All of us in the Sophia Business Angels (SBA) community were shocked and devastated to learn of the loss of our dear friend and SBA President, Eric Cokini on 05 October 2023. Our hearts go out to his lovely wife Dildora and his three children, Adrian, Aurélie, and Alexandre. His career successes were numerous. Eric spent three decades in management positions in sales, trading, distribution, import-export in new technologies, commodities in Africa, Europe and CIS, consulting in compliance, AI, big data and GDPR. Two years ago, Eric joined the ComoMet Industry Trading Green Tech initiative in the non-ferrous metals sector, working on industrial by-products and residues generated by mine, metallurgy, petrochemical, and chemical industries. A native speaker also fluent in English and Russian, he holds a master’s degree in finance from HEC, Jouy en Josas.
Our SBA co-president, Candace Johnson had the pleasure of knowing him for more than 12 years and had this to say about our treasured colleague:
Eric Cokini burst onto the Sophia Antipolis scene in 2010 with unbridled energy, a seriousness to all he undertook, and a wisdom far beyond his years with regards to human relations, geopolitics, and how things get done.
Eric had returned to his native Nice after his professional career first took him to the Ivory Coast where he worked with Apple and then to Uzbekistan, where not only did he meet Dildora, the love of his life, but amongst other things received the distinction of the French Order of Merit for having brought the French School in Tashkent to new levels of learning for its students and for having been a pillar of the French community throughout the country.
Fluent in English, Russian, and French, Eric was always mastering new technologies such as AI, renewable energies, Quantum and becoming an expert in GDPR. He brought a keen intellect, profound thought process, and marketing skills honed throughout his years at Apple and representing French industrial goods throughout the Russian Speaking countries, to all that he did. All this, combined with his marketing prowess, bar none, provided great value to our SBA Portfolio companies throughout the years and still today.
But Eric was not only a great businessman, mentor, and humanitarian. He was also a civic leader and was deeply involved in the Club of Nice as Vice President, Energy & Geopolitics from 2011 to the day he died. He was also keenly interested in Academia and Research and worked closely with such prestigious French Research and Higher Learning Institutes as INRIA, EURECOM, etc.
Eric set an example for all of us at the Sophia Business Angels and the wider community to be true to the mission, to never give up, and to go forward and accomplish great things.
We shall keep him in our hearts, our souls, and our minds forever.
Candace Johnson, SBA Co-President and EBAN President Emeritus
On October 12, we bid farewell to Eric in Lucéram, a beautiful village high above Nice in the Alpes Maritimes, where Eric’s family tomb is situated.
The Sainte Marguerite Eglise de la Paix at Lucéram was Standing Room Only. There must have been at least 300 people present from all walks of Eric's incredible life.
The President of the Alpes Maritime Department, Charles Ginesy, sent the Vice President of the Department, Bernard Asso, to deliver a beautiful homage to Eric at the church.
The Mayor and both of the vice mayors of the town were all present throughout the church service and the reception.
Sophia Business Angels present, Barbara Saxby, Annie Prod'homme, Francois Ruppli, Michael O'Connor, Jerome Nollet, Jerome Chifflet, Romain Mielle-Chirouze, Paul van de Wal. Jean-Claude Goldenstein, and Candace Johnson were honored to join Eric’s widow, Dildora and his youngest son and Mr. Asso at the pulpit in the church to pay homage to Eric.
Here is what his wife Dildora shared during the service.
We thank you for your warm support at this difficult time. We are deeply touched by your sympathy. Eric was the man of my life with whom I spent 28 years, more than half of my life. I knew him better than all others.
He was a wonderful man, a beautiful man, a good and faithful husband, a good father, a good friend, an outstanding businessman, a fighter, a Leo in all his glory. A man who loved reading a lot, writing a lot and who was even a great poet, some of us were lucky enough to have poems dedicated to each of us. He was a man who loved to give. A strong, athletic, intelligent man, a good strategist and at the same time very romantic and gallant.
Eric was idealistic, he loved his family and friends. He wanted to bring all his loved ones, family, and friends together on a paradise island to enjoy a good and prosperous life together. He was an extraordinary man. He loved us all. For him, family was sacred, as were friends. He will remain in our hearts as an exceptional person, whom you only meet once in your life.
Thank you all for being here with us to accompany him to paradise, where, if paradise exists, he will have his place, because his kindness, his love of others, his sense of duty and respect were the driving forces that made this wonderful man who he was. May the earth be soft to him like down and may his soul rest in peace seeing us happy on this earth. Our children and I thank you all very much for your sincere condolences and the tribute you paid him.
We love you all, we love you ERIC, be at peace."
Dildora, Aurélie, Alexandre and Adrien Cokini
After the burial in the family tomb, the Sophia Business Angels were pleased to give the reception for the family to receive those who had come to bid a final farewell to Eric. We had about 120 people at the reception and Georges Kayanakis gave a moving farewell to his friend of more than 20 years.
Messages from SBA Members Members:
When I think of Eric, his warmth and energy is what I will remember most. And the first characteristic that comes to mind is kindness. He was gracious and welcoming to old friends and new.
