VCs shouldn’t only be ‘Founder friendly’ but also ‘Employee friendly’!
How do we actually help our portfolio companies to grow into the next success story? As a VC, our role is very wide. We deal with financial strategy, finding board members, opening doors internationally, connecting to new investors, opening our network and community to find customers, leveraging on our job board to identify great talent, supporting PR to announce news, it’s a non-exhaustive list that evolves according to the needs and maturity of the company. But what does “the portfolio company” mean to our perspective? At daphni, we decided to not only focus on the founders and managers of our portfolio companies but to onboard all the employees. They are the talents who creates value along the other layers of the value chains. That’s why we organize events for them in order to give them all the tools they need to grow faster.
DA Lunch between peers
First of all, we organise events with startup peers, because sharing knowledges is such a powerful way to learn faster. We enable the startups to share common issues and best practices, to discuss how to go further in their business, and how they can expand their industry knowledge. Every month, we transform our working desks in a long lunch table & host the employees of our portfolio companies on specific fields (com-marketing/finance/Product/ HR….). We start with a simple cocktail at 12:30pm (while waiting for the late one 😉 At 1pm sharp, we spend one hour sharing our pain points on a specific issue, suggestions and ideas on how we can tackle these as fast as possible. At 2pm, everyone is free to go back to work and enjoy their new contacts, new ideas, new solutions….Does it really work? Yes. You always find someone who faced the same problem before you, give you great feedback and make your mind clearer!
“At every lunch at Daphni, I met great people facing similar issues within communication and public relations. It was very interesting to get the opportunity, thanks to Daphni, to have a clear picture of the challenges faced by the different Communication Managers. In a casual mode, we exchanged valuable tips and good practices. Investors are important supporters in this area. Precious moments!” Mathilde Aubinaud, Public Relations Manager at Foxintelligence
DA Croissants or lunch on a specific theme
We also set up breakfast or lunch on specific topics, being common challenges that we have identified. We always invite the best experts in our community or from our network to lead the conversation and share their expertise. Here are some examples of the last topic we have discussed.
Marc Simoncini (ex iFrance/Meetic — Partner Daphni), Alexandre Lebrun (ex Wit.ai/VirtuOz — Co-founder Nabla), Bruno Maisonnier (ex Aldebaran — Founder AnotherBrain) and Thibaut Revel (Partner Clipperton Finance) shared their stories about their painful and successful exit.
We organized this event to share great insights of what entrepreneurs could expect in the next decade, certainly not to push them to sell their company.
“I woke up at 5 am to catch my train from Bordeaux to Paris just to attend this event. I don’t regret it one second. I was really impressed by the outstanding and inspiring speakers. Great way to start a day! Merci Daphni”. Hakim Baka, Co-founder & CEO, Geev
• Lessons from inside hypergrowth
Laurence Bret Stern held a breakfast to share her experience at LinkedIn and Pipedrive, where she learned from the best, like Reid Hoffman and Brian Balfour. Laurence has experienced the concept of high-velocity business from inside and she explored with us the 3 different phases of growth: Traction, Acceleration and Scale, and explained what to prioritize and how to measure success. Here is a quick sum up about what she shared with us:
“Let’s be clear, there is no silver bullet for hypergrowth. Like the perfect storm, it requires an exceptional combination of factors and the right timing. And still, when it happens, it’s a very tough balancing act: you need to constantly adjust and connect your product, business model and channels to meet ever changing market needs.
But there is one a common trait to successful high-velocity businesses that is rarely mentioned: they were all born from and bred in a very strong culture. What I mean by « strong culture » is not a nice office and some “Core Values” pinned on a wall, it is a very thorough process and a significant investment in time and resources. A strong culture is based on 3 pillars:
- A clear, inspiring and articulated purpose on which everything aligns, internally and externally.
- A set of genuine values, translated into tangible, operating principles that will guide your leaders and employees day to day.
- A work environment that enables people to give their best while staying true to themselves (Note: I did not say “workplace” because there is so much more to consider than your space, e.g. flexibility, compensation, benefits, holiday policy, etc.)
I’ll leave you with this quote from Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn that sums it all up: “Ten years ago, had you asked me about culture and values I would have rolled my eyes and recited a line from Dilbert. (…) They are arguably our most important competitive advantage and something that has grown to define us. It’s one thing to change the world. It’s another to do it in our own unique way.”
“Laurence shared us her truth that is mine today”, Claire-Lise Colin, Talent Manager Lunchr
• Which CRM to choose?
CRM is now at the core of Sales & Marketing teams, and it’s more and more complicated to pick the best one according to your product and business. Daphni’s portfolio companies are almost all equipped with this tool but they’re still a lot of question marks. Francis Lelong, the former CEO & Founder of Sarenza, passionate about Sales Strategy, shared his experience with founders & salespeople about how to implement CRM in order to get your business right.
• Why you should invest in corporate culture right now?
Building company values aren’t easy, especially when at the same time, pushed by burn-rate, business growth or ambition. How can you keep the “folks” in harmony? Is it okay to build your corporate values on your own or should you do it within your whole team? Charles Thomas, the co-founder and CEO at Comet, a da house startup who realised the importance of this topic when growing his business shared his experience, feedbacks and vision. Patrick Vignaud, expert in corporate culture and founded “The Harmonists” that help you harmoniously accelerate your transformation and growth brought his advices to our portfolio founders and team members.
