Partech: 40 years empowering tech

Partech: 40 years empowering tech

December 16th, 2022

#FlashbackFriday to last week Thursday, when we celebrated our 40th anniversary for which 1,000 guests from all over the world gathered in Paris. A thousand thank yous to everyone who joined us and made it an exceptional evening!

To mark this moment, we thought we’d take a mini trip down memory lane and extend our gratitude to everyone who has been instrumental in contributing to where we are today.

Partech is a collective adventure, which started 40 years ago and has accelerated over the last 12 years. Our entrepreneurial spirit has been carried by a growing team who has weathered many cycles and crises, always pushing forward their ambition to grow the tech ecosystem, even at times when it felt against all odds. And there has been a lot of “against all odds”, as you will see below.

This has only been possible because of the trust put in us by generations of investors and entrepreneurs.

For those who are not familiar with our origin story, Partech was founded in 1982 in San Francisco as a corporate venture arm for the French bank Paribas, originally under the name Paribas Technologies. Vincent Worms and Tom McKinley were part of the founding team.

A VC from Europe launching in the US in the 80s: that was “against all odds” #1

Less than a decade later, the team spun out from its sponsor Paribas and became 100% independent, pursuing US investments. Shortly after, we started to invest in Europe, in what would become the first transatlantic tech success (Business Objects, in which we invested at Seed, and which later became the first European tech company to IPO on NASDAQ). Five venture funds were raised and invested, and the Paris office soon opened in 1996.

A VC from the US investing in Europe in the 90s: that was “against all odds” #2

The 2000s were no walk in the tech world park, starting with the dot-com bubble burst and ending with the 2008 global financial crisis. Partech resisted well and had multiple successful exits (remember Invensense?) but was not totally immune. In 2008, we bet on building a new firm - with the help of our long standing partner Nicolas El Baze- on the brand that the original founders had left as a legacy and from there, the great adventure of the new Partech begun! We are very grateful to all the investors that trusted us at that time to rebuild Partech : CDC (Daniel Balmisse, Benjamin Paternot) that will later become BPIFrance, Idinvest (Benoist Grossmann and Jean-Philippe Boige), CNP (Pierre Ogier, Emmanuel Delaveau, Hélène Falchier), AG2R La Mondiale (Cyrille Roustang), 123 Ventures (Olivier Goy), Bernard Mizandjian, and Steven Albert.

Rebooting a VC in Europe a few weeks before Lehman collapsed: that was “against all odds” #3

Our belief was simple: tech drives progress, and capital is the lever that drives tech. The opportunity in Europe was massive, because of the structural lack of long-term capital combined with a deep and growing talent pool of some of the best engineers and business minds in the world. We struggled to navigate the global financial crisis, but we eventually managed to lay our founding stone with a new venture fund at the end of 2011.

Some new investors (EIF- Patric Gresko, David Dana), Edenred (Jacques Stern, Philippe Dufour) joined the original group of investors and all of them bet on us to launch a new venture fund : PI VI (Partech International VI).

Several other investors – today, over 400 – would later be attracted to what we were building and followed suit. Our immense gratitude to all of them who believed in us!

The launch of PI VI, a modest but pivotal success, allowed us to think about the future. While we were still figuring out how to transform Partech into a tech platform, some of our investors encouraged us right away to push forward. And at the time, this was not obvious. Since then, we’ve been fortunate to build out a strong venture fund portfolio. A couple of notable mentions include the likes of Akeneo, the global leader in SaaS-based solutions that help merchants and brands deliver a compelling customer experience across all sales channels, and ManoMano, the European leader in online DIY, Home and Garden.

Pitching a multi-strategy tech platform to LPs in 2013: that was “against all odds” #4

But sometimes intuition, trust and tenacity are your best advisors, and it turns out that we were at the dawn of a decade of growth across multiple strategies relying on three simple pillars that we continue to build upon today:

  • Focus: we are building an international tech-focused platform, not an asset manager. The 300 companies in 40 countries we partnered with in the last decade are all tech companies.
  • Talent: in our industry everything rests on the quality of the team. Our success is truly the team’s success, which grew from 6 mostly French people, to 70 today, spanning 20 nationalities.
  • Growth: the partnership stands behind the concept of organic growth at a steady pace, bringing in former operators and entrepreneurs to pioneer new initiatives to bolster the growth of the tech ecosystems around the world. This is how we could grow AUM 30x while maintaining discipline in fund size within each of our franchises.

