Tech Cycles for Education: Paris- London 21st-23rd September

Tech Cycles for Education


Tech thinks big. Even, on bikes.


London’s burgeoning tech scene has meshed with the increasingly popular cycling community to form TechBikers, a charity ride from Paris to London.


From Sept. 21-23, 40 tech professionals, including start-ups, venture capitalists, and executives, are cycling 300 km to raise money for Room to Read.


If you want to join the challenge, raise money for a great cause, and pedal from Paris to London sign-up here . If you are interested in only donating, click here.


Room to Read is a non-profit organization that was founded on the belief that world change begins with education from the youngest level. In the past 10 years, Room to Read has provided 6 million children with better access to education, established 1,592 schools and 13,170 libraries, published over 700 children’s books in 27 local languages, and sponsored 13,160 girls throughout their secondary education.


Eze Vidra, the Head of Campus, Google’s new start-up space in East London and former AOL executive, envisioned TechBikers. He was inspired by, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, a book written by Room to Read’s founder and former Microsoft executive, John Wood.


Vidra sees the ride as an avenue for networking, but more importantly a way that London can differentiate from other tech scenes and unite for a great cause.


“It’s [TechBikers] an opportunity to take a weekend off that will potentially impact thousands of kids in the developing world,” said Vidra.


After TechBikers was conceptualised, Vidra enlisted Gerry Newton, a Campus resident and founder of Cyclr, a social marketplace for cyclists, and Benjamin Southworth, Deputy CEO at Tech City Investment Organisation (TCIO).


Together, the trio has been busy raising money and spreading awareness about the initiative. Southworth even pledged to chop off his 3-year old beard if he raises £2,000.


“We have 40 riders, giving their time, their legs, my beard, in order to help out the emerging majority world through education,” said Southworth. “There isn’t any reason not to support us—Geeks doing good things whilst having fun on bikes.”


Newton sits at the median of the cycling and tech worlds and, to him, the two are not much different.


“The cycling community and the tech community collide here [East London], plus they are both pretty new and close-knit. Everybody is always open to offer support and advice in both worlds,” Newton said.


Cycling 300 km will not be easy. Even common commuters will need to train regularly. Every Saturday until the challenge begins the participants will go on group rides for practice. On the first group ride, they rode for over 40 km.


When asked if he felt prepared Vidra answered, “10 years ago I did 300 km on a bicycle from San Martín to Bariloche in Argentina, but that was 10 years ago and I was 10 years younger so I don’t know if I can do this, but I hope I can.”


Techbikers has pledged £10,000 for Room to Read and the event’s primary sponsors are Campus London, Yammer, and TCIO. In only a week, TechBikers has managed to raise £2,000. If you wish to be a sponsor or make a donation visit:


Donations, Sponsorship, Facebook Page, Follow on Twitter


For more info contact Kobi Ansong, Media Coordinator/Marketing Manager, Cyclr

Apéro Entrepreneurs London #24 – Google Campus – 6th of September from 7pm

Hello Apéro entrepreneurs!


The summer is almost over and as such, Apéro Entrepreneurs is ready to get ‘back to school’!


As such, please note a few changes. The London Apéros Entrepreneurs Team is changing: Aurore Hochard from Taskhub and Nicolas Jacquart from Blightygroup have recently accepted Loic Dumas’s invitation from to take over the organisation of this year’s Apéros and we would like to thank him and Edwige Labbé from Jellygraphers for all their help in making this happen!


For our next Apéro, we have selected a special venue: Based at the heart of London’s Tech City, it has some of the hottest startups under its roof… and this is Google Campus!


As mentioned in an earlier newsletter, we would like to give entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch! If you are interested in building your company’s visibility, please get in touch and send us an email We will invite up to 5 entrepreneurs to pitch in 3 minutes max.


It is probably worth mentioning that a journalist from France Télévision will be with us in the view to prepare a documentary for the TV show « 13h15 le samedi ». How exciting!


Now to make it easier to sign up, give more visibility to the event and bring a British touch, it is highly recommended to register to the group on



How does Venture Capital (VC) Work?

