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France’s Sista announces first close of €100m VC fund

It has an impressive roster of French entrepreneurs backing the fund — and offering their expertise to the portfolio

By Amy Lewin

The Sista Fund team

Sista, the Paris-based organisation behind some pretty significant — and hilarious — campaigns to get more funding heading towards female founders, is now raising a new VC fund.

Today, it’s announcing a first close of €30m — with a final target of €100m — backed by many of France’s best-known founders, such as Leetchi’s Céline Lazorthes, Qonto’s Steve Anavi, La Redoute’s Nathalie Balla, Mirakl’s Adrien Nussenbaum and 360Learning’s Nicolas Hernandez

It will invest the money into early-stage startups with at least one woman cofounder. 

Since its launch in 2018, Sista has been making the case that gender-balanced teams outperform businesses with less management diversity. Perhaps the most significant of the many initiatives it has launched is getting 350 VC firms, corporate venture firms and accelerators to sign a pledge committing to ensure that at least 25% of the startups they back by 2025 have at least one female cofounder. 

“We’ve spent so much time working on the ecosystem and the funding gap that we were like, ‘We’d like to participate as well. We might as well fund all these people’,” says Tatiana Jama, cofounder of Sista. 

“We want to accelerate a movement that is already here.”

Sista Fund’s focus

Sista Fund will write cheques of €250k-€3m into around 30 pre-revenue startups, and will follow on. Its areas of interest are broad — fintech, healthtech, SaaS and consumer. 

Sista Fund is not just focused on French startups or French founders — “there’s no nationality criteria,” says Jama — although it has promised its investors that 60% of the portfolio will be French startups. 

The team can lead rounds, but will happily coinvest. “We’re like the egalitarian companion on the cap table,” says Jama. “We just want to be useful.” 

Jama’s partner in the fund is Jérôme Masurel, managing partner of startup accelerator 50 Partners. They’ve hired an analyst, a legal person and a CFO, and are also looking to hire a third partner. 

The fund’s investors

The entrepreneurs who’ve invested in the fund (each contributing between €250k to €1m) will share their expertise with portfolio startups.

“We really believe if you invest you’re more invested,” says Jama. “The deal between us was, we need your money and your brain.” 

Big French corporates like BNP Paribas, FDJ Group and L’Oréal have also backed Sista. 

The team are also in talks with the European Investment Fund and French state bank Bpifrance to invest, and hope to close the fund in the next 12 to 18 months.

Sista’s successes

Some of Sista’s asks have now passed in French law. In 2021, legislation passed requiring French public bank Bpifrance to ensure that at least 30% of the members of its selection committees are women — and that at least 30% of the investment committees at the VC firms it backs.

It also now has to publish annual gender data on aid and access to loans. “This was huge,” says Jama. “We used to have no numbers at all.” 

Sista has released three reports in partnership with Boston Consulting Group on the gender breakdown of France’s startups.

The most recent, published in March this year, found that 16% of French startups founded in 2021 had mixed founding teams, and 8% had all-female founding teams. That’s a 9% improvement on 2008-2018 — the pre-Sista era. 

It also found that mixed founding teams have a better chance of getting funded.

Sista’s also launched peer groups for women in investment — where they can, for example, discuss how much carry they should typically ask for, says Jama — to bring more equality to investment teams by increasing transparency. 

Amy Lewin is Sifted’s editor and cohost of The Sifted Podcast, and writes Up Round, a weekly newsletter on VC. She tweets from @amyrlewin

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