Macron announces €5 billion late-stage investment pledge from institutional investors

French president Emmanuel Macron announced in a speech ahead of France Digitale Day that the French government has convinced institutional investors to invest more heavily in late-stage VC funds and asset managers in one way or another. Institutional investors have committed to investing $5.5 billion (€5 billion).

“We’ll have €2 billion that will go in so-called late-stage funds and €3 billion for funds managed by asset managers specialized in tech,” Macron said.

In addition to that financial pledge, the French government wants to break down any hurdle that prevents French startups from raising $100 million+ funding round in France, becoming a unicorn and eventually going public.

A couple of years ago, Macron gave a speech at Viva Technology in Paris. It was the first time he addressed the startup community after his election. At the time, I wrote: “Macron wanted to send a message to the startup community — he still cares about technology very much, thank you for asking.”

Since then, the French tech ecosystem has thrived, but without any radical policy change to shake things up. But today marks a departure as it’s all about startups, startups and startups.

“I’m talking about the jobs of tomorrow” Emmanuel Macron

It’s clear that Macron believes that startups represent a huge opportunity when it comes to job creation, competitiveness and reshaping the economic landscape in France. In other words, according to him, if you help startups thrive, it’s going to trickle down all the way and have positive impacts on your neighbor who has never used a computer in her life.

Some will applaud such a move, others will say that it divides society.

“When I talk about startup funding, I talk about the ability to help those startups succeed,” Macron said. “I’m talking about the jobs of tomorrow. And I’m saying that for many French citizens who think that those are only financial numbers.”

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(Photo Credit: Aliocha Boi)

Financing hypergrowth

So here’s Macron’s plan. First, French VC funds have been good when it comes to funding startups at the seed, Series A and sometimes Series B level. But many startups then look for international investors for late-stage rounds. For instance, just last week, Akeneo raised $46 million in a round led by Summit Partners, a Boston-based VC firm.

“Numbers show that we’re getting there, and I want to start from there,” Macron said. “The goal when it comes to technology is that we should be one of the countries that matter. Fundraising from French startups keep setting new records — we had $3.1 billion in fundraising in 2017, $4 billion in 2018 and $5.5 billion in 2019 probably.”

Following a report from Philippe Tibi, the French government has been working on a way to foster late-stage funds and investments in public tech companies in France. “We managed to rally big insurance companies, asset managers and long-term public investment funds,” a source close to Macron told me.

Private companies, such as Axa, Generali and Allianz, as well as public investors, such as EDF, Caisse des Dépôts, the pension reserve fund, are all going to invest in late-stage VC. Overall, two-thirds of them are private companies, one-third of them are public institutions, according to the source.

They’ll have three ways to invest and take part in the initiative:

  • If they have their own VC fund, they can create a new late-stage fund.
  • If they are limited partners in various VC funds, they can invest in late-stage funds managed by third-party teams.
  • If they don’t know anything about venture capital, they can invest in a special fund of funds managed by Bpifrance. Bpifrance will then select various late-stage funds and invest that money in those funds.

Eventually, the French government hopes that there will be at least 10 French VC firms with a late-stage fund above €1 billion. By pushing them to redirect some of their investments in VC, the French government thinks that they’ll invest more regularly in venture capital in the future.

When it comes to going public, the French government wants to make European stock exchanges more attractive. They're hoping the new influx of late-stage cash will convince banks and other financial institutions that manage huge positions in tech companies to create local teams in Paris.

Attracting foreign VCs too

French startups still want to become global players and the French government is well aware of that. And foreign VCs shouldn’t be at odds with French VC firms.

That’s why the French government also invited around 40 partners of venture capital firms and limited partners for a couple of days in Paris this week. They’ll meet key people in the ecosystem as well as promising startups.

I covered the first edition of this tour last year. The message was clear: Foreign VC firms should think about investing in French startups. Some are already doing it while others never thought about it. And the thing is nobody wants to be the first one to invest in something new, but nobody wants to be the last one, either.

