Sophia Business Angels News - Volume 10

27 December 2023

Health, Peace, and Prosperity for All

Dear SBA Community, Friends, and Colleagues 

We would like to take this opportunity to wish you a New Year 2024 that will be filled with health, peace, and prosperity for all.

This last SBA Connect issue of the year highlights the events, investments, partners, members, and global outreach of 2023. The SBA has continued to spread its unique global brand of early stage investing, mentoring and angel network promotion not only within Sophia Antipolis, France, Europe, and the USA, but also to Africa, and the Middle East, all the while welcoming entrepreneurs from as far away as Korea and China to our flagship International Venture Academies.

Our SBA StartUp Factories took on a new look as we used these regional events with our Bastide Rouge partners from Cannes Pays-Lerins to introduce new technologies such as Quantum, AI, the MetaVerse and Space with corresponding entrepreneurial ventures. We were thrilled to partner with the European Space Agency, CNES, the French National Space Agency and the City of Cannes to host the “Act in Space” finals in February and then to contribute to the success of the WAICF, the World AI Cannes Festival with our partners, Institut EuropIA.

Throughout the year, our members were busy presenting world-class companies for consideration to their colleagues for investment. We are proud to say that this year the SBA members invested a total of more than 500 K Euros in such new portfolio companies as Interstellar Lab, The Exploration Company, Dress Life, Global Smart Rescue, HIVE,  Buddies and Game Space, all the while accompanying such SBA Portfolio companies as Pharmedi Store, K-Motors, Nanoz, Holivia, Gomecano, TrustPlace, EMPD, etc. 

We are particularly pleased in this year-end issue to put the spotlight on our SBA Member, Sylvain Theveniaud, the “Entrepreneurs Entrepreneur”.  We know you will enjoy reading about him below.

As a close, we share our SBA Members blogs and pictures from their travels as they represented the SBA around the world in Jyväskylä, CapeTown, Dubai, and Algiers.  Enjoy!

And finally, we would like to thank all of our SBA Partners around the world, PACA Angels, France Angels, EBAN, the ACA of the USA, ABAN, Cannes Pays-Lerins, White Castle Partners, BGTA, SKEMA, Institut EuropIA, the Fondation Sophia Anitpolis, ESA, CNES, Rymdkapital, MDBAN, and our wonderful SBA Members who do indeed make the world turn round with joy, early-stage investing and mentoring!

Happy New Year to All

The SBA Board:

Candace, Barbara, Charlie, Patrick, Jean-Claude, Sylvain, Cyrille, Audra, and Jerome

The SBA President Emeritus Council:

Edgardo, Marcel, Jean-Louis, and Dominque

The SBA Business Manager

Gaetano Roffi 


“It’s people who make the Entrepreneurial EcoSystem go round ”


Sylvain Theveniaud Portrait

Spotlight on Sylvain Theveniaud, an “Entrepreneur’s Entrepreneur”, SBA Board Member Sylvain Theveniaud, Founding Director of Allianz Accelerator, Quirky and Passionate supporter of entrepreneurs, innovation and promoter of long-term relationships and partnerships

Every conversation with Sylvain Theveniaud brings new revelations about this dedicated, committed entrepreneur who has made his venture be that of helping to create and support star entrepreneurs and galaxy entrepreneurial ecosystems.  

Sponsor the recent AI Pulse, generative AI conference organized at Station F  by  Xavier Niel and with Eric Schmidt and Rodolphe Saade in Paris?  Why not?  Except for that the Allianz Accelerator which Sylvain founded and developed 8 years ago was the only external* sponsor to come forward!  

* external means here which is not involved directly in the Scaleway generative AI initiative such as Nvidia.

Sponsor the TedX Cannes for Sustainable Development this last 24th November?  Of course!  

Give new life to Web 3 by co-organizing a Non Fungible Leader event that  took place at NFT Factory near Centre Pompidou last November and shape the future of web3 with 50 decision makers from large corporations?  “Chose faite”!

