Sophia Business Angels News - Volume 2 - May 2020

From the President's Desk

A big tribute to our SBA members who kept the engine running during these dire times. SBA remains OPEN for business - albeit remotely. We have continued our pre-screening of startup applications for funding as well as e-pitch sessions. This way we can hit the ground running when we are able to resume business in « normal » conditions. 

We launched, at the initiative of our Secretary General, Annie Prod’homme, a successful SBA Hotline for startups - read the details in the News section.

In our regular feature section on Member’s highlights, we are delighted to share the profile of a new member to SBA - Charles Sidman - Charlie for us. Have a look at his interesting profile and don’t miss his provocative webinar on “Different Investor Approaches to the Early-Stage Asset Class” on May 14th at 3 p.m.- register today.

On April 21st, Jonathan Laroussinie - SBA Vice President - and I participated in the UPE webinar on the immediate impact of the COVID crisis on the startup ecosystem. Jonathan’s presentation details are below in the Community section. 

The word « Confine » finds its etymology in latin- con finis- the space where one world ends and the other begins. The question that brings us together here is what will the startup and BA world will be like and how do we move from one to the other and do we perform in the next world? 

Why do the startups start up? Why do investors invest? Several answers but the most important one: investors invest in your startup not to allow your grandchildren to get dividends but for a successful EXIT! The EXIT!

In the new world- post Covid 19 - the environment will undoubtably have changed but the fundamentals will not. Economics 101: you need a seller and a buyer. Put yourself in the shoes of the buyer - your BA investor. For him (or her) too, it is a situation of “con finis.”

Looking through the prism of Michael Porter’s five forces analysis of what will change in the new BA investment world, two of the forces stand out. First, the substitution force. Because of the treasury issues and drawback on revenues for startups during this crisis, the investor BA and/or VC will have a tremendous choice of substitutes such as different investment opportunities other than innovative startups including the restaurant next door. Hence, the impact on the competition forces will increase. Expect fierce fights for the same funds. Startups will need to get off the beaten track to get the investor’s attention and funds.


Morihei Ueshiba, founder of the aikido martial art, was asked by one of his students:

- "Master, if I want to be the best at Aikido and I practice 3 times a week, how long will it take me?

- 10 years.

- And if I practice everyday ?

- 20 years.

- Master, how come the more I practice the longer it takes?

- If both of your eyes are on the target, how can you see the road that leads you there ?"   

Wishing you to find the right path!

Daniel Dib, President, SBA. “

Start-ups Spotlight

Introduction to EcoTank by the SBA lead investor, Jean-Louis BRELET

EcoTank story with SBA started in April 2011 at our International Venture Academy when Wilfried POINT shared his 10 years’ experience in maritime market.

Between 2008 and 2011, he build in the garden of his father, 2 prototype boats from scratch.

After a SBA due-diligence in May – June 2011, 5 SBA members invested in August 2011 a total of 577K€ in Azure Trend Holding funded to hold EcoTank.

Most the initial fundraising allowed EcoTank to build 11 proprietary boats, still operational between Monaco, Cannes, St Tropez and Sètes.

After 2 other BA rounds, Azure Trend raised with BA (only / no VC) a total of 1,3M€ between 2011 and 2014 for his business development. Later Azure Trend acquired EcoBoat, a design office, and develop new products:

Find the website here and EcoTank's articles on Linkedin:

"Une plage espagnole nettoyée ... à l'eau de Javel."

"Yachts decontamination & Desinfection Services."

EcoTank: How Covid-19 Crisis fuels green innovation?

EcoTank launches the world's first Covid19 eco-friendly decontamination process and certification.

To keep the water blue, since 2008 EcoTank has been at the forefront of green innovation, successfully providing pragmatic services and technical solutions for the Yachting industry to massively reduce its negative impact on our environment. Last year EcoTank collected over 6 million liters for waste liquids before reaching our beautiful blue Mediterranean sea. We immediately believed that our experience and expertise could be immensely useful to help the whole French Riviera travel industry to re-start in the safest way for everyone and for the environment.

For the last 10 years, EcoTank has developed very unique eco-friendly equipment and processes to decontaminate yacht waste tanks using 168 degrees dry vapor, spraying diluted oxygenated water, ozone treatment, and EcoCert labeled detergent. If we could decontaminate waste Tanks without negatively impacting our environment,  we immediately understood that we could also provide a solid answer to help hotels, offices, restaurants to re-open in the safest way.

Since President Macron first speech, EcoTank teams started working with Bureau Veritas and the GIPM (groupement d'intervention contre la Pollution Maritime) to label and certify the world's first Eco-Friendly decontamination service using our strong experience in the yachting industry to adapt and extend to all public places.

Of course, this is a promising business opportunity, but our first objective is to avoid adding to the covid19 health crisis another safety problem by spraying massive amounts of chemicals on our streets, homes, and offices. To get there and move fast, we need everyone's help! Thanks for your support, for any questions or suggestions, do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

SBA Events

Friday 24th April 2020

In this forced social distancing period we thought it would be nice to get together in a festive - albeit virtual way - around a well-deserved aperitif. SBA Members and Team were happy to share this unprecedented "social event" last Friday.