This year, the French government is inviting a new batch of foreign investors from Khosla Ventures, Accel, Andreessen Horowitz, etc. There are more Asian investors in the mix this time round.

But Macron said that France should control its own destiny when it comes to startup funding. “When I talk about sovereignty, I deeply believe in that concept. It’s a politically-charged word, but I think it’s at the heart of your approach. I believe in technological and economical sovereignty,” Macron said.

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(Photo Credit: Aliocha Boi)

Transforming La French Tech

The French Tech Mission, also known as La French Tech, is a government-backed initiative that promotes French startups around the world and provides a few services to help startups.

And the government is going to overhaul the French Tech Mission drastically. This is as significant as the late-stage funding news. In addition to the small core team, every French ministry and administration will have a French Tech correspondent — Urssaf, INPI, AFNOR, Banque de France, customs, etc. Eventually, there will be 150 people spread out across the entire government working in some way or another for French startups.

“We’re not alone, we get to coordinate with everyone,” French Tech Mission director Kat Borlongan told me. “The overarching announcement is that France is going all in.”

La French Tech is going to become a one-stop shop for tech startups to overcome any administrative hurdle. La French Tech is going to pick 40 (and later 120) top-performing startups and give them the label Next40 and French Tech 120 — a play on words with the CAC40 and SBF 120 stock indexes. Those companies will automatically be able to access this fast-track administrative system — every startup will get a representative for their particular needs. This special treatment proves that startups have become a center piece of France’s economic policies.

“The coolest thing is that they can ask us for anything: ‘I’m about to do bizdev in China’, ‘I’m launching a rocket and I need to test it on a space facility’ or ‘I’m hiring 50 people and I need them and all their families here’,” Borlongan told me.

All companies that are unicorns or have raised more than €100 million are automatically in the Next40. Then, the government is looking at growth rate and annual turnover to find the most promising 40 and 120 startups.

“I’ll leave you with a goal: there should be 25 [French] unicorns by 2025,” Macron said at the end of his speech.

Apple awards another $250 million to precision glass maker Corning

As part of Apple’s Advanced Manufacturing Fund, Apple is investing $250 million in Corning, a supplier that has been working on glass for the iPhone, Apple Watch and iPad. Apple had previously invested $200 million in May 2017.

The company says that the new investment will support research and development for precision glass processes. While Corning has supplied glass to Apple for every generation of iPhone and iPad, Apple says that glass in the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro is even tougher than before. Apple also uses glass for the back of the device in order to enable wireless charging.

As Apple mentioned before, the company has spent $60 billion with 9,000 American suppliers in 2018. It represents 450,000 jobs.

Today’s investment is part of a commitment to spend billions of dollars in U.S.-based companies with its Advanced Manufacturing Fund in order to build new facilities and help manufacturers. Apple originally planned to invest $1 billion, but it has deployed the entire initial fund.

Apple has now spent $1 billion out of its $5 billion subsequent fund. For instance, Apple has invested $390 million in Finsar, the maker of the TrueDepth camera and $10 million in Elysis, an aluminum maker.

Apple Corning Harrodsburg Plant iPhone Apple Watch Glass 091719

FairMoney raises $11 million for its challenger bank for emerging markets

Fintech startup FairMoney is building a challenger bank in Nigeria. The company first started offering microcredit and now plans to expand to current accounts and savings. FairMoney just raised an $11 million Series A round (€10 million) led by Flourish, DST Global partners and existing partners Newfund, Speedinvest and Le Studio VC.

FairMoney lets you get a loan from its mobile app. After answering a few questions and sharing financial information, the startup analyzes this data set as well as your geolocation, other apps installed on your phone and other factors to give you an answer in a few minutes.

