The best startups in Paris

Nick D Burton / WIRED

Google, Facebook, Amazon and speakers such as Alibaba’s Jack Ma and chess legend Garry Kasparov were present at the Viva Technology conference in May, where Emmanuel Macron, the French president, once again pitched France as a startup nation. Indeed, there’s evidence for that: France is on track to reach a total of £5 billion in investment in startups by the end of 2019 — in the first quarter alone there were more than five rounds of over £100 million.

“I believe there’s never been a better time to be in the Paris tech scene,” says Antoine Hubert, CEO of insect-farming startup Ynsect. “This year, we’ve seen amazing startups set the bar to a much higher level.” There’s also evidence of a cultural shift in French entrepreneurship. “Entrepreneurs now want to build worldwide massive companies that are going to deeply transform industries. This new ambition combined with an amazing talent pool attracts the best international investors.

We feel this new atmosphere everywhere and it is a very good thing.”

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Qonto

The idea of Qonto was born out of frustration with banks. “As I was building my first company with my partner Steve Anavi, we were very frustrated with our own business banking experience,” Alexandre Prot says. “It was not only time-consuming and complex but also didn’t include modern tools to suit modern, agile companies. We decided to tackle these frustrations and to create the service we would have loved to use as entrepreneurs.” Founded in 2015 by Prot and Anavi, Qonto is a B2B digital banking service with more than 40,000 customers, including Alan and La Republique En Marche!, President Macron’s centrist political party. Qonto raised a total of EUR32 million from Valar Ventures, Alven and the European Investment Fund.

In early 2019, it expanded to Germany, Italy and Spain. Qonto.eu

Doctoblib

Launched in 2013 by Stanislas Niox-Chateau, Franck Tetzlaff, Ivan Schneider, Jessy Bernal, Thomas Landais and Steve Abou Rjeily, this startup is one of the leading European e-health unicorns. The startup offers management software to a community of more than 80,000 physicians and 1,700 hospitals in France and Germany, allowing patients to find nearby healthcare professionals, book and manage appointments online 24/7, have remote medical consultations via video, and receive a digital prescription in their online account. In March 2019, Doctolib raised EUR150 million from long-term investors. doctolib.fr

The best startups in Paris

WeMaintain co-founders Benoit Dupont, Jade Francine and Tristan Foureur

Dan Burn-Forti

WeMaintain

The traditionally uncompetitive market of elevator maintenance is being disrupted by WeMaintain. “If you look at elevator companies globally, the eight biggest in the world makes a billion dollars in revenue and no one knows about their existence,” explains Benoit Dupont, CEO of WeMaintain.

Founded in 2017 by Dupont, Jade Francine and Tristan Foureur, this digital elevator service connects property managers such as Allianz Real Estate, Groupama Immobilier and AXA to elevator mechanics, allowing them to run their own business autonomously. In April 2019, WeMaintain raised EUR7 million from Idinvest Partners and RAISE Ventures to expand across Europe and Asia. “There are no proptech unicorns out of Europe so far and we will work hard to change that,” Dupont says. Wemaintain.com

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PayFit

In 2015, Firmin Zocchetto noticed that no HR manager was happy with payroll software. “Existing payroll and HR management softwares were neither easy to use nor intuitive – they were generally more of a hindrance than a time-saver for HR managers or business leaders,” he says. So he decided to translate the French Labour Code – one of the most complex in the world – into plain computer code.

Called JetLang, this programming language automates and simplifies payroll and HR management, offering a simple and intuitive interface to manage employee payroll, social security contributions, paid holidays, hiring, or even expense reports. The startup was launched in April 2016 by Zocchetto, Ghislain de Fontenay and Florian Fournier and has more than 2,500 customers in France, Germany, Spain and the UK. payfit.com

Meero

Thomas Rebaud co-founded Meero, a digital platform for photographers, after noticing how much they struggled to make a living from their art. “It’s just so hard to be an artist today,” he says. “They spend half of their time finding clients and the other half doing bread-and-butter work. They have no energy left to develop their creativity and just do their art.” Meero not only connects photographers with clients, but also assists with photoshoot production, from pre-production to AI-automated editing. “AI reduced the editing time from hours to seconds,” claims Rebaud.