The memory that will always stay with me occurred at an evening reception before the International Venture Academy in June as he welcomed a group of colleagues from China. He shared his vision about business, life, and the joy of it all. He literally said, ‘everything we do at the SBA we do with and for love”. That spoke volumes about the man that he was and what he shared with us all. My heart is with our friend Dildora, his children and his entire family. I will miss my friend deeply. Barbara Angius Saxby
Sometimes we receive news that wears us out. Our dear Eric left us and took with him, his positive energy, his overwhelming sympathy, and camaraderie. My friend we already miss you so much. Edgardo Da Fonseca
I still remember the portrait a journalist painted of him in 2014: "Eric Cokini has the physique of Jean Marais, the ardor of Belmondo and the cracking smile of Dujardin." It's true. He exuded such beautiful energy. He will remain in our memories and our hearts. My deepest condolences to Eric’s family. Jean-Pierre Largillet
I was touched reading Jean-Pierre Largillet’s tribute to our friend Eric on his last issue of Webtime and want to thank him for honoring Eric. I would like to share one extra trait about Eric: BIENVEILLANCE AND KINDNESS TOWARDS OTHERS. He was there for me when I went through a rough medical condition and when I got married last year in Nice. He will be on our mind and heart for the rest of our lives. Condolences to Dildora and family. Marcel Dridge
I did not have the chance to know Eric as well as I would have liked. I met him 3-4 times at common functions around the fabulous SBA. What I can say is that every time I saw him, he was smiling and always made me feel welcome. Alexander Wiedmer
Such a great man. My prayers go out to his family and all those that knew him. Patrick Kedziora
The smile and dedication of Eric will always be in our hearts. RIP Eric. You’ll be with us forever. Valérie Gooris, former SBA Business Manager
Such horrible news. I’m stunned, Eric was the one who talked me into the SBA. Please count me in on anything you decide for his family. Romain Mielle-Chirouze
I was just starting to really get to know Eric. I am very sad. My deepest condolences to Eric’s family. Marc Cetto
Absolutely terrible news! Unexpected and tragic. My thoughts are with his family. Gene Zolotarev
I had just started to get to know the wonderful person that was Eric. This is very sad. My thoughts are with his family. Olivier Bisserier
I can only echo what has already been said. Stunned. Such a good person. He was special. Our Eric. A cornerstone. Such a loss to everyone. Martin Johnson
The few times I met Eric, and once at his home with his family during an SBA brunch, I remember he was full of positive energy, even as he recounted his imprisonment in Russia. He was always welcoming with a smile and sharing. We talked about the cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, which I dream of visiting. We live in a world where we no longer have time for emotion. The news of Eric's death is taking a break, a long break ...Rest in peace, and may Allah protect your family, my friend. Sofiane Ammar
My warmest condolences to Eric's Family and of course to the SBA Family. Maria Hala
Messages from the SBA Community of partner organizations, investee companies, and friends:
From Julean Hensolt, Founder and CEO Dresslife, SBA Portfolio Company:
Eric's support for Dresslife, and equally so for me personally, was way beyond a professional relationship. We have been working so closely together that I considered him a true friend. Eric had a rare ability to be incredibly kind and motivating while also being direct and straightforward—a combination I find incredibly valuable.
It was Eric who initiated our connection with Sophia Business Angels, contributing his own investment alongside others. He had also begun assisting us in raising additional funds as he became deeply involved with Dresslife and believed wholeheartedly in our vision.
While his support with fundraising was invaluable, his impact on the sales side was even more significant. Eric generously proposed to step into the Sales Director role for Dresslife, and even involved Adrien in this endeavor, showcasing his unwavering support. A few weeks ago, he shared a comprehensive document outlining his visionary sales strategy for Dresslife—a remarkable effort crafted during his free time. Since then, we have been diligently working towards its implementation, conducting numerous strategy meetings, retailer calls, and team coordination efforts. The three scheduled mutual meetings next week with Eric, retailers, and our team, now stand as a stark reminder of the void left in his absence.
I extend my heartfelt condolences to his family, particularly his wife and children, and to everyone privileged to have known him. The grief must be insurmountable for those closest to him. Please convey my deepest sympathies to all at Sophia Business Angels and Eric's family.
Founder and CEO
SBA Portfolio Company
From our SBA Partners Cannes Pays-Lerins:
Laure, Jean Noël, Brigitte, the Cannes Bastide Rouge team share the pain of Dildora, Aurélie, Alexandre and Adrien as well as Candace and all the members of SBA who have worked alongside him for many years.
We had the chance as a partner to share moments with Eric during events including the SBA StartUp Factories. When he accompanied groups to visit the Campus spaces, he told us that he loved this place of creativity so much.
Eric was a smiling, caring, attentive person but also so proud of his children.
We offer our deepest condolences to the family.
Brigitte De Angelis, Responsable Accompagnement/Partenariats, Cité des Enterprises Bastide Rouge, Cannes Pays-Lérins