Just imagine for a second that you are that buzzing entrepreneur looking for capital to plough into your latest project; traditional lending institution’s doors are closed, but you then hear about ‘Venture Capital’ (VC) and you wonder: “what is VC and how does it work?”


This article serves as an overview of the world of VC, from its definition, to how best to approach VCs.


What is Venture Capital?
VC is an alternative investment asset class. Given that alternative investment assets have higher risk profiles, the expected return to investors in this space is commensurately higher. VCs provides risk capital to early stage businesses where there is substantial project risk and perceived (exponential) long-term growth potential. The investment is made in equity as opposed to debt (such as a bank loan) with the expectation that at a later stage (the ‘exit’), it can be sold for a significant profit.


VC firms invest in biotech, healthcare, IT and software. These industries are scalable and have a strong track record of delivering high returns. But despite individual successes, most startups fail and fewer will break-even. VCs have to invest in a number of firms to find the ones that return large enough margins to bail out the portfolio. In reality, less than 10% of a portfolio’s investment is successful enough to return 5-10x, which is a minimum requirement in order to break even on the entire portfolio.


Types of VCs
There are various types, but the common ones are: institutional, corporate and angel syndicates. Institutional VCs like Atomico and Accel Partners are usually structured as a partnership. Corporate VCs are departments within or subsidiaries of large companies which invest in start-ups. They primarily invest within their core business area where they can add most value to the startup and vice versa. Examples of corporate VCs are GM Ventures and Siemens Ventures. Angel syndicates, such as Beer and Partners, pool together a number of Angel investors. With an aggregated fund they have the financial clout of traditional VCs but without the (un?)necessary structure. Sometimes, they are also referred to as Super Angels.


Structure of a VC firm
Most VC firms are structured as partnerships with two types of stakeholders: the general partner (GP) and one or more limited partners (LP). Limited partners are usually institutional investors like banks, university endowment funds, insurance companies, foundations, pooled investment vehicles and high net worth individuals (HNWIs). LPs commit a fixed amount of money to the fund. The GP is the actual VC firm and is in charge of managing the fund’s investment and will typically have some skin in the game by committing anywhere between 5% and 15% of the fund’s capital. Initially, the GP is paid 2% of the fund size in management fees and 20% of profits in excess of an agreed threshold that returns all the LP invested capital as well as compensates the LPs for the risk. A typical fund has a lifespan of 7-10 years.


Process of Venture Capital
Operators within a VC firm i.e. GPs add value to their portfolio companies by bringing their networks, technical and managerial expertise to the table. Usually, entrepreneurs seek VC investment after there has already been a round of investment from what are usually called the 3Fs: Friends, Family and Fools; other rounds of investment may also come from seed and Angel investors. VCs normally invest between 1-10 million EUR/GBP/USD in a company which has some traction. Traction is defined by key metrics for that industry e.g. a growing customer base, merchant contracts signed, hours spent on site, click-throughs, etc. However, cash is king and every VC prefers to see revenue although most will not readily admit it. On a more positive note, there have been recent developments which empower entrepreneurs and this may influence a VC’s decision on when to invest. Some of these include the rise of crowdfunding; increase in secondary markets; and online resources such as AngelList which pair up investors with entrepreneurs.


How to approach a VC?
VCs typically receive more than 700 business plans a year, so first impressions are extremely important in this industry. Following the business plan – and if the VC thinks there is potential in the business idea – there will be a first meeting during which the entrepreneur usually pitches to the VC about his business idea. It usually takes between 3-6 months or sometimes even up to a year between the first meeting and an investment. Thereafter, there can also be further rounds of investment from VCs, and if all goes well, there is an eventual exit. An exit usually means a trade sale i.e. selling the business to a larger business – for example Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram – or an initial public offering (IPO).


Obtaining funding from VCs can be a gruelling process; one that entrepreneurs dread as they fear it takes them away from managing and growing their business. It is actually estimated that only 3% of businesses in the market successfully raise VC or Angel funding. However, there is capital! Last year, venture capitalist members of British Venture Capital Association invested 347 million GBP in 407 companies. One just has to ensure that one is investment ready to access this capital. Some consultancies or advisory firms exist to make life easier for entrepreneurs and their start-ups, by providing support and guidance through the fund-raising process. As only 2-5% of businesses in the market are deemed investment ready, it could potentially be beneficial for start-ups to engage with such advisors. Although some may say that engaging with such firms takes much needed capital out of the business, the positive benefit of such engagement is that it enables the entrepreneur to focus on what he/she knows best: growing the business.


