Shhhh, don't tell: France wants its own Y Combinator

Next Story

Are The TV Studios Encouraging Piracy By Not Playing Nice With Google TV?

Back in August, rumors started surfacing about a potential French Y Combinator. Since then, the tweets of several well-known French entrepreneurs and investors have made it clear that they have ambitions of being the French Paul Graham, including Deezer co-founder Jonathan Benassaya and Kima Ventures co-founder Jérémie Berrebi. And there are definitely more out there.

I’m starting to feel like a broken record, but France has been slowly but surely inching its way towards this since the beginning of the year. The launch of the new seed funds (Jaina Capital, Kima Ventures, ISAI…), the success of various mentor programs (like the Founder Institute, etc) and the numerous new events are starting to conolidate. Could the next stop be a seed-mentoring model ?

Recently, France’s Silicon Sentier launched an attempt at a Y Combinator-like model called Le Camping, boasting a demo day with over 100 seed investors. Hey, that sounds familiar. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens. The first round of applications closes on November 28 and it the program is not exclusively for French startups.

Given Seedcamp’s success in Europe and TechStar’s recent link-up with Startup Bootcamp with in Denmark, I’m sure France is not the only European country questioning whether or not a local Y Combinator would work. Some of the French entrepreneurial crowd criticized the idea, saying that the success of Y Combinator is heavily dependent on its founder, Paul Graham, on the large US market and on the active local investors. So I got in touch with Mr. Graham to see if he agreed. Here is what he had to say:

“I think you could create a Y Combinator without me specifically but you couldn’t do it with completely random people.”

Obviously the mentors are very key to the success of the startups and Graham stresses a team with a strong entrepreneurial background, solid programming skills and a good product sense.

“Y Combinator’s financial investment doesn’t make much difference. It’s just to cover people’s living expenses during the 3 month Y Cominator cycle.”

As all the startups selected to participate get an initial investment totaling no more than $20K per company when they begin the program, I was wondering how much of an impact this had on the development of the startups. Apparently, not much according to Graham. What’s essential is rather the strong seed investment environment to support the company’s afterwards.

“The most difficult part would be the lack of investors afterward, especially angel investors.  You can start a Y Combinator yourself but you cant just snap your fingers and call other investors into being.”

This is perhaps the key element lacking in France at the moment. Today we have a few seed funds and a few VCs that do seed investments, but nothing compared to Silicon Valley. But this absence of active seed funding isn’t necessarily specific to France alone. Graham actually believes that there are certain places in the US where Y Combinator would not have been able to flourish the way it does in Northern California.

“I don’t know for sure how important the local market is because I’ve always had the luxury of being in a big one.”

OK, so obviously it’s difficult for Graham to know how much of an impact the fragmented European markets will have on product development, traction, scalability, etc. as he’s only worked with the US. Nonetheless, as France is one of the larger European markets with a developing startup ecosystem, I bet we’ll see more Y Combinator wannabes shortly.

  • valentin

    OT: please stop using BPMs as web images, they’re not meant to be used like that. It’s not the first time I see this in your articles. For example here: http://eu.techcrunch.com/2010/11/04/fresh-off-the-twitter-press-paper-li-launches-in-french-and-german/ … you’re using 1.6MB on a single image (you can easily spot bmp files because they start loading from the bottom). Jpeg files could take 10 times less space.

  • Roxanne Varza

    So sorry, sometimes I go quickly and forget to change the format. Will change it now.

  • http://www.lecamping.org Alice

    Hey Roxanne,
    I may precise something about Le Camping, it’s strongly inspired by acceleration models such as YC or Techstars, regarding the methodology, but it’s not a YC-like : Silicon Sentier is running Le Camping, it’s a non-profit organization, not a fund. What we’ve been doing for more than 8 years, is working with emerging tech communities. Le Camping teams will work hand in hand with investors, but also, hand in hand with users, partners and competitors. It’s a 6 months program: 3 months to prototype, and (!) 3 months to build the startups’ communities.
    Btw, in France, we may not have as many as investors as in the US, but when we launched Le Camping project, many of them came spontaneously to take part in it. Let’s see how it will work ; )
    Thanks for your article. Keep it up.

