We had the pleasure of interviewing Yves Colinet, Managing Partner at DataBoost'r of the Micropole group. He joined us 6 years ago as an innovation enthusiast.
Can you tell us a few words about your professional background?
I had three major phases in my career. Initially, I held several commercial and sales positions in the tech sector. At the end of the 90s, I fell into the data field. I was lucky enough to be the first salesperson in a company that became the leader in Belgium a few years later.
In 2004, I left and realized that I no longer wanted to be an employee of a company. After a few consultancy assignments, 4 years later I launched my company active in supporting AI and cloud projects. We sold the company to Micropole, of which I became Managing Director. I was entering a more entrepreneurial phase of my career.
In 2015, I joined the BeAngels network as an investor and since then my interest in innovation and startups has grown steadily. The opportunity to combine this passion and my professional activity will materialize in 2021. Since last year, I have been Managing Partner of the Databoost'R accelerator of the Micropole group in Paris.
What do you like about investing in start-ups?
As an innovation enthusiast, I love seeing how a startup can add value to society. Being a business angel means discovering a whole world of opportunities...
How did you find out about this activity?
I had already read a few articles on business angels, but I had never identified with this activity. I did not imagine at the time that with my money I could help, learn, transmit and exchange with entrepreneurs. I also did not perceive the differences between investments such as business angels or investment funds, family offices... I find that this is an activity that is not sufficiently understood and about which we do not communicate enough. Too often we talk about the results obtained by start-ups or the profile of business angels. But we do not talk enough about the role that the business angel can have in the company.
What are your criteria for selecting a startup?
I see if I have a chemistry with the entrepreneur or the entrepreneur and his team of co-founders. I have to find the person interesting, but also what they offer as well. If it's a project that offers a solution in line with current issues, that interests me all the more! On the other hand, if I feel that the project is perceived as a tactical opportunity, I am less inclined to invest. But above all, the entrepreneur must seek help and skills from the business angel. Otherwise, I advise him to go to a bank.
What is your role once you have invested in a startup?
I participate in setting up the sales machine, the incentive (set of methods used to stimulate the motivation of a company's executives) and the sales force. I also help with all aspects relating to B2B, software, pipeline management, anticipation of the next sales cycles, identification of salespeople in relation to customers, link between marketing and operational sales... These are all subjects in which I was able to hone my skills during my career and for which I can help.
What should a startup that wants to grow care about?
One of the first big challenges a startup encounters when it wants to scale is market traction. In my opinion, a startup that does not sell has no value. I would even tend to say “sell before you even build your product!” (smile). Without sales, you don't get customer feedback and you don't know how to improve. Many startups think that their solution is a revolution and that customers will come on their own. It's wrong! I, therefore, try on my small scale to make entrepreneurs as aware as possible of caring about the market/customer axis and the importance of co-creating their product with them.
Do you maintain contact with the start-ups in which you have invested?
I regularly schedule face-to-face meetings to understand the progress and follow up. When you invest in a startup, you are committed to a few years of adventure alongside them! It will take 3 years to confirm the project, and wait 5 to 7 years to consider a release. During the meetings, we review together the commitments on the action plans that have been set.
What state of mind do you need to be in to be a business angel?
You have to be willing to share. A business angel must be in a process of personal learning. Of course, he will share his experience with the entrepreneur, but in exchange he will learn a lot about what is happening in the world and where we are going. I always tell a team of founders that I can share a lot with them, but in return I expect them to do the same with me! I want to keep learning constantly.
Have you ever sat on the board of directors of a startup?
Only one at the moment. Maybe I'll get an extra seat or two soon.
Have you taken any training to learn about investing in startups?
I followed the BeAngels training and I participated in two BAC (BeAngels Investors Club) to start, and I took advantage of the COVID period to certify myself in governance at Guberna. In addition, I regularly participate in online training from major American and English universities.
In this training course, the BeAngels academy was a stage of training but also of creating a network of skills in which we exchange on a very regular and informal basis. It is really essential!
What points should entrepreneurs bear in mind when approaching business angels?
According to me, I like when I am introduced to the team, their complementarity and their adequacy with the project. I also have to find the idea interesting, understand it and imagine it. If so, I like to know if there are any existing customers. As I said before, customers are the key to everything because they show that the company has value. I very rarely look at the technology that is used.
Is a business angel an adviser or a financier?
It's more advice and support. There is a financial dimension, but it is only one aspect. The business angel must want to give a "smart" vision to the company. To do this, he must know what he is good at, know his strengths and ask himself what he can bring to the project.
What qualities are looked for in a business angel?
The business angel must show patience and benevolence. He must consider that not everyone can do it at the same speed. He must also share his skills and wish the success of the entrepreneur, without appropriating the project. In addition to being passionate about innovation and the desire to disrupt... But more than anything, the business angel must be able to work in a team. He must be able to integrate into startup teams, as with other investors in the network.
For example, several of us investors have created our own “à la carte” investment group via the new formula “ICS - Investor Club as a Service” recently offered by BeAngels. In this group, we are all very different and this can be a source of dissension. But if patience and kindness are required, we can have a better understanding of a file when we all look at it. We each have a different but complementary understanding. The number of people in the group can also scare entrepreneurs.
However, it is a chance to benefit from a number of incredible skills! To tell you, we even made a trombinoscope of each member so that startups can interact more easily with the different members of the group according to their request.
Why did you become a business angel ?
Initially out of curiosity. When I started, I was a very passive investor (SIBA) then I became more and more active by attending pitch evenings and joining two investment groups (BAC). I had a growing desire to share my experience and save time for startups. These entrepreneurs need speed of execution to address the markets, because competition is never far away...
Do you make connections between what you learn through the business angel activity and your work?
Totally. By attending the Forum and investing in startups, there are many things that we can quickly understand as the major issues facing society: war for talents, economy/ecology transition, and so on! With BeAngels it's easy to stay up to date with big trends and what's going on. I also find that a network like BeAngels should be recommended to people who have strategy and planning functions. They must understand that it is not at home that it happens, but at startups! NASA would never have predicted that Elon Musk would one day launch rockets. And yet… there is a real disruption in the business of entrepreneurship. It can come from anywhere.