Sponsor the SBA’s 20th Anniversary Celebrations ?  “Mais naturellement”! 

Creating, supporting and sponsoring entrepreneurial ecosystems is something that Sylvain has been doing on the Cote d’Azur for the last 12+ years.  “StartUp Week-end”, “France Digitale”, “French Tech Côte d’Azur” all bear his imprimatur.  It is thus no wonder that when the CEO of Allianz France decided to start an Accelerator – the only one in the world - they turned to Sylvain Theveniaud to get it started.

Sylvain focuses on three pillars in his work.  The first is making certain that he is always aware and up to date on the next wave of innovation.  The second is the environment and climate change.  The third is supporting Women Entrepreneurs.  Several of the SBA Portfolio companies can point with pride to their time at the Allianz Accelerator, not the least of which is Interstellar Lab (hyperlink :, founded by Barbara Belvisi and which Sylvain himself made an angel investment. 

The process and business model that Sylvain has helped put in place for the Allianz Accelerator is a top down, bottom up approach which relies on close communication with all the business units in Allianz France to see what they need in terms of innovation and then an eye and pulse taking on trends in external entrepreneurial ecosystems.  Annual trips for not only the entrepreneurs in the accelerator but also Allianz leadership have included visits with the entrepreneurial ecosystems in Korea, Japan, Israel and China to name just a few.

But this quirky and passionate “entrepreneur’s entrepreneur” does not let himself be satisfied with creating and collecting entrepreneurial and innovation stars and galaxies!  Very impressive numbers back up his work.  Consider 3 Billion Euros ventures value, 1500 jobs, 800 million Euros raised, and almost 70 accelerated ventures during his 8 years at Allianz Accelerator, not to mention the more than 50 ventures who have become suppliers or partners to the mega-insurance group. 


Not surprisingly, Theveniaud is reluctant to name his favorite entrepreneurs as for him and with an 96 % survival rate, they are all “stars”.  Still, some such as Ledger, Bodyguard, Rogervoice, Everledger, InMemori, Gandee and Transpodstand out and are a source of great satisfaction for the director of Allianz Accelerator.

When asked what gets him up every morning, Sylvain immediately replies, “It is the people - the entrepreneurs, the partners, the innovators”.  And, when asked, how he sees the future, his eyes brighten as he says, “The next big Stars”.


Quick Facts:

Birth Date: 21th October, 1969

Education: BSc in Computer Science, an MBA of Entrepreneurship from MBS, and an Executive Diploma from Stanford.

Career to Date:  Key technical & business executive positions for software companies such as PS’Soft, the pioneer of the IT Asset Management and  BDNA especially in the Silicon Valley.


Sylvain is the founder of the Allianz Accelerator that has accelerated 68 startups, raised a total of $800M+ and have a combined valuation of $3.5B+. He is an Angel Investor and has invested in startups such as Ledger,, Coinhouse Artpoint, Pyratzlab, Livmed, Carbonable, MyLovelyPlanet but also Interstellar Lab, Gama Space, Livmed & Bodyguard but also in funds such as FJ Labs. Sylvain is cofounder at NFT Factory, mentor at the Alchemist Accelerator and was a pioneer in the Techstars Startup Weekend in France. Previously, Sylvain successfully spearheaded key executive positions for software companies especially in the Silicon Valley. Sylvain holds a BSc in Computer Science, an MBA of Entrepreneurship from MBS, and an Executive Diploma from Stanford. He also did the Berkeley Methodology of Entrepreneurship program, the VC Unlocked program from Berkeley Law and 500 startups.


The SBA network extends beyond the borders of France and Europe. Please see below the various reports from our SBA Members as they attended our partner's events all over the world!

Report on Africa Early Stage Investor Summit (AESIS) -  Cape Town, South Africa

By Charlie Sidman

"I recently (30 Nov – 2 Dec) had the privilege of attending the tenth edition of the Africa Early Stage Investor Summit (AESIS), an event cosponsored by the African Business Angels Network (ABAN, created under the sponsorship of EBAN in 2015) and VC for Africa (VC4A, a venture capital support organization focusing on Africa). 