  • http://qwerly.com Max Niederhofer

    Mad props for getting in touch with PG and getting him to respond. Well done!

    • Roxanne Varza

      Thanks Max ! He was very open to discussion.

  • http://eu.techcrunch.com/2011/01/18/3-french-internet-titans-launch-a-european-startup-school/ 3 French internet titans launch a European startup school

    […] Granjon and Simoncini are all A-list business angels in France), one could maybe even compare it to Y Combinator…but I […]

  • http://eu.techcrunch.com/2011/01/20/startupbootcamp-launches-in-madrid-next-up-london-and-berlin/ Startupbootcamp launches in Madrid. Next up: London and Berlin.

    […] I asked Graham, he didn’t seem necessarily sure if the Y Combinator model would work outside of Silicon Valley, where there is a high density of active business angels and investors. Then […]

  • http://jetlib.com/news/2011/01/20/techstars%e2%80%99-european-affiliate-startupbootcamp-launches-in-madrid-berlin-and-london-to-follow/ TechStars’ European Affiliate Startupbootcamp Launches In Madrid, Berlin And London To Follow | JetLib News

    […] I asked Graham, he didn’t seem necessarily sure if the Y Combinator model would work outside of Silicon Valley, where there is a high density of active business angels and investors. Then […]

  • http://trendoloji.com/?p=952 TechStars ‘Avrupa Ortaklık Startupbootcamp takip etmek için Madrid, Berlin ve Londra’da Başlattı

    […] I asked Graham, he didn’t seem necessarily sure if the Y Combinator model would work outside of Silicon Valley, where there is a high density of active business angels and investors. Then […]

  • http://test.andrewsayshello.com/wordpress/?p=40 TechStars’ European Affiliate Startupbootcamp Launches In Madrid, Berlin And London To Follow | ASH Testing

    […] I asked Graham, he didn’t seem necessarily sure if the Y Combinator model would work outside of Silicon Valley, where there is a high density of active business angels and investors. Then […]

  • http://snipbids.com/blog/?p=54 Today’s Links | SnipBids Blog

    […] I asked Graham, he didn’t seem necessarily sure if the Y Combinator model would work outside of Silicon Valley, where there is a high density of active business angels and investors. Then […]

  • http://orvalchapmon.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/techstars-european-affiliate-startupbootcamp-launches-in-madrid-berlin-and-london-to-follow/ TechStars? European Affiliate Startupbootcamp Launches In Madrid, Berlin And London To Follow | orvalchapmon

    […] When I asked Graham, he didn’t seem necessarily sure if the Y Combinator model would work outside of Silicon Valley, where there is a high density of active business angels and investors. Then […]

  • http://eu.techcrunch.com/2011/03/08/startupbootcamp-now-adding-dublin-to-the-list/ Startupbootcamp now adding Dublin to the list

    […] programs include Endeavour and NDRC’s Launchpad. Similar programs are now popping up in other European cities but one of the big questions on everyone’s mind is whether or not these programs will thrive […]

  • http://rainmaking.se/?p=428 Startupbootcamp launches in Madrid. Next up: London and Berlin. | Rainmaking

    […] I asked Graham, he didn’t seem necessarily sure if the Y Combinator model would workoutside of Silicon Valley, where there is a high density of active business angels and investors. Then […]

  • http://eu.techcrunch.com/2011/04/19/techcrunch-france-kicks-off-the-first-edition-of-recipes-conference/ TechCrunch France kicks off the first edition of Recipes Conference

    […] all about food, fashion and dating ? Or whether the country has managed to properly implement its own YCombinator? Curious about what exactly is going on in the local exit market, now that Orange has gone after […]

blog comments powered by Disqus