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

"Health crisis and immediate impact on financing" by SBA Vice-President Jonathan Laroussinie.

In parallel with the human consequences we are experiencing, the health crisis marks a brutal halt to the real economy and its financing. This is absolutely true for innovative companies and their ecosystem.

While we have doubled the number of applications for funding between January and February 2020, in April the number of applications SBA has received has decreased by 60%!

The first notable fact of a confinement is that all investors focus on their portfolio and support first and foremost the companies in which they are shareholders. "1/3 of the time the funds are devoted to the study of new files - the opposite of what occurs in a more normal time". It is of course a priority to ensure the continuity of existing portfolios before investing in new projects.

But the end of confinement is close and this health crisis, which we all hope will soon be behind us, demonstrates even more the importance of resilience in the business models of young innovative start-ups. Several new concepts must be integrated to be presented to investors.

To normalize during this period when experiencing strong monthly business growth, it is fundamental to be able to divert these months of non-activity from one's business plan. It is also provides an opportunity to explain how the company has managed to adapt  

Companies must not underestimate the impact of the forecast and calculate the difference between the pre and post health crisis forecast. The recovery will be gradual, starting from a low point...

The impact on equity capital and the complete overhaul of the forecasting process are leading all innovative start-ups to rethink their financing needs and to review their current and future valuation. Investors are more cautious and will naturally want to analyse in detail the resilience of the business models presented to them. Exceptional situations call for exceptional measures. This crisis is also an opportunity to show investors how the company has been able to adapt, reduce its costs and maintain the cohesion of its teams. Crisis management becomes a differentiating and reassuring element for the future. Even if investors are more cautious, this in no way detracts from their desire to support innovative entrepreneurs. At SBA, they will be welcomed with the greatest benevolence and the conviction that innovation is an indispensable accelerator for a global economic recovery.

SBA Hotline for Start-ups

In these hard economic times startups, we are committed to supporting them as best we can. We have organized free hotlines to allow startups to easily communicate with SBA members.

Startups will have the ability to get free advice and guidance on how to navigate their current business situation or perhaps change their strategy to meet the needs of a changing environment.

The hotlines will be open during this confinment for 2 sessions per week, each one for two hours via Zoom meeting.

Availability is limited, register today and we will send the modus operandi.

SBA Webinar for the PACA Est Incubator - 21st April 2020

SBA President, Daniel Dib and Vice President, Jonathan Laroussinie organized a webinar with the incubators and programme managers of the PACA Est incubator.

The themes discussed were:

- Positions of investor clubs in these times of crisis

- Impact of the crisis on fundraising among business angels

- What to expect from VC after the crisis. 

It was followed by a dynamic and interesting Q&A.

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 Charles Sidman.

Q.  If you were a teacher, what subject would you enjoy teaching most?

A.  I have in fact always been a teacher, loving to share with others (and always in the process continue to learn about myself) anything that interests me. Thus, I started teaching colleagues many times my senior about computers and IT in my teens, spent a lifetime in academia with students of all ages regarding biomedical science, business, philosophy and ethics, continue even today sharing my passions for aviation and ballroom dancing with anyone interested, and delight in helping younger generations with specific skills as well as life in general.

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

A.  Pachelbel's Canon makes me go weak at the knees..

Q. Is there a special person in your life (past or present) that motivates (ed) you?

A. I am very conscious of my place in the greater chain of being, with inspiring models, teachers and colleagues from the ancients to now, and of my therefore perceived obligation to those who follow in the future. My special partner in all aspects, Amy, and I celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary this year.

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

A. Advising is very close to teaching, but my career as a startup investor began with a completely chance encounter during an academic sabbatical with a successful and retired, but still engaged and fascinating, entrepreneur and Angel investor who introduced me to the term and activity.

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

A. Actually, I've never had a "job" (if this is defined as working for someone else on what does not interest you).  Rather, I've always had the good fortune of being allowed (and paid) to work on what I valued and enjoyed.

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

A. Prospects of outsized financial return AND making the world a better place according to my personal values.  To achieve these, I look at the sector/problem/opportunity, the solution, the team and the deal.

Meet Charlie in his latest Podcast: Investor Connect Podcast

“Different Investor Approaches to the Early-Stage Asset Class”

With SBA Member Charles Sidman

Charlie will incorporate his observations and thoughts on how different investors do and might approach Angel investing

45 minutes live webinar and 15 minutes Q&A

Join Charles Webinar here !

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 :

Mark Carney - April 2020 - "How the economy must yield to human values" - The economist.

Bernard Marr - April 2020 -  "25 technology trends that will define the next decade" - Forbes.

Mika Ruokonen - March 2020 - "4 areas of tech set to boom post pandemic" - Information Age.

Angel investing is both an art and a science. Here are two of the best books we have read on the subject by two very successful angels. If you have other favorites, please send them to us and we can share. 

David S. Rose - April 2014 - "Angel Investing: The Gust Guide to Making Money and Having Fun Investing in Startups" - Wiley

Jason Calacanis - July 2017 - "Angel: How to invest in Technology Startups - Timeless Advice from an Angel Investor who turned 100,000$ into 100,000,000$." - 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.

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