Back in October 2013, I had dinner with a dozen people in a good-looking Parisian loft. Part of them were working for TheFamily, part of them were entrepreneurs. It was a nice, small dinner talking about startups and the French tech ecosystem.
A couple of weeks ago, there were hundreds of entrepreneurs and VCs attending the same kind of informal dinner. Some VCs were coming from London and staying in town for just a couple of days. Of course they had meetings with promising entrepreneurs and board meetings. But they made sure that they could attend TheFamily’s dinner.
I’ve been following TheFamily for the past couple of years. And saying that the company has come a long way would be an understatement. TheFamily is now an important French startup accelerator, an entrepreneur school and a startup studio for big corporate clients.
TheFamily has raised $6.6 million (€6 million) over the past few months to iterate on this vision and expand to other countries, starting with Spain. The company now has a small apartment/office in Barcelona to hold meetups and meetings as well as a small office in London to talk with the British tech ecosystem. It’s a starting point and there’s still a lot of work to do.
Investors in today’s round include 500 Startups, ACE & Company, My Little Paris co-founder Fany Péchiodat, John Bautista from Orrick Partnership Fund, former Saxo Bank CEO Lars Seier, SGH Capital, Thibault Poutrel and Pentalabbs.
TheFamily started as a startup accelerator nearly three years ago. Initially, the company wanted to take a small stake in dozens of startups and provide them with advice and connections.
Since then, the initial pitch has evolved quite a bit. When the startup was short of cash, it evolved into a startup school with Koudetat. And it worked quite well as this is a very lucrative industry compared to taking a very small stake in upcoming startups and getting diluted in future rounds.
Now, I’ve heard that TheFamily is making most of its revenue through big corporate client stuff — with Pathfinder, TheFamily works with big companies to create startups with them with a startup studio approach. The company is now making around $435,000 per month (€400,000) mostly thanks to this revenue stream. It has a great content strategy with Nicolas Colin publishing great posts about startups, the French economy and how startups can thrive in France.
It doesn’t sound sexy and it seems like TheFamily is moving away from startups. And yet, there are a few success stories in TheFamily’s portfolio. Some of the most promising French startups have worked with TheFamily to raise more funds and get introductions, such as search technology on steroids Algolia, full stack phone repairing service Save, killer train ticket reservation service Captain Train and more.
And this is what TheFamily does best. After selecting hundreds of startups, the team is cherry picking the best and personally working with them to make sure that the best of these startups get funding and connections. The thing is, Jean de La Rochebrochard who worked on many of these fundraising efforts for TheFamily is now a VC working for Kima Ventures. He was a key partner at TheFamily.
Sure, there are other promising startups coming out of TheFamily, such as Menu Next Door and Trusk. And I’m glad to see that the team is stepping up. But now, it’s time to make sure TheFamily doesn’t forget its end goal.
If TheFamily wants to turn its startup accelerating business into a revenue stream, it needs to become its own VC fund. Fostering a community by providing value and then investing in the best of them is a promising path for TheFamily. It’s going to be a hard step, but if TheFamily wants to become a huge company and not just a very profitable one, it’s a mandatory step.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m optimistic about TheFamily’s future. I’ve had my fair share of doubts over the past two years, but TheFamily is clearly a resilient startup, in no small part because the team is not afraid to make risky bets. And I’m sure TheFamily has more risky bets up its sleeve.