Updated June 21 at 5:54 a.m. PT to include additional fundraising.
For much of the past year or so, the French government has been engaged in a massive campaign to promote the country’s growing tech economy.
Dubbed, “La French Tech,” government ministers have been barnstorming the country to highlight efforts by entrepreneurs. In addition, they’ve been leading massive delegations of startups to major trade shows like CES in Las Vegas and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Now, it’s hard to know in the short term how much impact any of these efforts are having. But it’s also hard to ignore that French startups are on a bit of roll.
In fact, this past week may have been one of the best ever for a startup ecosystem that is yearning for greater respect and recognition around the globe.
There was no single, record-setting funding. And for the moment, France is still waiting for kind of massive exit that will confirm its efforts. But over the past five days, there was a remarkable run of news:
Monday: In a grand theater in Paris, Sigfox announced a partnership and investment by Samsung. While the amount was undisclosed, the deal gives a major boost to Sigfox’s platform, a network designed to enable communication between connected objects.
French officials have been promoting the Internet of Things as an area where the country can be competitive. And Sigfox, based in Toulouse in southwest France, has been making a bid to be one of the country’s most successful global players.
Earlier this year, Sigfox raised $115 million, the largest round of venture capital in the history of France.
As evidence of Sigfox’s growing profile, the announcement drew both Young Sohn, president and chief strategy officer of Samsung Electronics, and France’s economic minister.
Tuesday: Another emerging French IoT player, Actility, announced a $25 million round of funding. The round was led by Ginko Ventures, and included Orange, Swisscom, and Foxconn.
Based in Paris, Actility installs IoT systems that also allow machines to communicate with each other. While it doesn’t compete directly with Sigfox, it uses a communication protocol that competes with the one that Sigfox developed.
While it’s not $115 million, $25 million is a big round by anyone’s standards.
Tuesday: The same day, a little Paris-based company called La Ruche Qui Dit Oui, announced it had raised $9 million. La Ruche has been going for several years, and it uses the Internet to help farmers sell directly to local communities of buyers.
Two notable things here: First, the round included an investment by Fred Wilson of Union Ventures, his first in France and just second in Europe (the other being SoundCloud.) French officials have been waving their flag, trying to attract notice from U.S.-based venture capitalists. Wilson is a good one to have in your corner.
Second, the round includes investment from Felix Capital, a London-based VC firm that just launched with a $120 million fund. The partners include French VC Frederic Court, who handled the La Ruche investment. If there’s one thing the country needs, it’s more French VCs.
Thursday: Over the past few months, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to sample the booming power of the new Phantom wireless speakers from Paris-based Devialet. Starting at $2,000 each (and they recommend you buy at least two), the quality of the sound and the design are squarely aimed at audiophiles.
This week, the company announced it raised $20 million, and would start taking preorders in the U.S. After almost 10 years in development, and now armed with a total of $50 million in VC raised, Devialet is about to find out if it can become a global player.
Friday: Aledia, which develops and manufactures advanced LEDs, announced it had raised $31 million in venture capital.
The company is based in Grenoble, which is also home to CEA, a major research and academic center.
The latest investment comes from the venture arm of IKEA, and Bpifrance, France’s major industrial bank.
Stepping back, over the course of five days, five companies in France (including two far outside the center of Paris’s gravity), raised more than $85 million. (And probably more since Sigfox didn’t disclose the size of the Samsung investment).
In the first half of 2014, French companies raised a total of $500 million in VC.
Perhaps more importantly, the companies are diverse businesses, tackling very different markets and opportunities. Certainly, the country shouldn’t be satisfied with this string of success.
But it should certainly be reason for optimism that the startup groundswell in France has some real momentum.
Update: As several people pointed out on Twitter this weekend, Sketchfab of Paris also raised $7 million in a round FirstMark Capital which, like Union, is also based in New York City. So that’s actually two U.S. venture firms coming to France in the same week.
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