While Newfund is industry agnostic, there is one thing which all of the French companies Augustin Sayer chooses to work with have in common. There is an international reach baked into the very DNA of the company. That’s what will determine ultimate success. “France is big, but it’s not big enough that you can get a unicorn, and because you cannot get a unicorn, we require startups to be global by default at birth . . . We say, well, you want the same valuation as in the US, you got to be International.”
Beyond that global potential from the beginning, another key element which Sayer looks for is something which Newfund calls Founder Market Fit. This is when somebody is able to clearly see the pain in the market, identify the problems coming from that pain, and has found a solution to address the problem. With Founder Market Fit, the solution will still be in its infancy, before Product Market Fit can be determined, but Sayer works on the idea that Founder Market Fit will lead to Product Market Fit.“France is big, but it's not big enough that you can get a unicorn, and because you cannot get a unicorn, we require startups to be global by default at birth.” - @augustinsayer Click To Tweet
Sayer also offered some quick tips about what he always looks for. One big one, which too often young startups lose sight of, is the importance of a clean cap table. “I want a clean cap table in the sense that a lot of time entrepreneurs don’t realize how important capital is.” Sayer points out that when you promise a few percentage points here and a few points there in exchange for labor or goods, you’re giving up a lot more than just money.
Sayer’s top three pieces of advice for entrepreneurs looking for their first check:
- Keep the cap table as clean as possible
- Surround yourself with people who don’t know the same things you know
- Keep your presentation 10-15 pages.
Sayer discourages long presentations, zeroing on 12 pages as the sweet spot. At that stage in a company you still should have too much room to grow to say who and what you are beyond that.“We're all former entrepreneurs, at Newfund, it's one of the prerequisites. And with that in mind, we're able to fight the bias.” - @augustinsayer Click To Tweet
At Newfund, promoting diversity is extremely important. The company has excellent stats, with a team made up of 50% women, and with ethnic and racial breakdowns comparable to those in the general population of France. “We’re all former entrepreneurs, at Newfund, it’s one of the prerequisites. And with that in mind, we’re able to fight the bias,” Sayer explains. That means knowing that a good investment doesn’t come from one of the top schools, it comes from a true entrepreneur with a great idea.
But Sayer warns, “it’s not a lifestyle, it’s a 24-seven job. You can’t just say I want to be an entrepreneur and then treat it as a nine to five.” Even those who pursue startups as a weekend project have to understand that they will be thinking about it every day constantly throughout the day.“It's not a lifestyle, it’s a 24-seven job. You can't just say I want to be an entrepreneur and then treat it as a nine to five.” - @augustinsayer Click To Tweet
When asked about how companies have had to adapt in the face of Covid, Sayer shared what he found to be one of the most powerful tools. Borrowed from the Israeli ecosystem came a radical re-thinking of how start-ups plan for the future. It no longer pays to plan out 6 months in advance, as nobody knows what the world will look like then. Instead, Sayer advises the companies he works with to focus on one week out, two weeks out at the most. This way they are ready for anything.
Covid has also introduced some distinct advantages for French startups seeking to go international. Right now, in a world changed by Covid, it has never been easier to sell a product to an American company while being based outside of the United States. Of course, on the flip side, this introduces entirely new levels of competition as geography no longer applies, and there are international companies pouring into France, looking to sell their products.
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