Specialized in greentech, digital and health, the Agoranov incubator has seen several French Tech 'pearls' pass through. Financed by public funds, it does not take shares in the young shoots it accompanies.
In these times of pandemic, the incubation period is frightening. But for start-ups, it is often a golden opportunity to mature an entrepreneurial project and establish a solid business plan. With, at the end of the process, the hope of completing a first fundraising round in order to dream bigger.
Although it does not have the international reputation of Y Combinator, which has just hit the jackpot thanks to the IPOs of Airbnb and Doordash (see opposite), Agoranov can boast of being at the origin of the success of some of the most beautiful startups in France.
"We accompanied three unicorns (Criteo Doctolib, Dataiku) and two other potential ones, Shift Technology and Alan," recalls Jean-Michel Dalle, Agoranov's director. In total, the start-ups that passed through this incubator founded in 2000 have created "more than 12,000 jobs and raised 2 billion euros," he adds.
200 to 250 projects per year
Unlike Y Combinator, Agoranov is financed entirely by public funds (Ile-de-France region, City of Paris, Ministry of Research, European Social Fund) and does not take shares in the startups it supports. This choice is due to its associative status, its historical links with the academic world and its specialization in industry, Greentech, Digital and Health.
However, some projects in these sectors require years of fundamental research before the creation of a start-up. Under these conditions, it is difficult to expect a rapid return on investment.
"We receive between 200 and 250 applications per year. Our mission is to give the most innovative projects a chance," explains Jean-Michel Dalle. "We prefer to select people who are serious and stubborn, because these qualities are often correlated with later success," continues the polytechnicien, who is always careful to remind the bosses of the start-ups "what are the best mistakes not to make".
Going to scale
During the incubation period, startups are hosted, receive personalized support and are put in touch with investors and other entrepreneurs. Over the years, Jean-Michel Dalle has witnessed a change in mentality among young entrepreneurs.
"It has become standard practice to use an incubator," he observes, while noting that "in recent years there has been a greater availability of capital at the seed stage for startups. This is a decisive factor for going to scale and should enable the nuggets that Agoranov has created to continue to write some of the most beautiful pages in the history of French tech.
Article from Les Echos Entrepreneurs, by ADRIEN LELIEVRE