You can also read the article on Amoo’s blog


Raising Venture Capital (VC) in Africa

By: Joram Sengendo and Dan Mosanu (Summer Analysts) at Amoo, Venture Capital Advisory


‘There is a big gap between the people that are looking for venture capital and the people that have venture capital.’ – Joe Collins


‘Many of the already functioning businesses in Africa need to be taken to the next level in order to be attractive to venture capital’ – Jade Smith


Very rarely does a group of seasoned investors and entrepreneurs, all burning with the same passion for Africa share a stage to convey their unique and insightful experiences of Venture Capital investment into the continent.


On 9 July 2012, at the Eight Club in the City of London, the teams at Amoo Venture Capital Advisory and Professionals for Africa were delighted to host a group of expert panelists and over 40 delegates for the event titled, « Venture Capital: Raising Finance for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Africa ». Both panels were filmed for posterity by The Knowledge Channel. They can be accessed via the links below:
· Investor panel
· Entrepreneur panel


The event kicked off with the investor panel, chaired by Michelle Kathryn Essomé of the African Venture Capital Association (AVCA). Her panel colleagues: John Butt of Conduit Ventures, Simon Merchant of Jacana and Mark Florman CEO of the British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVCA), joined her as they discussed several topics central to the African Venture Capital story.


John began by emphasising on the importance of operational experience in raising VC funds, and the management of investments, which is even more crucial in the African continent. Simon – whose firm not only aims to make profit, but also to create jobs in the local markets they operate in – spoke with enthusiasm of the uncharted waters, which are the African Francophone nations, whose vast investment potentials have not yet been exploited by the amount of capital it would warrant. Next was Mark, who discussed the difficulty he and Bob Geldof faced during the fund raising for Africa-focused Private Equity fund, 8 Miles. Mark pointed out that their experience was disappointing, especially for a region whose growth and investment opportunities are still widely untapped.


The investor session ended with a short break and for some refreshment; thereafter, delegates were reconvened for the much-awaited entrepreneurs panel. The panel, chaired by Nzube Ufodike of Amoo Venture Capital Advisory, and was made up of Remi Okunlola, founder of SeaWolf Oilfields, Hannah Acquah, founder of the The Knowledge Channel and Joe Collins, founder of African Supplies. The discussion started off with a personal story of each entrepreneur, but a central theme soon emerged: the challenges they faced doing business in Africa. All three panelists agreed that the most important factor in determining success for an entrepreneur on the continent is having the right connections.


From Joe’s story about his goods being stuck in ports, to Hannah’s discussion about the way she found her business partners at various yacht and country clubs, and finally, Remi’s point that the continent does not have the robust checks and balances as Western Europe. At this point, the lesson became more apparent that having the right network is imperative for a successful venture in Africa.


At the end of the event, the general feedback from the delegates – many of whom are budding and established entrepreneurs and financiers themselves – was that the insights provided by both panels were not just invaluable, but also credible as these were based on experience of dealings in Africa. In addition, many also felt that events like these provide not only a fantastic networking platform for current business leaders in Africa, but also for those interested in developing their ties and relationships in the continent.


You can also read the article on Amoo’s blog


Apéro Entrepreneurs #21 – Bluu bar, 07 June 2012 from 7pm

Hello Apéro entrepreneurs,


Another month, another Apéro Entrepreneurs, Frog Valley is pleased to announce that the Apéro Entrepreneurs #21 is getting very close, less than a week to go.


There will be no specific theme for the next Apéro Entrepreneurs but we are taking the opportunity to make a couple of announcements and asking for your help. Our friends from Social Fork (« Meet people over amazing food ») are proposing us to organise what we could call the Frog Valley dinner, a nice way to meet new people and enjoy good food, and it would take place once a month. Also we are trying to organise the « Soccer for Entrepreneurs », a weekly football match or small tournament. If you are interested to organise or even sponsor one of the events, you can reply to this email or just talk to us next Thursday.