The startup, founded in 2016, has raised more than £63m, works with more 31,000 brands — including Uber Eats and Airbnb — and has a community of 52,000 photographers. Meero.com

A startup guide to Paris


Where to eat
La Felicita, 5 Parvis Alan Turing, 75013
Another food hall from the Big Mamma group, it is located in the startup campus Station F, with a thousand seats, five kitchens and three bars
Where to work
La Montgolfiere, 25 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010
This is the trendy new place to work for entrepreneurs, according to Maud Camus, communications manager at The Family. “It’s a social sports club and you’ll find all the Parisian entrepreneurs over there”
Where to drink
Moonshiner, 5 Rue Sedaine, 75011
To find this speakeasy bar, you have to locate the walk-in fridge in restaurant Pizza Da Vito. Inside you can drink from a variety of cocktails and whiskies in a hushed and retro ambiance

Sqreen

In 2006, Pierre Betouin was brought into Apple to build their first offensive security team. “We provided constant security feedback to thousands of developers across Apple’s portfolio,” he says. “Despite working with one of the finest engineering organisations in the world, my team and I discovered hundreds of vulnerabilities. With a pretty small team, we were outnumbered 1000:1 by our developers.

Vulnerabilities kept coming and we couldn’t scale to keep up. We started asking ourselves why this was the case.”

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With Jean-Baptiste Aviat, he left Apple to found Sqreen, a security management startup that uses microagents embedded in applications to identify and automatically protect against threats in real time. With no software code modifications, Sqreen can be up and running and protect any web application in under five minutes – and is currently used by more than 500 companies.

In April, it closed a £14 million Series A funding round led by Greylock Partners. Sqreen.com

Fretlink

Paul Guillemin was a manager at a digital agency when the owner of a trucking company asked him to develop software for his business. “I quickly identified the major issues the trucking industry was facing and saw a huge opportunity,” he says. “The road freight market was very fragmented with a lot of intermediaries, generating opacity on pricing, on the identity of suppliers and on tracking the operations.” Fretlink, founded in 2015, provides a digital platform for the freight industry, supporting more than 400 companies, including Procter & Gamble, McBride, and Nestle. The startup raised a EUR25m series B round in April 2019 and is currently registering a monthly turnover growth of 35 per cent. Fretlink.com

The best startups in Paris

Alan co-founders Jea-Charles Samuelian (left) and Charles Gorintin

Dan Burn-Forti

Alan

Jean-Charles Samuelian, the CEO of Alan, wants to fix the French healthcare system. “Both my parents are doctors, so I’ve seen how the system worked and I’ve always been shocked by its complexity,” he says. “My grandfather got sick and I spent quite some time filling in forms with my mum, which led me to the idea of implementing technology in the industry. Alan was born from this desire to moving from a health system that is only reactive to life accidents to a health system that flows around the individual.”

The company offers a digital health insurance plan that includes features such as a GP map, telemedicine and meditation.

Since launch in 2016, the medical insurance company has raised more than EUR75 million, and last year grew revenue by over 500 per cent. “Alan is not only an insurance against illness, it is a subscription to a better living,” Samuelian says. “People have been so used to jumping through hoops with their insurance company or in the healthcare system, that sometimes it was hard to believe that it could be radically different.” alan.eu

Ynsect

Since 2011 Ynsect has been breeding insects like the molitor, a small, common beetle whose larvae are known as mealworms. “We wanted to create a sustainable food system and help meet the rising demands of global protein consumption – which is predicted to surge by 52 per cent between 2007 and 2030 – by tapping into the natural goodness of insect protein,” explains CEO Antoine Hubert.

The startup has developed “farm-hills”, low-footprint vertical farms, for molitor breeding that mimic the complex structures built by insects in the wild. “We also use automation and machine learning to make the farming process – from feeding to controlling the health/welfare, the sensors used for quality control to harvesting mature insects – energy efficient and scalable,” Hubert says. Ynsect.com

Shift

By applying artificial intelligence to the problem of insurance fraud detection, Shift has developed Force – fraud detection software that automatically detects and flags up fraudulent insurance claims, and is currently used by more than 70 insurers around the world. “Insurers are actively looking for ways to change the way consumers think about insurance and insurance companies, and one way to do that is by delivering an exceptional customer experience,” says CEO and co-founder Jeremy Jawish. “We believe that our technology fits perfectly into those initiatives by helping our clients quickly and accurately settle claims and as a result, get their customers paid faster.” shift-technology.com

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