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We love atypical entrepreneurs! Interview with Stéphanie Hospital, co-founder and CEO of OneRagtime

Stéphanie Hospital has established herself as a leader in European tech, and we featured her among Europe’s most influential women in the startup and venture capital space in 2018. A former Orange executive, she created the unique French VC OneRagtime in 2015 along with her co-founder Jean-Marie Messier.

OneRagtime isn’t a traditional VC – on its platform or using its app, founders can easily sign up and pitch their startups, and investors can also sign up to participate in OneRagtime’s investments on a deal-by-deal basis. The VC has a curated community of over 500 investors, including business angels, corporates, family offices and more. Its platform also allows OneRagtime to be more data-driven than other VCs, optimising the sourcing and analysis of its startups, and providing a seamless, fully-digitised investment process. The VC focuses on early-stage European software startups, especially deep tech projects with a global outlook. So far, OneRagtime has made 15 investments, with more in the pipeline.

Below we ask Stéphanie about her background, OneRagtime, the growth of the French and European startup ecosystems, what she looks for when she’s investing in a startup, her advice for founders, and more. Profiter de l’interview!

What is your background, and how did you come to found OneRagtime with Jean-Marie Messier as co-founder?

I spent many years at Orange being an intrapreneur, working on behalf of entrepreneurs to build partnerships and launch new ventures. This was when I knew that, while I loved the life of an intrapreneur, I knew that what I really wanted to do was to better serve the fantastic entrepreneurs I was seeing across Europe, to accompany them and to develop their projects. With this I was inspired to become an entrepreneur myself: an entrepreneur helping entrepreneurs. So, I built OneRagtime to better serve the European tech industry and champion the incredible innovation we have here. I wanted to create something unique in the venture industry by building OneRagtime as a fintech that would leverage the power of data and technology to make stronger investments and truly support entrepreneurs. And to do all this while staying close to corporates because corporate partnerships, when well executed, are a game-changer for startups.

What are some startups you’ve recently invested in and why did you choose them? What have been your most successful investments?

We were lucky enough to be a business angel backing Zenly, technically the first investment done by OneRagtime. It gave us some good karma and we’re seeing many other successes with our startups, including Jellysmack, a startup we’ve been with since day one, which went on to raise a $14 million Series A round in September 2018 and is now clocking over 3 billion video views per month, and +Simple, who raised €10 million in their follow-on round and have secured leading partnerships with the likes of Allianz and Malakoff Médéric.

We’ve also backed Make.org, a civictech startup that has received fantastic exposure – they were invited to the Elysée by Emmanuel Macron to launch their “Initiative for a Sustainable Democracy”; telecom startup onoff, which recently completed a €10 million round and has achieved over 2 million app downloads worldwide; AI startup Gestoos who has partnerships with leaders like Cisco, Jaguar Land Rover, HP and Adidas; Muzeek, an AI music generation platform; Phantombuster, which is harnessing web data for marketers; Marie Quantier, an AI robo-advisor; Woleet, which offers “blockchain-as-a-service”; Glose, which is revolutionising reading; and Antescofo, which is putting an orchestra in the pocket of musicians worldwide. You can see our full portfolio by heading to our website.

We are predominantly looking for software startups with a B2C or B2B2C business model, founded in Europe with the ambition to grow internationally. We love deep tech with a consumer focus, across a wide range of verticals, including but not limited to content and entertainment, gaming, fintech, communication and more, using technologies such as AI, blockchain, and AR. What’s key is that we require our startups to be deep tech, or tech enabled, at the core, and to demonstrate a scalable business model. Their capital efficiency is key.

In terms of timing, we like to come in as the first professional investor, right after the love money and the business angels. We’re proud to be a VC that is able to invest pre-revenue, but we do need to see an actual product or service with a high growth potential, and preferably some traction. We’re looking for companies with a technology or product that’s ready to sell and scale, and be profitable at scale, but whose team could benefit from business development and funding to grow. We take the risk at the beginning with our founders and we follow with the ambition to be a fullstack investor from Seed to Series B. This way, we can efficiently back entrepreneurs in line with their development curve.

“It’s about having a big vision but keeping your feet firmly on the ground, laying out a clear path to achieve your goals”

Another element that our startups all have in common, perhaps the most important element, is to have an exceptional team at the helm. We love entrepreneurs who have a big vision but who keep their feet firmly on the ground, having laid out a clear path to achieve their goals. As part of this, we look for leaders who are both highly focused on execution and open to feedback, it’s a two-way relationship between founders and VCs.

Our tickets are typically between €500k and several million, and we are able to complete follow-on rounds for our start-ups.

What differentiates OneRagtime from other VCs?

We are very different from traditional venture capitals. Our vision is built upon our platform model, which is a complete ecosystem for startups and investors alike. It empowers investors to invest digitally on a deal-by-deal basis, and support startups in their full journey to success with funding, operational resources, and connections.