Raising a first-time team / first-time fund for European Seed in 2012: that was “against all odds” #5

Romain Lavault joined us in 2012 to kickstart our seed franchise, after a first life during which he had been a rocket scientist then an entrepreneur in what was one of the first AI startups in Europe backed by Partech. We knew him to be quite the risk-taker; a desirable quality for anyone wanting to join a small team with big aspirations of becoming one of the leading European companies. Romain was rapidly joined by an entrepreneur who also greatly contributed to the success of our Seed strategy: Boris Golden. Partech's Seed strategy has been an accelerator for many digital players, some of which include: Jellysmack, who grew to become the 3rd largest media source in the US, and Sorare, the NFT fantasy sport gaming platform who raised a $50M Series A only 7 months after their Seed round.

We announced our fourth Seed fund last week with 120M€ dedicated to entrepreneurs that are launching new startups using tech, even deep tech, to solve new problems emerging in this post-Covid world.

Raising a first-time team / first-time fund for European Growth equity in 2014: that was “against all odds” #6

In 2015, we hired Omri Benayoun and Bruno Cremel to help us create a growth strategy. We had our eye on these two individuals for more than 10 years because of their outstanding professionalism.

Some of the emblematic successes of Partech Growth include EcoVadis - which is now the world leader in ESG ratings for large companies and their suppliers; and M-Files, a Finnish global platform for Business Document Management.

Raising a first-time team / first-time fund for African Venture in 2017: that was “against all odds” #7

In 2017, we became more confident in our entrepreneurial skills, and we wanted to give back. We wanted to demonstrate that tech investing was an industry with the potential to have a hugely positive impact and change lives. We decided to launch a pan-African Tech venture Fund. Thanks to Cyril Collon and Tidjane Deme’s immense talent, resilience and commitment, Partech Africa came out against all odds in 2018.

A few names on an incredible list of successes: TradeDepot – Africa’s leading procurement platform empowering informal merchants and Wave Sénégal – the leading mobile money operator in Western Africa.

Building a truly global platform fund from Europe: that was “against all odds” #8

Our evolution over the years has only been possible due to our ability to consistently attract seasoned professionals and entrepreneurs including the likes of Reza Malekzadeh, Jean Sini, Andrew Whiting who have been able to strengthen the partnership. Alongside this, we’ve been dedicated to nurturing and developing exceptional individuals into partners such as André François-Poncet and Boris Golden. And our next generation of Principals - Victor Huberson, Alison Imbert, Lewam Kefela, Matthieu Marchand, Elena Moneta, Simone Riva Violetta, Paul Vider - are equally talented, and we’re excited to see them grow into leaders.

But even the most talented investment team cannot go far without a strong foundation of finance, legal, and business development support. Christelle Pariat and her team have allowed Partech to grow while always being on top of our cash; Karen Noël and her legal team always find elegant solutions to make our ideas come to life; and Emmanuel Delaveau and his Business Development team are always on the hunt to find more funds to finance Partech’s initiatives and support the founders and teams of our portfolio companies.

While our support teams are based in our Paris HQ, we believe that having a local presence is the best way to stay connected to the entrepreneurs we partner with so, we've intentionally built a distributed team across Berlin, Dakar, Dubai, San Francisco, and New York. 

Raising four new funds in 2022/2023 once the irrational exuberance of investors has been curbed: that is “against all odds” #9

Since our inception, the world has been changing and the crises we face in the future will be significant. Some are cyclical, such as inflation and energy crises, while others are more structural, such as climate change, environmental issues, and geopolitical instability. The European impact ecosystem has grown in leaps and bounds over the last few years, with the launch of nearly 70 impact funds at Seed and Venture stage. However, there remains a significant shortage of capital for later stage impact startups that are successfully scaling and need tens of millions of euros in order to grow internationally, further increase their impact, and become global leaders in their respective sectors.

We are excited to announce the launch of our new initiative: the Impact Growth Fund – more on this in the coming months. Suffice to say that this new strategy will be focused on helping scaleups to grow and thrive so they can continue making a positive impact on the world.

On the topic of positive impact...

We would like to take a moment to highlight the work done by our former colleague, dear friend, and founder of October, one of our portfolio companies, Olivier Goy. In December 2020, Olivier was diagnosed with ALS, an incurable and fatal motor neuron disease. Having previously been an ultra-sporty entrepreneur, he was soon forced to walk with a cane and could no longer speak at the same pace, which frustrated him due to his brain still working at the same speed. But some things did not change. Olivier remained an eternal optimist and passionate about photography, which the disease could not take away from him. He has been chronicling his life with ALS through a documentary which he describes as ‘an ode to life and love’. We congratulate Olivier for his hard work and urge all of you to support him in his efforts.

So what’s next?

At Partech, we are only just getting started. We have the talent, vision and ambition to accelerate even further. We continue to be driven by the desire to invest in what preserves the planet - women, men, and technology must continue to work together!

Here’s to this exciting new cycle!

Philippe Collombel and Jean-Marc Patouillaud

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