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French Tech News: Xavier Niel's GenAI Gamble

Can the French billionaire turn France into a global leader in this emerging technology?


👋 If you have been on Twitter in France over the past couple of weeks (at least French startup Twitter), there is a good chance your feed has been full of people sharing screenshots of their accounts from the new social media app ID by a company called amo. This is the new company co-founded by Antoine Martin, best known as co-founder of social mapping app Zenly, which he sold to Snap, which shut it down earlier this year.

The new startup has apparently snapped up a bunch of Zenly refugees to reimagine the social experience. ID (only on iOS at the moment) presents a kind of crazy-collage street art vibe that lets people share stuff with each others' boards. Thanks to a well-coordinated social-media hype campaign on Twitter, the app suddenly seemed to be everywhere after its launch.

"You are more than a profile pic and a grid of edited photos," said a tweet by amo. "You are everything you wear, say, do, and love — a beautiful and chaotic mess that means you’re human. ID by amo is a new kind of social profile that you make with your friends, on a limitless board. No grid to curate, followers to collect, or meaningless story replies. Just you and the crew, sharing what makes you, you."

The company raised an $18 million Seed Round led by Newwave, Coatue, and DST Global, and which also included money from Alven and Origins at a $100 million valuation, according to Sifted. Of course, social is tough. We'll see if ID can break through the noise, though the 2.1 rating on the Apple App Store is...ouch! Users have been highly critical of the requirement to share their contacts.

Otherwise, France's AI obsession was the big news recently, thanks to a high-profile AI conference at Station F organized by Xavier Niel's Scaleway. In the newsletter this week, we take a closer look at France's AI ambitions:

  • Deep Dive: Inside Niel's plot to win AI for France.
  • Spotlight Interview: Meet the co-founders of Poolside Jason Warner And Eiso Kant, who moved their HQ from Silicon Valley to Paris after getting a big check from Niel.
  • International Investor Intro: RTP Global is a global investment firm specializing in early-stage startups.
  • The Big Deals: Tech'Solaire, Eodev, Upway, Bioserenity, and more!

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💸 ⬆️ Funds raising Funds: Korelya Capital launched a €100 million fund, Korelya Brands, to help European fashion and lifestyle startups looking to expand to Asia. Serena closed a new €100 million fund to back startups working in infrastructure software; the invisible technologies behind popular consumer apps. Ring Capital launched a second growth impact fund and said it had raised the first €125 million toward its €250 million goal.📱

🤖 ⬆️ A new AI Startup accelerator Program is being launched at Station F by Facebook's parent company Meta, AI community platform Hugging Face, and cloud infrastructure company Scaleway. Five accelerating AI startups will be chosen to follow the program from January until June 2024. Applications close on December 1st. ✅

🏆 ↔️ Station F announced the members of its 5th Future 40 promotion. 40 of the most promising pre-seed and seed startups will pitch to accredited investors at Station F's online demo day and investor dinner. Interesting to note that 25% of these are AI startups 👀.

⏰ ↔️ Will Luko escape liquidation?! UK-based Admiral pulled out of a deal to buy the insurtech after raising questions about some of its accounting. The company was reportedly in talks with insurance giants Axa and Allianz, but after a deadline passed, a judge hit the reset button and now a bankruptcy administrator has until December 13 to find a new buyer. 🙀

The Deep Dive:
Xavier Niel's Plot
To Win AI For France

The French startup godfather has assembled an unlikely crew of fellow billionaires to support his plan to make the nation a GenAI epicenter. That includes more computing firepower for his cloud computing company Scaleway, and a non-profit AI institute.

"We started to talk about this project together a few months ago," Niel said. "With the idea of creating something different, a nonprofit in France, in Europe, to help the ecosystem because we were thinking that we will use AI in our life in the following years. We want to have models that could be created in Europe and have these models open. We know we have the best talent in Europe and in France."

Spotlight Interview:
Poolside Co-Founders
Jason Warner And Eiso Kant

Poolside co-founders Jason Warner (left) And Eiso Kant

Former Githhub CTO Jason Warner and Eiso Kant launched a new GenAI startup called Poolside earlier this year. The company wants to leverage language learning models to create a platform that can write software. The company raised a $126 million Seed Round and decided to move its headquarters to Paris.

At Niel's recent AI conference in Paris, Warner and Kant explained their vision for how AI is going to transform the creation of software and how they intend to build a platform to enable that. They also see software as a starting point for creating AI models that can eventually be used to reinvent a wide range of industries.

"We're building the world's most capable AI for software," Warner said. "And we think that is going to unlock what AI is actually capable of. More than anything else, we think this specific pathway and focusing on this is a world-class way to think about what is available to us as humans in a way that has never been available to us before."

International Investor Intro:

Who: RTP global

What: A global investment firm specializing in early-stage startups.

Where: New York, Bangalore, Dubai, London and Paris.

Sectors of interest: B2B and B2C tech, including AI, B2B SaaS, devOps, fintech, ecommerce and retail, health, edtech, climate, and transport.

Investor type: Seed to Series B

N° of funds: 4

Amount under management: $3 Bn

Notable investments: Datadog, Qonto, Delivery Hero, Cred, Fintecture

French Connections: Louis Dussart, Vice President of Europe

How to pitch them: French-based startups can reach out to Louis through LinkedIn.

The Big Deals


What: Tech Solaire, a solar energy distributor.

Why: To help accelerate the transition to clean energy.

Funding: €200 million

Who: Co-Founders Jérémie Lagarrigue & Victorien Erussard

Investors: Bpifrance & Groupe Credit Agricole

What's Next: The funding will enable the company to scale operations, R&D efforts, and amplify its international footprint.

What: Eodev, a manufacturer of hydrogen fuel cell power generators.

Why: to help accelerate the transition to clean energy.

Funding: €46 million

Who: Co-Founders Jérémie Lagarrigue & Victorien Erussard

Investors: Tilt Capital Partners, Supernova Invest, CapHorn, CMA CGM Ventures, Thelem Assurances, Accor, Groupe Monnoyeur, AMFIL, Toyota

What's Next: The funding will enable EODev to strengthen its leading position in the hydrogen fuel cell power generators market by financing its investment program, the expansion of its product range, and acceleration of its commercial development.

What: Upway, a marketplace for reconditioned electric bikes.

Why: To help speed up the adoption of electric bikes.

Funding: €27.5 million

Who: Co-Founders, Toussaint Wattinne and Stéphane Ficaja

Investors: Korelya, Sequoia Capital, Exor Ventures, Transition Venture

What's Next: The new funding will enable Upway to continue its French and international development (notably Germany & the US where it is already implanted), double the size of its French warehouse, invest in a new LA warehouse, and grow its team ( 5 to 10 news devs and product managers).

What: Bioserenity, providers of diagnostic and treatment tools for sleep, neurological, and cardiological disorders.

Why: To provide medical access for everyone, everywhere by deploying mobile healthcare units, establishing a network of medical centers in different regions, and leveraging digital tools to enhance healthcare services.

Funding: €24 million

Who: Founder and CSO, Piere Jouin

Investors: Jolt Capital
What's Next: Thanks to this funding, Bioserenity escapes liquidation. Starting afresh, the startup can now commercialize its latest product the "Neuronaute+" which has just been approved for sale in Europe and the United States.

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