Exploring India's Startup Frontier: French Perspective and Strategic Focus in SaaS, Marketplace, and Fintech

Exploring the Boundless Opportunities in India: An Exclusive Interview with Francisque Lebrunie, Venture Partner India at Super Capital VC and French Foreign Trade Advisor, CCE Inde on the Thriving Landscape of SaaS, Fintech and Marketplace Startups in India and the Dynamic Tech Alliance Between France and India.

UJA | Francisque Lebrunie
Francisque Lebrunie

Venture Partner India at Super Capital VC and French Foreign Trade Advisor, CCE Inde

UJA: Can you share a bit about your journey and how your career led your journey as Venture Partner India at Super Capital?

Francisque Lebrunie: As an entrepreneur and investor, I have more than 13 years of expertise running e-commerce businesses. In 2004, I co-founded Chemise-Homme.com, which I sold in 2017. I began investing in real estate and businesses in 2019, and I consequently became a member of a community called Super Capital, an investor community based in Paris. Presently, Super Capital stands as one of the foremost French-speaking business angel communities in Europe.

Super Capital engages in three core activities, offering a comprehensive 360° financing solution. The initial focus is on Investment Banking (IB), facilitating connections between our community of investors and entrepreneurs. The second facet involves Venture Capital (VC), entailing direct investments via our investment vehicle based in France, with my specific focus directed towards the Indian market. The third facet involves Debt Financing, where we secure funding for startups through debt instruments.

I moved to India two and a half years ago as I had always wanted to be here. I was already aware that India’s economy is favorable to startup growth. I am also half-Indian, so it was like going back to my roots for me. We began investing in India’s startup ecosystem at Super Capital, and we now have 10 Indian firms in our portfolio across SaaS, Fintech and marketplace. We focus our efforts on these three industries since we have in-house expertise in these areas.

Super Capital created in 2018, is one of the most active investors, alongside Kima Ventures and Bpifrance, in the third quarter of 2023. It is currently raising a vehicle dedicated to Indian start-ups. In the third quarter of 2023, the Super Capital investor club took its place on the podium with 12 deals. Since the beginning of the year, this network has made 44 investments, including 5 reinvestments.

I am in charge of operations for the group on the Asian continent. The objective is to identify and invest in top-tier Indian startups while fostering strategic partnerships with incubators, expanding India’s network of entrepreneurs, and engaging with venture capitalists at a high level.

UJA: From your perspective, what are the key trends shaping the business landscape in India making it an attractive market?

Francisque Lebrunie: India has emerged as a global technology and innovation hub. The booming startup ecosystem, especially in sectors like fintech and e-commerce, has drawn significant attention from investors looking for high-growth opportunities. Potential in India is higher as the adoption of digital payment systems presents significant investment opportunities. This trend is likely to continue as more people in India embrace online shopping and digital financial services.

We stand as one of the scarce French investment firms in India, driven by our firm conviction that India is the pivotal destination for the forthcoming decades. While acknowledging that, for some Europeans, India may seem distant on the map, this perception is gradually evolving. India has unmistakably earned its place on the global stage.

UJA: How do you select companies you want to invest in?

Francisque Lebrunie: We receive 300 pitch decks a month. We read them all, then organized a call or video with the founders of around 50 startups. Following 50 calls, we narrow down our selection to 2 or 3 companies, ensuring our investment targets the top 1% of startups.

We finance mainly pre-seed and seed stages. 100% of our investments are in digital start-ups (3 focus: SaaS, Marketplace, Fintech, Mobile), and we also keep a small reserve for atypical projects (DNVB, Energy, etc.).

We are seeking entrepreneurs who excel in execution. Ideas are worth little or nothing! We are specifically looking for experienced entrepreneurs who prioritize execution at the core of their strategy.

We are actively looking for entrepreneurs who aspire to build ventures in India for a global audience. Additionally, we welcome entrepreneurs who are dedicated to building enterprises in India with a focus on contributing to the development of the New India.

A part of the world’s future will unfold in India, the most populous country on the planet. While not exclusively focused on “impact,” we aim to prioritize companies that contribute to transforming lives through positive innovations. In India, technology plays a central role in these changes, particularly through the Digital Public Infrastructure (India Stack).

Super Capital is a major player in early-stage tech investment in France, with a community of over 1,500 investors and 300 entrepreneurs. Having deployed just over €30 million in the past 5 years with +140 startups,

Previously, 95% of investment was in France and 5% in India, but that is changing now that we will be launching a special investment vehicle for India. We want to invest in 30 Indian startups within the next 2 years.

UJA: What kind of guidance do you give to entrepreneurs in your community?

Francisque Lebrunie: Our guiding principles center on nurturing innovation, capitalizing on opportunities, and cultivating enduring partnerships. We are committed to fostering an environment where creative thinking and groundbreaking ideas thrive.

Moreover, we actively emphasize and explore potential synergies that may exist between the tech ecosystems of France and India. By recognizing and promoting collaboration opportunities, we aim to bridge the gap between these two vibrant ecosystems, facilitating mutual growth and development.

Our mission extends beyond traditional guidance, as we actively seek to create connections and foster collaborations that transcend borders. Through these initiatives, we aspire to contribute to the advancement of both the French and Indian tech landscapes, fostering a strong community of innovation and entrepreneurship. Ultimately, we strive to create an environment where each member can contribute to and benefit from the collective wisdom and experience of the Super Capital VC network.

UJA: As a CCE French Trade Advisor, what advice would you give to entrepreneurs looking to navigate potential challenges in the Indian market?

Francisque Lebrunie: My advice is to keep India on your map for potential opportunities. In the realm of the digital market, I firmly believe that India stands as the most significant opportunity globally. It is not as simple as you believe, but if you take the time to comprehend the possibilities and understand the local customs, business etiquette, and communication styles, you will succeed. Everything is digitalized here, and there are many simple ways to do business. There is an excellent connection and Indo-French network. Working closely with local experts who understand the legal and regulatory landscape will always be helpful. Business negotiations in India can take time. Be patient and persistent in your approach.

As a VC and a CCE French Trade Advisor, I am actively working to forge a corridor between France and India. A substantial collaboration lies ahead for these two nations, and I foresee abundant opportunities emerging across diverse sectors in the times to come.

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