On average, people borrow the equivalent of $33. Eventually, if you always repay on time, you are able to borrow as much as $415. Interests vary depending on repayment periods and other factors, but the maximum annual percentage rate is 13%.

When you apply for a loan, FairMoney then uses traditional bank transfers to credit the money — bank transfers occur within a few minutes in Nigeria. You can then repay using cash with partner bank tellers, bank transfers or SMS.

FairMoney has a lending license in Nigeria to operate. The company will partner with microfinance institution to launch current accounts, savings and facilitate payments. Eventually, FairMoney hopes that it’ll get its own microfinance license from the central bank.

Like many challenger banks, FairMoney wants to become your financial hub for all your banking needs — one app to rule them all. That’s why the ability to hold money in your FairMoney wallet will be key. For users without smartphones, the startup is also working on an SMS interface to transfer money.

Apple Arcade is now available for some iOS 13 beta users

If you’re running a beta version of iOS 13 or 13.1, chances are you can now open the App Store and subscribe to Apple Arcade. The company has been rolling out its new subscription service, as MacRumors spotted. It works on my iPhone running a public beta version of iOS 13.1.

Apple Arcade requires iOS 13, tvOS 13 or macOS Catalina, which means that you won’t be able to access the service before updating to the new major versions of the operating systems. The final version of iOS 13 is set to launch on Thursday on the iPhone.

Originally announced earlier this year, Apple has been working on an ad-free gaming service that lets you download and play games for a monthly subscription fee. These games have no ads or in-app purchases.

Essentially, you pay $4.99 per month to access a library with dozens of games. Subscriptions include a one-month free trial and work with family sharing.

You can browse the selection of games without subscribing. There are currently 53 games available, but Apple said that it plans to launch over 100 games this fall.

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Each game has its own App Store page with a trailer, screenshots and some new icons indicating the age rating, category, number of players and more.

If you search for a game on the App Store and you’re not an Apple Arcade subscriber, you get a new button that tells you that you can try it free by subscribing to Apple Arcade. It also says “Apple Arcade” above the app name.

Apple Arcade 2

Canal+ will bundle Netflix subscriptions in France

Canal+ wants to provide an alternative to the great unbundling of video streaming services. France’s leading pay-TV group announced that it will sell Netflix subscriptions starting on October 15.

Instead of having to subscribe to multiple different services, Canal+ hopes that customers are looking for the ability to pay a monthly subscription for multiple services at once. This strategy is somewhat similar to Amazon Prime Video Channels and Apple TV Channels in the U.S.

People who subscribe to Canal+ for €20 per month (or €10 per month if you’re under 26) will be able to add a package of movies and TV shows for another €15 per month.

This package contains a standard Netflix subscription that lets you stream content in HD on two devices at once, which usually costs €12 per month in France. In addition to Netflix, you can also access OCS, which includes all HBO content and various live TV channels and on-demand content.

Overall, you get a ton of original content from Canal+, Netflix and HBO for €35 per month. But Canal+ already says that the package that includes Netflix won’t cost €15 forever. You can expect a price hike at some point in the coming months.

Canal+ provides its own set-top box and also has distribution deals with all major telecommunications companies in France. But even after launching an over-the-top offering that doesn’t require a set-top box, Canal+ has been steadily losing subscribers over the past few years. Netflix says that it currently has 6 million subscribers in France.

Over the past few years, Canal+ has been operating a shift from live TV to on-demand streaming. In addition to its usual TV channels with a mix of live sports, movies and TV shows, you can now stream movies and TV shows from a popular iOS and Android app called myCanal.

Canal+ customers who have a Canal+ set-top box will also be able to add the new package with Netflix. If you’re an existing Netflix subscribers, you’ll be able to link your Netflix account with your Canal+ account to tell Netflix that you’re already paying through Canal+ and stop Netflix billing. It’s still unclear whether Netflix content will be available in the myCanal app.

