This French Startup Says No to American VC but Yes to French Public Money

Launchmetrics raises $50 million from Bpifrance

Launchmetrics is a French-American marketing platform serving the fashion, luxury and cosmetics industries. Launchmetrics

When it comes to growth funding, the difference between Europe and America comes in sharp relief.

The glaring lack of venture capital culture on the old continent has driven American investors to pour large amounts into a host of European startups, reaping the benefits of their success down the road.

This year alone, French mobile video game-maker Voodoo raised $172 million from Goldman Sachs’ private equity fund, Open Classrooms secured $51 Million from General Atlantic, and Index Ventures footed the lion’s share of British firm Revolut’s latest round of funding for $250 million. The list goes on.

But in a surprise turn of events, Launchmetrics, a French-American marketing platform serving the fashion, luxury and cosmetics industries has turned down multiple offers from American growth funds, preferring to partner with three international investors. Bpifrance, the French public investment bank, injected most of the $50 million in Launchmetrics’ latest round of funding.

Conceived as a software as a service, or SaaS, Launchmetrics provides market analysis and campaign management tools for professionals in luxury and cosmetics.

“Having had previously worked with Bpifrance it was an easy decision to consider continuing our partnership together,” said Michael Jais, CEO of Launchmetrics. “They have been a longstanding supporter of ours, understanding our innovative technology, category authority and growth dynamics. Additionally, their alignment with our vision to build the leading marketing platform worldwide showed their commitment beyond just a capital investment.”

Launchmetrics recently released its proprietary audience-driven Media Impact Value (MIV) algorithm, which measures the impact of relevant media placements on all channels—online, social, print. The algorithm is geared to the fashion, luxury and cosmetics (FLC) industries, relying on historical data to create more accurate measurement.

The fast-growing startup, which says it will hit over $26 million in revenue this year, marking a 25 percent increase from last year, has developed a simple but effective business model: Brands subscribe to Launchmetrics’ relationship management platform to identify relevant influencers such as artists, athletes and bloggers, who can bolster campaigns while measuring returns on investments.

Launchmetrics’ CMO Alison Levy recently issued a report which broke down MIV into social categories to help client brands gain a better understanding of which activities add value.

“Michael Kors, for example, leveraged their owned media channel to drive $5.3M in MIV around their fashion show, well worth the investment,” Levy said. “Another great example was over the holidays, Make Up Forever & Too Faced engaged consumers via social to garner 20 percent of their MIV for the month.”

The company has added the most prestigious names in the luxury, fashion, and lifestyle industries, including Dior, Fendi, Net-a-Porter, Adidas and Topshop, to its portfolio of clients.

Launchmetrics has also struck partnerships to elevate its standing with organizations such as IMG, the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the British Fashion Council, Pitti Immagine and Google. Today, it oversees the industry communities GPS Radar and Style Coalition, which enables over 50,000 influencers, editors and buyers to share content, events, news and images with brands.

The company’s success illustrates a growing trend in marketing and media spending strategies that are shaking up the industry, shifting away from traditional advertising and toward influencer marketing activation.

“Brands are finding it challenging to measure and benchmark their activities across online, offline and social since the industry lacks standardized measurement tools and metrics to measure these channels altogether,” Jais said.

So why did the company pick a government-backed investor when it had lured every possible fund across the Atlantic? Jais attributed his decision to Bpifrance’s longstanding commitment to Launchmetrics and dedication to the company’s long-term success.

“They understand our innovative technology, authority in the field and growth dynamics,” he said. “Bpifrance, in particular, has been a key player in building the French Tech ecosystem, investing in many emerging startups over the years.”

It is worth noting that the French government’s venture fund previously took a stake in Launchmetrics’ earlier round of investments.

Nicholas Herschtel, Bpifrance’s deputy managing director, told Adweek that the government venture fund’s strategy to invest at the seed stage and build valuable ties inside the startup had paid off. He added that the primary reason for Bpifrance’s investment was the belief that the innovations that underpin Launchmetrics’ success can turn the company into a world leader and an ambassador for French tech abroad.

“By focusing on the long term and steering clear from the obsession of immediate returns on investments, in a sense, Bpifrance simultaneously provided patient and growth capital, something for which private funds are ill-conceived,” Herschtel said.

Private investors have sent mixed signals about the government fund’s involvement in the French tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Pierre-Edouard Sterin, the founder of Smartbox, and currently the largest VC investor in the country through his fund Otium Capital, thinks markets are better equipped to support startups, suggesting that government funds distort market valuations, artificially boost company valuations and enable projects lacking sound business models to raise funds and lure investors.

“I like the idea of policymakers and government officials supporting entrepreneurs, startups and innovation,” he said. “I have myself invested in successful startups that emerged thanks to the favorable terms of Bpifrance investments. But overall, I think the priority for policymakers should be to remove barriers to facilitate the conduct of business and encourage investors to take risks.”

Alexis Chemblette is a Brooklyn-based reporter and contributor to Adweek.