The acquisition of Connected Home startup Nest by Google last week has stirred up several questions around what it might mean for Google to have access to the data which Nest uses in its smart thermostat and smoke detector. In addition, several publications have been looking into Nest’s investors; however, it seems one of Nest’s unnamed investors comes straight out of the City of Light.
For those who attended LeWeb in 2012, it should come no surprise that the very man who interviewed Tony Fadell on stage – Kima Ventures LP & CEO of Iliad, Xavier Niel is reported to have entered into Nest’s first round of fundraising alongside Kleiner Perkins in 2010. Niel, who stated in the interview that he knew Fadell since his days at Apple (not surprising given Apple’s original European headquarters was in Paris, and Niel has been a key figure in the ecosystem for over 15 years), appears to be the only non-US Investor to have gotten in the on the deal, according to Crunchbase.
Niel has invested in upwards of 1000 startups over the past 10 years, and there’s no sign of slowing down. Kima Ventures, his VC fund run by Jeremie Berrebi, announced in December “Kima 15,” a program by which startups can apply with fixed terms for a $150K investment for 15% of their company, with a promise of cash in the bank (in approved) in 15 days.
Niel has become a figurehead in the startup scene – occasionally referred to, in jest, as the Steve Jobs of France – for his ‘rebellious’ attitude – despite figuring amount the wealthiest individuals in France, as well as running one of the largest companies in France, Niel positions himself as ‘one of the little guys’ fighting against the large French corporations. In addition to making fast and small investments Niel has made large investments in the media space, currently sharing a majority stake in LeMonde, one of France’s leading paid newspapers. He has also invested in data-journalism media Mediapart, which busted France’s Finance Minister last year for having an undeclared Swiss bank account, and they have recently put a $14 Million bid for Le Nouvel Obs, another French print & digital publication.
With Niel’s successful & high profile exit from Nest, one can expect that France, home to many of its own Connected Hardware startups, will be seeing quite a bit of activity in the coming years.
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