Insights on Investment Philosophy, Common Pitfalls, and Advice for Startups: Navigating Venture Capital with Francois Mazoudier

June 10th, 2024

In the world of venture capital, where innovation meets investment, navigating the terrain between promising startups and lucrative opportunities requires a keen eye and a strategic approach. In this exclusive interview, we sit down with Francois Mazoudier, a seasoned entrepreneur, renowned for his astute judgment and successful ventures, and coordinator of The Fundraising Bootcamp - a program to prepare founders to raise from Venture Capital funds successfully and efficiently. With a wealth of experience in the field, Francois sheds light on his investment philosophy and criteria, delving into the common pitfalls startups often encounter along their journey to securing funding. Offering invaluable insights, Francois provides sound advice to entrepreneurs seeking venture capital, illuminating the pathways to success amidst the dynamic landscape of innovation and finance.


Can you elaborate a little bit on what investment philosophy and key criteria you look for in startups in your Bootcamp programme?

Our criteria is relatively basic because, at the end of the day, we give you the tools to fundraise successfully, but we're not the ones investing. Most of the time, founders are going to get money from investors, not from us, so we're not the final decision maker.

The selection criteria for our program is, firstly, no assholes; it only takes one bad egg to ruin the entire week for the other nine CEOs, so we’re not interested in people who think they know it all, who are reticent to learning, reticent to change, resist anything, who don't come extremely open to do things radically different from what they’ve done before.

Number two, I want to see something that has the scale possibility that venture capital requires. If you can do something that has the size and return potential for a venture capital fund, founders are absolutely going to find the rest of the capital sources very easily, such as national, sector and corporate grants.

Number three, we consider the stage that the start up is raising for; we serve companies from half a million seed round all the way to 50 million series C, so we don't want to have three CEOs raising for half a million seed round trying to help a 50 million series C - that's just not going to work. So we need to have enough people in the early, mid and late stages so that they are valuable to each other. I am not a big fan of having 10 companies who all work in the same sector, for example, 10 CEOs of fintech companies, because they are all competitors, so they're not going to help each other and there's going to be zero collaboration because they know they're going to be pitching the same investors.


Can you share an example of a successful company that you accelerated on The Bootcamp programme that made a particular impression on you?

We’ve been really lucky in that since the start of the programme, we've worked with over 260 companies. But the first one I will mention is a UK-based company called Bumper that offers a buy and pay later service. I love them because they're an amazing team and they have been grafting, doing the shitty work. After the 10% interest rates at Klarna and seeing how they crashed, everyone thought the buy now, pay later model was finished and that nobody would back this again. But the guys at Bumper have been catapulting and hitting all their numbers. Bumper provides a binary pay later service for car maintenance and repairs, which basically means that your vehicle is always at its peak value. Bumper picks up the bill so that it doesn't cost you a fortune anymore to keep your car at its best possible value. These guys have been hitting market after market and they just announced two weeks ago a $48 million series A.

Finally, it was one of the very first companies we met when we partnered with Tech Nation, a company called Urban Jungle which is brand new type of tech insurance and insurer that is growing and growing. They can create a risk profile for you in microseconds, instead of days or months, so you can now insure your house, car, all sorts of things without using the traditional databases, like Halifax and all of the other systems - they’re an amazing team. We've also done a partnership with Enterprise Island, which is the government backed system (i'm not sure about this part as i don't know the context). One of the two of the companies is a space technology, which has built and won all the contracts for providing a laser communication system that weighs less than 1 kg and the other, a wonderful French company, called HyPrSpace, who have invented a new proportion system to launch all rockets into space which uses a solid and not gas or liquid, which can be made of plastic taken from the sea.


So what common pitfalls do you see startups falling into and what advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to secure venture capital funding this year?

A few basics; number one - stop believing journalists and all that stuff made by people who have not run fundraising, invested or built businesses. Anybody that designs content to be driving traffic is going to write anything but the truth and they usually never check the data. So, number one, just switch off all the noise and don’t believe anyone that has an opinion, just follow the hard data, that includes the number of VCs available, whether the trend is up, flat or down, whether the terms have changed.

All the doom and gloom can be safely ignored, read the hard data and you'll be fine as you'll realize who to talk to. The biggest example that I use, despite what anybody tells you, is that since the crisis, there have been 220 new venture capital funds created in Europe, which is roughly €24 billion, but they don’t talk about that in the media because that's good news and good news just doesn't sell. So at the moment there are tons of new funds that you don't know as they are not listed in the top 10 VCs (which always have the same names, because they have PR machines that work very well). So follow the data - full of active investors.

Number two - be super clear about your process calendar. Set the calendar and the pace otherwise investors set it for you and you're going to get screwed.

Number three - stop talking about the product. Pitches are what Americans like, Europeans hate it because we don't have engineers, we don't have product people in most VC funds. What's the opportunity for investors? Super high return business to invest in the product. So think away from the product and try to think about the business. You are selling a business, you're not selling a product.

Number four - first thing to focus on is creating a hook. There's five categories of hook which we teach on the Bootcamp - if you can't hook the brain of an investor you're not going to get a meeting, and if you don't get a meeting the game stops. Around 90% of founders don't even get into the room to pitch. They may have chit chat at a conference but they don't have the hard numbers. They don't know how to explain their moonshot when they meet an investor at a dinner without it sounding like a scripted pitching robot.

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