This year, several thousand investors, entrepreneurs and supporters gathered at the conference center attached to the elegant Cape Town, South Africa, Two Oceans Aquarium. Having been to many previous editions of this conference, I again met old friends and forged new relationships, and was struck by the dynamically increasing vigor of the start-up ecosystem across Africa that incorporates participants from all continents with the exception of icy Antarctica. A world of opportunity awaits there, in which Europe and EBAN have and continue to play a leading role.” Charlie Sidman


Report on African Startup Conference in Algiers 

By Edgardo Da Fonseca

The joint team of delegates from EBAN/SBA was honored to participate in this outstanding event, the 2nd edition of African startup conference.

The team was invited by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, Startups, and Micro-enterprises & Algeria Venture

Very meaningful exchanges were had with all the companies in the pitch jungle from around Africa. A number of investment commitments were given across all stages as well as wise council during the pitch sessions. The fruitful exchanges offered an interesting insight into the regional StartUp ecosystem.

We discovered a number of co-investment opportunities and we exchanged best practices for early-stage investment.

Big thanks to Marcel Dridje, the gang boss, our local hero who was Instrumental in getting us all together, when needed.


Edgardo da Fonseca

Report on Gitex Global, Dubai World Trade Centre

By Patrick Kedziora, SBA Board Member and Deal Flow Director.

Dear SBA Connect readers,

If you've ever seen pictures of the Dubai skyline or a picture of the Burj Khalifa (the world's largest building), being there in person is the difference between looking at a picture of a chocolate mousse and actually tasting it. It's absolutely fantastic.

A contingent of SBA members were recently invited to attend Expand North Star (the biggest startup event I've ever seen) and GITEX( The world's largest tech show) in Dubai. 

Our focus was on Expand North Star as this is a global meetup for startups from around the world - not just the MENA region. And, wow, there were 1,000s of startups spread over 9 very large tents. I did manage to do all the tents, but I focused on tents 1-6 which were early-stage companies. There were some hiccups in setting up meetings with startups that interested us (something I hope will be fixed next year) but that didn't stop me from literally going up and down the aisles looking for something of interest. I spoke to over 30 startups from Sri Lanka, Australia, the US, Iran, UAE, Tunisia, Turkiye (the new name for Turkey, in case you missed the announcement), and many others. As with most events like these, it's about panning for gold but in several days you can quickly identify the few that merit following up with.

I also went to GITEX and what can I say? It was overwhelming! There were so many vendors with each trying to outdo the other in the sheer pizazz of their extra-extra-large booths. These were the big tech players in the world where all the startups hope to one day be.

The entire thing was a mix of east, west, north, and south all meeting each other. The most memorable thing I saw was a woman wearing a niqab doing a demo of a tech product to a man dressed in a white thawb - and he was paying attention and they were having a real dialogue. Times have indeed changed.

We also got lots of chances to network with investors from around the world in the Investor's Lounge and were treated to some spectacular events like a ride on a yacht which gave us great views of the skyline and we were treated to a pool party on the top floor of one of the hotels which has breathtaking views of Dubai. Certainly, the SBA dinner on the last night overlooking the Burj Khalifa was a high point.

I hope to attend again next year as this truly is an opportunity to help grow the global entrepreneurial ecosystem and to find those nuggets that might turn into unicorns.

See you all in Dubai in 2024!



Report on Business Rally - Jyvskala, Finland 

3rd/4th of August 2023

SBA Board Members, Audra Shallal, Charlie Sidman, Jean-Claude Goldenstein and President Emeritus Marcel Dridje represented the SBA at the annual Jyvskala Finland Business Rallye which combines extreme sports with business, startup and investment principles!  All of our SBA Members participated in the jury and the winner was given an invitation to attend the SBA International Venture Academy in October where he garnered private investment. 


We would like to stay connected with you!


Espaces Antipolis - 300 route des Crêtes 06560 VALBONNE SOPHIA ANTIPOLIS FR