improve digital marketing effectiveness, accelerating startups again takes me back to my earlier consulting days in Silicon Valley. I really enjoy the coaching part of it. And, as I didn’t know anyone on the Riviera before I moved here, working with my “esteemed colleagues” in the SBA and getting involved in the tech community in Sophia Antipolis has helped me socially too.

Q. What was the most rewarding job you have had in the past?

A. I would have to say my first job out of college actually. I have degrees in Psychology and Sociology and was hired by Stanford University and the VA Hospital to evaluate the man-machine interactions for a voice controlled robotic arm. It was designed to give quadriplegics more control of their environment. The two years of work was rewarding and publishing a research study in a journal at 23 was pretty cool. I met some of the most remarkable men who lost the use of their bodies but not their minds or will to grow. They will stay with me forever.

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

A. My career has primarily focused on marketing in the enterprise software industry. While in Paris I worked for Adobe Software for 18 months as (interim) head of global product marketing to improve order management for ecommerce. I love this space and gravitate to companies innovating online commerce particularly those that improve the customer experience. I have also been evaluating several companies in the gaming space which is a very hot market. I am learning about so many new sectors but the need for strong messaging, positioning, a solid business model, and effective communications remains consistent. 

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 :

Joe Tabet - May 2020 - "Trust and track leadership : plus qu'un style de management, un avantage concurrentiel" - Harvard Business Review, France.

Milhan10 - June 2020 - "Interview Annie Prod'homme : spécialiste du financement et des projets d'investissements." - BridgesBuilder.

Avolta Partners Team - 2018 Edition - "Tech Exit Transaction Multiples" - Avolta Partners.

Walensky, R.,Sequist, T., MacRae, C., Muratoglu, O., Miller, J., Musolino, P., ... Del Carmen, M. - 2020 - "Disruptive Technologies : Harvard Faculty select 12 most likely to break through in 2021." - Harper Business.

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.

Join Us !

Missed the previous issues ? Find them here : 

Volume 1 - April 2020

Volume 2 - May 2020

We would like to stay connected with you!