Leeto helps works councils manage perks

French startup Leeto provides a service for French works councils, better known as comités d’entreprise. The fintech startup lets you hand out perks to employees using a simple web service combined with a payment card.

Leeto recently raised a $2.2 million funding round (€2 million) from Founders Future and various business angels, such as Thomas Rebaud (Meero), Benjamin Netter (October) and Vincent Luciani (Artefact).

If you’re not familiar with French works councils, every French company with more than 50 employees has to elect representatives to defend the interests of employees — starting in 2020, companies with more than 11 employees will have a works council. They act as the interface between members of the board and employees, and they vote on strategic moves.

In addition to that role, companies have to hand out a small budget to the works council every year. Works councils can then reimburse cultural or sports activities, hand out gift cards for Christmas, give movie tickets, etc.

And Leeto wants to manage that budget in particular. Many companies currently have a cumbersome process. You have to send receipts of your yoga lessons, find a store that accepts your gift cards… It’s even worse for representatives as they have to order paper gift cards and make sure everyone picks up their gift cards at their desk.

Leeto is a software-as-a-service the lets you manage all that from a web browser. You can add employees and then grant them perks.

Later this year, every employee will get a prepaid Mastercard that the works council can top up and manage. For instance, representatives can hand out €500 a year for vacation and cultural activities. Employees can then use this card to pay for a Netflix subscription, train tickets, museum tickets and more. It works a bit like Lunchr, but for works councils.

If employees go on vacation and forget their card, they can also upload eligible expenses to get reimbursed even if they paid with a personal card.

On the works council’s side, Leeto wants to make it easier to manage accounting and send notifications to employees. Leeto currently costs €3 per employee per month, but that’s directly taken from the budget of the works council so employees don’t pay that.

Zyl raises $1.1 million to resurface old memories from your photos

French startup Zyl has raised $1 million (€1 million) in a round led by OneRagtime. The company has developed an app that uses artificial intelligence to find the most interesting photos and videos in your photo library.

Now that smartphones have been around for a while, many people have thousands of unsorted photos on their iPhone or Android device. And chances are you don’t often scroll back to look at past vacations and important life events.

Zyl is well aware of that. That’s why the company does the heavy lifting for you. The app scans your photo library to find important memories and photos you may have forgotten. It has even registered patents for some of its algorithms.

But identifying photos and videos is just one thing. In order to turn that process into a fun, nostalgia-powered experience, the app sends you a notification every day to tell you that Zyl has identified a new memory — they call it a Zyl. When you tap on it, the app reveals that memory and you can share it with your friends and family.

You then have to wait another 24 hours to unlock another Zyl. That slow-paced approach is key as you spend more time looking at Zyls and sharing them with loved ones.

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It’s also worth noting that Zyl processes your photo library on your iPhone or Android device directly. Photos aren’t sent to the company’s server.

Up next, Zyl plans to enrich your collection of Zyls with more photos and videos from your friends and family. You could imagine a way to seamlessly share photos of the same life event with your loved ones, even if they are currently spread out over multiple smartphones.

With today’s funding round, the company wants to improve the app and reach millions of users. Zyl already has impressive retention rates with 38% of users opening the app regularly during 5 weeks or more.

Akeneo raises $45 million for its product information management service

French startup Akeneo has raised a $45 million Series C round led by Summit Partners, with existing investors Alven, Partech, Salesforce Ventures and Stephan Dietrich also participating. The company develops a popular product information management (PIM) service to manage all information about products in your stores, online and in paper catalogs.

Akeneo started as a sort of CRM for product information. Instead of managing your catalog using Excel spreadsheets or an outdated ERP, Akeneo provides a service that works across all your communication channels. You can also collaborate in Akeneo directly.

Akeneo started as an open source PIM application. Today, thousands companies actively use that open source version. But Akeneo also offers an enterprise edition with a more traditional software-as-a-service approach. The startup has managed to attract 300 clients, such as Sephora, Fossil and Auchan.

