New money and new faces as Frenchman Daphni resets

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French venture capitalist Daphni has raised its third fund, bringing total assets under its management to $ 350 million and marking a new chapter for the company after high-profile departures.
Several of the funds founding partners – Marie Ekeland, Mathieu Daix and Willy Braun – left last year in what many saw as a blow to the fund, launched in 2015 with a and colorful brand, claiming to be a “venture capital mutant”.

The firm said on Wednesday that its new fund, called Yellow, was already worth $ 100 million. Daphni is also working to add an additional $ 50 million to the fund, which will invest in around 30 projects and issue checks worth $ 1 million to $ 5 million.

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Companies like France’s Accord and Bouygues – as well as business angels including billionaire telecoms mogul Xavier Niel, Romain Niccoli of Criteo and Jacques-Antoine Granjon of Veepee – have all invested in the fund.

Entrepreneurs in companies that had previously been supported by Daphni – startups like Devialet and Rear market – also put money.

“We want to get into tomorrow’s trends very early on, on new consumer behavior,” Charles-Henry Tranié, partner of Daphni, told Sifted during a joint interview with another partner, Pierre-Eric Leibovici.

“We are targeting agreements that have the potential to reach hundreds of millions, if not billions of euros in valuation,” Leibovici added.

Partners leaving

In July 2019, three of the five founding partners of Daphni announced that they were leaving. Braun joined another young French fund, Gaia Capital Partners.

Leibovici and another founding partner, Pierre-Yves Meerschman, remained.

But the firm quickly filled the void left by departures by partnering with Jaina Capital, the family office of famous French entrepreneur Marc Simoncini. Simoncini and Tranié from Jaina Capital have become partners at Daphni.

Daphni has wanted to recruit experienced entrepreneurs as partners for years, says Leibovici.

“We had the ambition from the start to integrate entrepreneurs into our group of partners, but we did not find anyone who was the right person in 2015,” explains Leibovici. “The ecosystem has evolved since then, and entrepreneurs want more support than ever from their peers.

As an entrepreneur, Simoncini made a name for himself – and his fortune – as one of the first French success stories, creating the dating site Meetic and selling it to Match.com in 2011. More recently, he founded Angell bike, which sells stylish connected electric bikes.

Founded in 2010, Jaina reflects the other side of Simoncini and its track record as an investor. He supported more than 50 startups, including Made.com and Molotov.tv, and has become one of the most famous business angels in France, with a TV show alongside Frederic Mazzella de Blablacar, who presents founders speaking to investors.

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