Event details:
Bluu Bar

1 Hoxton Square
N1 6NU





Nearest tube station: Old Street (Northern line), Shoreditch High Street (Overground)


How to register


You can register by email:, Facebook, LinkedIn or on by selecting « Londres » in the list of cities to receive the newsletter.


Hope to see you all and don’t hesitate to bring your entrepreneurial friends with you.


The Apéro Entrepreneurs team in London.


Any questions? Ideas? Suggestions? Let us know by replying to this email.

Interview with Gregory Villain, French Entrepreneur, Founder of SmoovUp

By Shadi Biglarzadeh
Social Media Blogger


I met Gregory Villain few days ago at the French Entrepreneurs’ meeting in central London organised by Loic Dumas, Frog Valley’s founder.



Gregory started by a vigorous “Hi, what are you doing in life? ” l haven’t yet finished my phrase that he launched to me  “ you must share SmoovUp!!! “. We knew each other for only 3 minutes or so! This gives you a clear idea about the guy.


After almost 2 hours of one to one meeting (he is very talkative) Greg was obviously determined to spread the word on SmoovUp, the start up he founded in France in 2010 and which is starting on the UK market since April 2012.

This was a great occasion to make a game of questions and answers with this young French Entrepreneur.


But, what is SmoovUp in a few words?


SmoovUp is a brand new free website which is going to shake-up the thriving flat sharing market!


The concept is simple: people who are looking for flatmates sign-up and take a funny but well-thought out quiz – the SmoovTest – that lists all the points of agreement required to live peacefully when you share your place with others!


Gregory, tell us about you, where are you from?  What is your Education and past Professional Experiences?


Shadi! Thanks for the interview; it’s the first one in the UK!


So I’m Greg, 28 years old and French. I was born in Abu Dhabi and then lived in different countries for 12 years. Then, I studied Management and Marketing at Dauphine University in Paris and then did a Specialised Master in Entrepreneurship at EM Lyon Business School. During my studies, I had the chance to be part of various associations, one called, which is basically Dauphine’s social network, and the second one called Japad that organises student parties and events for Dauphine students.


Since my A Levels, I did internships every year in different fields so I could know what I wanted to do and what I would never do for a living! So I went across hotel business and banking, and finally ended up creating my own company… in the Web!


You are a French young Entrepreneur, founder of SmoovUp, What is it? is the true matching flatmates website! Thanks’ to SmoovUp, you can find THE perfect “soul” flatmates as we developed a matching algorithm dedicated to flatshare. The SmoovTest is really focused on your living habits, the way you see a flatshare, how often do you party, cooking, your hobbies, and a lot more questions… It’s not only about to know whether you smoke or not or want to live with pets, but really meant to match like-minded flatmates (called the Smoovers)! Give it a try and I’m pretty sure you’ll find a flatmate with whom you’ll become good friends instead of “just” sharing a home.


How do we become an Entrepreneur? I mean is it something you have in your blood or not necessarily?


Ah…Ah, that’s a big question!


Well, I think everyone can be an entrepreneur; the only condition is that you need to be ambitious. From the age of 15, I started thinking of creating businesses. At the very begining, it was about importing fashion brands in Dubai. Then, I thought about a water ski and wakeboard club. After that, I planned to open restaurants and hotels, then it was about salad bars, and finally, I did a website!


So the scope is very wide and there are plenty of good ideas to develop.


But you can also be an “intrapreneur”, meaning that you’ll be in charge of developing something new in a company. The main thing is that you need to have a clear vision of your business. It’s important to do a business plan so you know where you’re heading (knowing that what you projected will not often happen but that’s not a problem because you always adapt and improve!).


If I have an advice for future entrepreneurs, study and learn from successful entrepreneurs. If you can meet or get in contact with them someday, that’s even better! I was very inspired by Pierre Chappaz, one of the founders of Kelkoo. One day, I read one of his blog posts and decided to send him an email. I asked him some advice because I was hesitating between a job offer in finance OR launching SmoovUp. I was very surprised, but he replied to me the day after, in a short response:  “Dear Greg, when you are 25, you can take the risk of launching your company, you’ll learn way much than in finance. Good luck!”.


