Accel, one of the world’s leading venture capital firms, announced a new $500M fund, with a focus on investing mostly in European and Israeli companies. The firm confirmed that France has been and will remain a key market for their investments.
Back in 2000, Accel opened its London office with the strategy to partner with entrepreneurs, who have the ambition to build category-defining businesses and invest in European private companies. Since then, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship have experienced a huge leap across Europe and Israel.
Accel has backed companies across 19 countries in all technology sectors. These range from enterprises, including software infrastructures, cloud computing, SaaS, and security software, to consumers, such as marketplaces, mobile, and financial services.
The firm’s investments include on-demand premium food delivery business Deliveroo in the UK, ridesharing service BlaBlaCar, online shopping website Showroomprivé in France, online comparison service CHECK24 in Germany, and adtech company OpenX in Israel.
In an interview with Rude Baguette, Harry Nelis, a partner at Accel who led the investment in Showroomprivé back in 2010 told us that Accel has five key geographies for this fund : UK, Germany, France, Scandinavia, and Israel.
France is a large economy and an interesting home market, he said. The country has great universities and great schools forming talented entrepreneurs and engineers. What motivates the firm to invest more in France is the success they already have had here with BlaBlaCar, Doctolib or Showroomprivé, he added.
Asking him about France’s strongest segments, Nelis commented:
“France has done very well in e-commerce, Vente-privee.com and Showroomprivé expanded internationally. BlaBlaCar has invented a great new business model in ride-sharing. France has the ability to create great innovative business models. Thanks to schools such as Polytechnique, the country has good engineers who built great software. The location is an advantage as well. In 2 hours, you’re in London.”
But in spite of these strengths, challenges remain in France, according to Nelis.
“Regulation is still very hard, sometimes we are reluctant to hire more people, taxation in certain areas is very high,” he said. “Regulatory and labor laws are the main obstacle to scale a company in France.”
Accel is willing to back the best entrepreneurs, a startup that can become a category-defining business, which means a company that completely defines its segment, like BlaBlaCar which defines by itself the car-sharing segment. They are focused on SaaS, marketplace models, mobile, financial services but also virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Concerning AI, Accel recently invested in Lola, a company developing a machine learning travel concierge founded by Paul English, co-founder of Kayak, also backed by Accel a few years ago.
Nelis joined Accel in 2004, and we asked him what changed the most in the fundraising landscape since then.
“The first main change is that when we raised our first funds, everyone used to ask us if we will be able to make a billion dollar company,” he recalled. “Today, nobody asks us this question anymore. The second difference is that it’s much easier to attract engineers, developers and marketers in this business, it allows you to scale businesses very quickly.”
Since their first fund in 2000, Accel’s London-based team has raised a total of $2.5B. This new round should be good news for French startups who, with the right backing, dream of becoming the country’s next BlaBlaCar.