“With the open source edition, we have 60,000 companies actively using Akeneo. It means that we are the most used PIM solution in the world,” co-founder and CEO Frédéric de Gombert told me.

Over the years, Akeneo has expanded beyond product information management. The company acquired Sigmento, a startup that collects public data about millions of products in order to automatically generate descriptions, specifications, keywords and more.

Akeneo has integrated Sigmento into its core product and now has a database of 50 million different products. Akeneo uses machine learning to clean up that data set. For Akeneo customers, it lets you automate several tasks and fix mistakes in specifications for instance.

“Investing in this technology is one of the goals of this funding round,” Frédéric de Gombert said.

With today’s funding round, the company also wants to hire more people and focus even more on the U.S. — it currently has 180 employees and they will be 300 by the end of 2020. 75% of its revenue is coming from abroad, and the company generates 20% of its revenue in the U.S.

Apple is releasing macOS Catalina in October

After a summer of beta test, Apple is about to release the next major version of macOS, macOS Catalina. But not so fast, the new version will arrive in October, according to Apple’s updated website.

As always, this update will be available as a free download in the Mac App Store.

This version completely rethinks the way you interact with media. Instead of using iTunes for everything, there are a handful of new apps specifically designed for each task — Music, Podcasts and TV.

Mac users will also notice a huge update to Photos. It borrows many of the new features that you can see in iOS 13, such as the ability to view photos by days, months or years with a curated selection of shots. The company tries to identify the best photos using artificial intelligence.

If you’ve been using Duet Display or Luna Display, macOS Catalina lets you use your iPad as a second Mac display. It’s as easy as opening the AirPlay menu and selecting your iPad to extend your desktop. The feature is called Sidecar.

Apple is also adding new accessibility features. For instance, you can open apps, click on dropdown menus and navigate apps much more easily with your voice.

More interestingly, this new version of macOS opens up the ability to port iPad apps to the desktop using Project Catalyst. Some developers already said that they plan on taking advantage of that feature, such as Twitter, Gameloft and Atlassian.

iOS 13 will be available on September 19

Apple announced in a press release that iOS 13 will be available on September 19. Even if you don’t plan to buy a new iPhone, you’ll be able to get a bunch of new features.

But that’s not all. iOS 13.1 will be available on September 30. Apple had to remove some features of iOS 13.0 at the last minute as they weren’t stable enough, such as Shortcuts automations and the ability to share your ETA in Apple Maps. That’s why iOS 13.1 will be released shortly after iOS 13.

As always, iOS 13 will be available as a free download. If you have an iPhone 6s or later, an iPhone SE or a 7th-generation iPod touch, your device supports iOS 13.

In addition, watchOS 6 will be released on September 19. Unfortunately, Apple will release iPadOS 13 on September 30. And it looks like tvOS 13 will also be released on September 30, according to a separate press release.

Here’s a quick rundown of what’s new in iOS 13. This year, in addition to dark mode, it feels like every single app has been improved with some quality-of-life updates. The Photos app features a brand new gallery view with autoplaying live photos and videos, smart curation and a more immersive design.

This version has a big emphasis on privacy, as well, thanks to a new signup option called “Sign in with Apple” and a bunch of privacy popups for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi consent. Apple Maps now features an impressive Google Street View-like feature called Look Around. It’s only available in a handful of cities, but I recommend… looking around, as everything is in 3D.

Many apps have been updated, such as Reminders with a brand new version, Messages with the ability to set a profile picture shared with your contacts, Mail with better text formatting options, Health with menstrual cycle tracking, Files with desktop-like features, Safari with a new website settings menu, etc. Read more on iOS 13 in my separate preview.

On the iPad front, for the first time Apple is calling iOS for the iPad under a new name — iPadOS. Multitasking has been improved, the Apple Pencil should feel snappier, Safari is now as powerful as Safari on macOS and more.