Two months later, I was writing the first line of my business plan and 2 years after this email, I confirm that I’ve learned so much! One day, I had the chance of meeting Richard Branson. I was really excited (I felt like a teenage girl in front of her idol!).


I went to see him directly, gave him my business card, told him about SmoovUp and that I was also a kitesurfer. Unfortunately, he never sent me an email… But I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to meet him again someday!


So if you have an idea and you think it’s worth trying it, GO for it, you’ll never regret it!


How many people are involved in your project? And what do they do so far?


I talked about my idea with my girlfriend and she was very enthusiastic about it. Then I talked about it to Leonore, one of my best friends. She was studying to become a lawyer and she told me that she really wanted to be part of the adventure so we set up SmoovUp together in 2010. Finally, Remy, one of my kitesurf friends, joined SmoovUp team in 2011 as CTO.


How did you find the “concept” of SmoovUp (filling questionnaire like a dating web-site)?


I had the idea of a matching website for flatmates thanks’ to one bad and one good experience in flatsharing… Concerning the bad one, it was during my master’s in Lyon. We were 3 flatmates and very soon, it happened that we didn’t have the same vision of flatsharing with one of them (who I didn’t know before moving in together…).


After 1 month, we were not talking to each other for the next 6 months. After that, in Sydney, during my internship, I had the chance to live with Charles who is a great guy, although very maniac ;-)! We didn’t know each other but had a lot in common as we both liked surf, kitesurf, electro music, party, and cook. And now, we are still very good friends! I was very lucky to find Charles as Sydney is the city where most people live with flatmates, but there were no proper websites to find the right match. So that experience convinced me of setting up SmoovUp, helping people find the right flatmates who share interests and living habits.



If SmoovUp takes the lead and encourages its members to meet up, for 100% free, then Landlords and real-estate agencies can also post their ads on the website for free: How do you make money if all is free?


To be honest, that was not the business model we imagined first. We were thinking of a pay to contact business model (like the dating websites). However, our competitors are either very well established (since 1999), or 100% free. We are a challenger for these websites so we need to adapt to them.  So having a 100% free website is the best way for us to expand and make our users happy. When you post an ad, you can subscribe to our premium program in order to highlight your ads (7£ for 7 days, 10£ for 15 days or 18£ for one month). That gets you more visibility and a better chance to find new flatmates faster.

We are now thinking of a lot of services that could be very useful for our Smoovers… But I can’t tell you much about that now, it’s still “top secret”!


  • How many subscribers do you have so far?


After one year of testing in France, we have 5000 Smoovers. We’ve improved SmoovUp developing 4 different versions based on user feedback, and opened it to landlords and estate agencies in September 2011. We expect to have much more English Smoovers as the UK is a more developed market for flatshare than France.


  • What is your conversion rate roughly?


Actually, it’s very good. We have more than 10% of our visitors who sign up!


  • Do you believe UK market could be different and raise your business fast?


I’m 100% sure about that! France is not a good market for flatshare as it is not a traditional culture as it is in Anglo-Saxon countries.


The problem is that there is a very strong demand, even more with the rent prices rising and the crisis, but few offers. The biggest problem is that French landlords often do not want to rent to flatmates… Why?? One of the reasons is that the rent contracts in France are very protective for renters (especially in winter) and sometimes, landlords get afraid and prefer not to rent their homes than renting it to flatmates… French exception.


In the UK, it is normal and common to live in a flatshare so the landlords do not have any problem with that. And what I can notice is that it is way better than in France as thanks to shared houses, people have more comfort and space than living on their own.


  • Who are the main competitors here?


On the free listings, there is Gumtree. On a pay to contact basis, there is Spareroom which holds the leading position in the UK. Easyroommate also has a strong market share, especially thanks to their international presence.


  • Because as you probably know, “Flat Sharing” have always been an Anglo-Saxon culture more than European, why starting in France and not straight here in the UK?


I first wanted to start SmoovUp in Australia when I was living there but I couldn’t get the visa. Indeed, to get a visa for setting up a company there, you must create 13 jobs the first year if you want to get your visa granted and renewed… That’s pretty hard for a start up!