“I’m always interested in having discussion about best practices and feedbacks outside of the office to have a step back and broader view – that’s the main reason why I often join daphni’s lunch. What I always loved in these meeting are the partners recommandations and other point of view to challenge mine. I see these meetings as a very good value proposition of VC firm like Daphni. As investors, they gather lots of informations, meet lots of people, and can initiate that kind of event to connect people who have something to solve with people who went (or go) through the same challenge”. Romain Libeau, COO Lunchr
• On your way to IPO
Working towards an IPO is a long term process and requires a solid ground, built from the company’s infancy. Companies closing their later stage rounds can be further away from an IPO than a company still working in a garage — its all about preparation and having the right mindset from day one. Above all, an IPO is increasing the level of ambition and exigency for a company. For some purists, it probably means finally reaching a true business value. However, let’s not be mistaken about priorities — preparing for the IPO is not necessarily synonymous with taking your business public tomorrow. To tackle this topic , we have asked Nathanael Mauclair, one our daphnipolitan with more than 20 years of international experience from the epicenter of the leading stock market exchanges and David Chermont with more than 15 years of experience in equity sales and syndication.
• Financing of physical assets
Alexandre Perrin, the CFO of the mobile-first car rental solution Virtuo explained how you can design financial products that allow removing the company risk for the lender. In the startup world, where the risk of failure is high even for Series A+ companies, it’s common to use equity to finance all types of growth, including capital expenditure, which should theoretically be financed by “cheaper” type of capital (debt). Alexandre agreed to come for a da lunch and shared his knowledge with our portfolio companies and some guests. He explained how securitization could work for fast-growing companies, by sharing lessons learned from his previous jobs and talking about his current mission (hints: you set up a subsidiary where you put all the asset (and potentially the related revenues if you rent/lease them), make sure this company cannot go bankrupt & give a golden share for the lenders to grant them special political rights). Key takeaways: it’s doable even for a risky company to finance physical assets, but you need to reach a threshold of roughly 50m€ to cover the expenses (you need some serious modeling, good legal documentation and finding the right partners). The process isn’t so different from equity fundraising: you need to tell a convincing story, build trust and good relationships with bankers.
“I joined the lunch organized by daphni to find a relevant channel for sharing information about asset financing, offering crucial tips and shedding new light to EKIM’s asset specificity. We spoke about the various financing alternatives and focused on asset securitization. These meetings enable me to figure out what could be the next structure for EKIM in terms of financing, contacts and ideas for my current challenge: financing the first autonomous restaurant in the world: Pazzi. I met with Alexandre, Virtuo’s CFO, like-minded CFO/CEO from companies such as Agricool, SpaceFill, Beendhi & the Daphni’s team…This initiative of organizing this kind of event not only helps us to find solutions to problems, but also to find support and invaluable sources of information thanks to our peers. Support means acceleration in terms of understanding. Daphni understood! They are supportive and proactive partner investors”. Rahma Keddad, CFO Pazzi
DA Family Party
On the 11th of July 2019, we decided to gather the whole teams of our portfolio companies as well as friends of our Daphnipolis. As a first edition, to invite the employees too, it was a huge bet as we didn’t know what to expect. And guess what? For the first edition at L’Orangeraie in the Bois de Boulogne, we managed to celebrate summer with 500+ employees of our portfolio! We concluded that it was a terrific idea to create bridges and pollinate all parts of our ecosystem to help our startups to scale.
Food trucks? Check. Musicians? Check. Singers? Check. Cold beers and rosé? Check. (Yes we fell victim of our own success as we ran out so quickly with the number of people attending!) A dance floor, a Spanish summer playlist, and a lot of smiles on faces…? Check, check, and check.
Here are 5 reasons to not miss the next edition:
> The on-site entertainment: We have a tendency of picking the more unique locations for our events, and choose original artists. It is worth going just for that!
Meet with your peers from another mother: Bump into other product owners, sales people, or marketing experts at other early stage, super promising companies. Connect, learn and share!
> Feel the daphni vibes: Our events prove who we are and what we want to achieve. It’s a great chance to get to know each other, our outstanding founders and their teams better!
> Smell the beginning of vacations: There is a reason for why he have this specific event in July — it’s a great time to not only enjoy the weather, but also to get to know the ecosystem before you leave for vacations.
> Meet with our experienced entrepreneurs, experts and investors from the daphnipolis: But don’t forget business — our events give you a great platform to meet with powerful network. We love connecting people, and this is a great moment to do so!
Now that you know what you’d be missing out on, avoid FOMO and come to the next year edition!
By the way, thank you to all of the amazing attendees, who were rocking at the party (and demonstrated great dancing skills)! It is so great to see that you support the Daphni spirit. We are happy to have created connections between employees of startups, they will leverage on this great experience to keep sharing on their best practises. See you next year with you and our new portfolio companies (closing are in the pipe…)!
“I join the Da Family party, because it’s an opportunity to have a good time with my colleagues in a chic setting: the Jardin d’Acclimatation at sunset is something other than a classic bar! And, of course, to also discover the motivation and dynamics of other companies in Daphni’s portfolio. I met very dedicated people from Daphni as well as great people from Backmarket, Agricool, etc. I have learnt that first, we are not alone in this journey, other people are doing their best to let their vision become reality and Daphni is here to support us. Second, there is always someone more overexcited than you 🙂 (about life/work/projects). I expect help (directly or not) with valuable contacts from our investors, that they push us to step back and think again, and most importantly that they remain more of a motivating and driving force than only someone to whom we are accountable. And daphni is definitely an investment fund like no other and they proved it in organizing this event with all the employees of the portfolio companies.” Axel Gallian, Quality Manager @ ZOOV — Electric bikes
Aurelie van Peteghem, Head of Community
PS: Thanks again to Axel, Mathilde, Rahma, Romain, Hakim & Claire-Lise for your testimonials / Cécilia & Willy for your imput and Stanislas for your genius idea creation!