Our platform, available on our website and app, allows us to automate and digitalise venture capital and the investment process. With our platform, we can be data-driven like no other VC and obsessed about leveraging data to optimise the sourcing and analysis of our startups. We have an in-house technical team of developers and data analysts that are working behind the scenes to build our products and data analysis tools. Unlike other venture platforms, however, we complete full due diligences and analyses on all the startups that we offer as investment opportunities to our curated community of over 500 investors.

“In the past 10 years, the European startup ecosystem has gone from strength to strength.”

What’s more, thanks to our platform model, our curated community of over 500 investors (built up of business angels, corporates, family offices and more) are passionate about our startups, and open up their own contact books and offer their expertise to our entrepreneurs to help them grow. This network gives us access to a bigger and better dealflow, and because it’s scalable (it’s not just our team helping the startups but our whole growing community), there’s no limit to how much support we can offer startups. Furthermore, we encourage cooperation between our entrepreneurs, building a community with them and for them to propel them to success. We insist that leveraging the community is the way to scale.

Can you tell us about the sectors you are focused on, and some of the trends you are seeing within them?

We are looking for early-stage software startups based in Europe, with an emphasis on deep tech projects that demonstrate a scalable business model. What’s a must is a global outlook, we need that burning ambition to grow internationally! We’re focusing on new interfaces using technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain, the fintech and insurtech industry, mobility, gaming, content and communication.

How have you seen the European startup ecosystem change in the past 10 years? How has the French startup ecosystem evolved?

In the past 10 years, the European startup ecosystem has gone from strength to strength. We’re now producing unicorns like never before, huge industry disruptors like Criteo, Vente Privée, BlaBlaCar, Transferwise and Social Point, with historic amounts of capital in Europe to back them. Europe is on the rise. The past ten years have shown a culture change on all levels, corporates are beginning to see M&A as the new R&D, Europe’s brightest minds are being inspired to turn to entrepreneurship and build their own projects, and more investors are looking to venture as an exciting and rewarding asset class.

The French startup ecosystem has played a leading role in the transformation of Europe’s attitudes towards startups and venture capital. Business in France is being nurtured by our current government, making for once key transformative changes for the country. Now, we have that appetite for success and there is a buzz of excitement for the future. That’s reflected in the talent, investors and big corporations that we’re welcoming from all over the world. France is becoming more and more attractive for entrepreneurs, the spirit has changed and more entrepreneurs are wanting to build in France. France is back! There’s no underestimating how much the French ecosystem has grown, initiatives like La French Tech are a reality, building an army of incredible French startups worldwide… it’s just a matter of time before we start reaping the fruits of this innovation. What’s more, we have grown a fantastic financing ecosystem thanks to Bpifrance and other extensive sources of private and institutional funding, and now we’ve got the role models there too – superstars like Criteo and Zenly, and top facilities like the world-leading Station F. The environment has never been so good in France, and this is a great sign for Europe too.

The next challenge for Europe is to become to consolidator of tech companies to build world tech leaders. With this, we can look at examples of exceptional tech growth like Dassault Systèmes, which is showing engineering leadership from a company that started in the 80s and is achieving €3.5 billion in revenue.

What do you look for when you’re investing in a startup, and what advice would you give to startups seeking investment?

We look firstly at the team, which should be built up of mixed profiles and open personalities. We love atypical entrepreneurs! We look for a team with a firm vision and the capability to execute, but also to listen and learn from the support network we have built to nurture them. As I mentioned previously, it’s about having a big vision but keeping your feet firmly on the ground, laying out a clear path to achieve your goals. And doing so in a way that’s as capital efficient as possible! Taking on smart money, and spending it smartly too. We like projects that are looking to tackle big markets like onoff (telecom) or Gestoos (automotive) and of course the raw business elements the product-market fit, the revenue potential, whether you fit with our investment thesis (software, early-stage, a high growth potential). It’s also important that we feel we are well-positioned to help the start-up (that a start-up is at the right stage, and targeting the right market), and that the start-up is able to accept our support too… it’s a two-way relationship from start to finish.

What is the French government doing to support technology startups, and what more can – or should – it do?

The French government is creating a very exciting environment for startups in France right now, with top initiatives like the French Tech visa, supporting projects like Station F, and providing favourable tax breaks for tech investment in France. But in France we’re not just passionate about attracting and growing this tech here for growth, the emphasis on tech for good is extremely important too. The government has been instrumental in supporting technology start-ups seeking to make a difference, just like our own portfolio company Make.org who were invited to lunch at the Elysée with Emmanuel Macron, launching their latest cause “The Initiative for Sustainable Democracy”.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

We’re excited that the model and vision that we launched two years ago is working, with 15 investments made and more in the pipeline, already our first exit, and fantastic growth across our portfolio. We’d like to encourage anyone who wants to back fantastic companies as an investor, or any entrepreneurs who want to be funded by the best new disruptive VC to join us! All you need to do is sign up to our platform at oneragtime.com or via our Android and iOS app and discover for yourselves. OneRagtime is a human story, we love people, love to grow them and want to trust them to build great things. We want to empower people and always want to work with others who share that common mission.

Mary Loritz
Mary Loritz
Mary served as Head of Content at EU-Startups.com from November 2018 until November 2019. She is an experienced journalist and researcher covering tech and business topics.

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