Ever since I wrote about 10 French Stanford Alumni who are rocking it in the startup scene, I’ve found myself wondering what Universities in France are churning out more entrepreneurs. When I spotted that LeWeb & Seesmic founder Loic Le Meur was giving a talk to HEC Entrepreneur students in California last month, I began to dig a bit further to see who else had come out of HEC. With a little help from HEC, I discovered much more than 10 web startups founded by French entrepreneurs, but I decided to focus on some of the more well-known startups:
Viadeo – Dan Serfaty, CEO
A 1987 graduate of HEC, Dan Serfaty founded and is the CEO of the world’s 2nd largest professional social network, with 50 Million members (behind Linkedin’s 200M+ members). The social network was originally a spin-off of an entrepreneur’s club that Serfaty founded in 2000, Agregator. The social network, designed as an online social network for the members of the community, spun-off in 2004 as Viaduc, and latered changed its name to Viadeo in 2006 when it raised its first round of funding(5 Million euros) to launch in English & Italian. Serfaty lives today in Beijing, where Viadeo has been growing quickly in the Asian market.
Sarenza – Stephane Treppoz,
A 1989 graduate of HEC, Treppoz was the CEO of AOL France as well as an active investor before founding France’s leading shoe & bag e-commerce site in 2007. With revenues exceeding 100 Million euros in 2011, the company, considered the French Zappos(US)/Zalando(Germay), raised a mere 3 million euros in 2009, but continues to grow, with the founders (including Treppoz) having bought back an 80% stake in the company in 2011.
PriceMinister(Rakuten) – Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet, co-founder & CEO
The price-comparison giant which sold to Rakuten in 2010 for around 200 Million euros came from HEC’s class of 1999. Pierre “PKM” Kosciusko-Morizet is still the group’s CEO today. PKM founded the company just one year after graduating from HEC, with nothing more on his résumé than a consulting firm he founded before his MBA, and a 1 year stint at Capital One. These days, PKM is also a Business Angel, usually found among the ranks of Meetic’s Marc Simoncini & Vente Privée’s Jacques-Antoine Granjon.
LaFourchette.com – Bertrand Jelensperger, Owner
A 2001 graduate of HEC, Jelensperger founded several companies before La Fourchette, including Boursipoly in 2000, an online casual game revolving around the stock exchange. LaFourchette was founded in 2006, and raised 8 million euros last April from Serena and Partech, announcing 9 million euros in annual revenue, a 95% annual growth for the company. The company was valued at 40 million euros at the time of the fundraising.
Spartoo – Boris Saragaglia, Founder & CEO
A 2005 graduate of HEC’s Masters program, Saragaglia founded Spartoo, an e-commerce shoe store, in 2006. The company raised 25 Million euros last October – one of the biggest rounds of funding of the year – totaling 45 million euros raised thus far. At the time of fundraising, the site announced 12 million unique visitors per month, making it one of the most popular sites in France.
Dealissime (LivingSocial) – cofounders Tatiana Jama & Lara Rouyres
2008 graduates Tatiana Jama & Lara Rouyres founded daily deals site in September 2009 during the rise of such giants as Groupon and Living Social, the later of which purchased the company less than two years later. While the details of the acquisition have not been disclosed, Tatiana & Lara have become regular figureheads in the Paris startup scene, with the later currently a member of the National Digital Council (Conseil National Numerique).
Sparrow (Google) – Dominique Leca, cofounder
Perhaps one of the most recognizable iPhone apps up until its time of acquisition. Dominique Leca graduated from HEC in 2008 and went on to build Sparrow, an iPhone, iPad and Mac email client that was purchased by Google in 2012 for <25 Million dollars. Now living in Mountain View, reported working on Gmail’s iPhone app,
Some of the more interesting companies founded by HEC alumni that I didn’t include in the initial list are Roland Garros Automobiles, founded by Roland Garros (go figure), a 1908 graduate of HEC,which was established in 1881, four years before Stanford.
1940 graduate Robert Mazars founded Mazars, one of the top-10 European accountancy firms, in 1940, right in he middle of World War II before France was occupied by Germany.
Francis Bouygues founded Bouygues construction company in 1952, just one year after graduating from HEC. His son, Martin Bouygues, succeeded him in 1989 to run the company, which now operates as France’s 3rd largest telecom company, in addition to a thriving construction company.
Lastly, BFM & CF News, two essential business publication in France, were both founded by HEC entrepreneurs.