So I came back to France in the end of 2009 and decided I would launch SmoovUp in the UK. However, when I went to see the banks, they told me they would not give me a loan if my business was not in France… So I decided to set it up in Paris and have the French market as a test. That enabled us to do mistakes and improve the website and the algorithm for a year and now we are ready to expand quickly…


  • You told me that flat sharing is not only for young people (18-35) but it can also be for seniors or even retired people, how could you explain that?


Well it’s funny because we really thought that our main target would be the 18-35. But very quickly, we started to see listings from flatmates who were more in their 50’s/60’s. We even have our senior Smoover who is 79 years old! I met him once, he is a great man, former photographer and film maker.


He lived alone in his big apartment and wanted to rent his second room to a student. He didn’t have any problem if the flatmate wanted to have dinners or invite friends and really wanted to share good moments (talking about photography for example). Also, retired people are very keen to live together as they can help each other and share good time.


We also have divorced people and women with children who want to live with flatmates in the same situation.


  • Could you give us some up to date figures on this very important fact that I believe lots of people are not aware about … (thinking that sharing is a young thing only)


50% of our Smoovers are students below 26. The other 50% are actives or retired people. Of course it is more a way of living for young people who are not yet married but definitely flatshare is adapted to everyone from 18 to 99 years old!


  • What are the main obstacles you meet with SmoovUp?


In France, definitely the lack of offers.


We launched SmoovUp in October 2010 and had very good press releases through out 2011. That gave us good visibility as a new and different actor on the flatshare market.


However, we still have 5 demands for 1 offer, which makes it hard for everyone to find a flatshare. That’s why we encourage our users to buddy up in order to form a new flatshare together. Also, we opened SmoovUp to landlords and estate agencies so we can become the first real estate website dedicated to flatshare (where you come for both finding the perfect flatmate AND the best apartment for your flatshare).


What we need now that we are expanding is getting more visibility.


  • SmoovUp is born in 2010, why launching it on the UK Market so late?


So we could shape the perfect product…


What are your expectations now?


Now, we hope to get good visibility thanks’ to a word of mouth effect. We are also expanding quickly.


The Startup Caravan is coming to London!


On May 28th, we are partnering with Le Bridge, French Digital London and ESCP Europe to bring 10 of the most promising Parisian startups for an action-packed full day of pitching, networking and partying in London! The entrepreneurs will meet the best that the London startup ecosystem has to offer.


Among other things, we’ll be:


– hanging out with our friends from Seedcamp and Springboard
– meeting iconic founders of hot startups such as Mixcloud and Crashpadder (the recent Airbnb acquisition)
– discovering London’s most dynamic co-working spaces, Campus London and Innovation Warehouse
– exploring Digital Shoreditch, London’s answer to SXSW
– schmoozing with the coolest VCs in Europe including ProFounders Capital, Index Ventures
– …and partying with the big cheeses!


The 10 startups caravan have been announced. They offer a good variety of what Paris has to offer with software, consumer communities, social platforms, etc., and what makes France strong:


The Caravaners:
La Ruche Qui Dit Oui. A platform for users to create consumer communities who can purchase agricultural products directly from the producers. website
Infinit. A software that allows access to all of your data across all of your devices, anywhere, anytime. website
Jimmy Fairly. An online optician which gives a pair of glasses to someone in need for every pair sold on the site. website
Skimm!. A disruptive, entirely software-based mobile payment system that enables its users to pay in participating stores, redeem promotional coupons and process user-to-user transactions. website
• Neo-nomade. The first search engine for work spaces. The company provides a mobile app showing all the co-working space, wifi cafés, and business centers near your location that have been vetted by the community. website

Everfeel. An Emotion On Demand social platform for improv games and is paving the way for a new kind of entertainment. website

ForgetBox. A tool to send files (documents, pictures and video), really easily, with no limitations of size and without waiting. website

Chauffeur-privé. A mobile app that allows users to order a private car with a driver, straight from their smartphone. website
Moodstocks. An API and SDKs to build magical image recognition apps. website
Social Folders. Syncs Your Facebook pics, Google Docs, and other online media with your desktop. website


We are very excited about this event. Stay tuned on Frog Valley as we will broadcast the event live fron 9.00am