IN PORTRAIT: Stéphanie Hospital, Founder & CEO – OneRagtime
Founded at the end of 2016 by Stéphanie Hospital, the former executive vice-president of digital at Orange, and Jean-Marie Messier, former CEO of Vivendi and co-founder of the investment bank Messier Maris & Associés, the OneRagtime platform is named after the musical genre that emerged at the close of the 19th century, a main precursor of jazz, which still exists today. “We want to support entrepreneurs who build technologies that will endure”, summarizes Stéphanie Hospital. “We also have a very international approach which inspired the name,” she continues. It’s also the code name of an NSA data monitoring program ‘PRISM’, “because we love projects built around data and AI ”, smiles our interviewee whose objective is to create a community of entrepreneurs and investors to accelerate the development and growth of portfolio companies far beyond financing.
After a long tenure at Orange, where she was in charge of the Orange Digital business unit (250 million euros in revenue), managing relations between Orange and major Internet players, investing in innovative companies, and partnerships with start-ups, she decided to change her life. “Through working with entrepreneurs, I realized that I wanted to become an entrepreneur,” she explains. In 2014-2015, new fund models were emerging internationally. It was at this point she decided to launch an innovative fund, one that would be active on a European scale. “From the start, I wanted to create a fund that was both very operational, based on technology, capable of investing at beginning of a project and to follow companies through the various stages of their development. OneRagtime is more than a digitized investment platform, it is a community of investors and entrepreneurs “, she emphasizes.
To be backed by OneRagtime, the project must have international DNA, software as a focus, with atypical and unique entrepreneurs who have one thing in common: endurance. “Most of our entrepreneurs have successful first experiences in large companies. We have a lot of athletes and musicians, true endurance activities. They’re used to being coached to improve. They have a competitive spirit,” explains Stéphanie Hospital, very athletic herself, loves skiing, hiking and mountain biking.
“We are committed to efficient capital models. We choose companies that don’t need a lot of capital for their development, with the idea of investing very early, in seed, post-seed or during the first big fundraise to follow in the coming rounds. In three and a half years, we have invested in 25 companies, in three business areas: content (communication and social networks), fintech and insurance, data and artificial intelligence. All of our companies have this tech or deeptech facet,” explains the founder and member of the board of directors of France Digitale.
The first investment was made in 2017. “Today, we are proud to have two companies with more than 30 million euros in annual revenue, two others with more than 10 million euros in annual revenue and seven of more than 1 million … When we invest, that number is often at 0. We are also very proud to contribute to job creation in France in Europe. In three and a half years, we have helped create 650 jobs. We hope to create international leaders “, she continues.
“We target companies with operations in France and in Europe. Today, 95% of OneRagtime’s investments are made in France but in companies with international DNA. We’re also in Spain where we have invested in two companies as well as Estonia ”, explains Stéphanie Hospital.
According to her, “French entrepreneurs now have a true competitive advantage because they benefit from the incredible support of the french tech ecosystem, which is much more powerful than other European countries. The different mechanisms mean that for every 1 euro invested at the beginning, companies receive 1 euro through varied support systems. This is why France has such an impressive start-up environment … Our goal is to create jobs in France through tech. Our model is very virtuous in France ”, underlines Stéphanie hospital.
OneRagtime is a fully digital platform aimed at qualified or professional investors. To invest, you’ll only need to download the app. Every step can be done online, a real advantage with Covid. “We thought of OneRagtime as a platform for investment: systematized, automated, and digitized. Thanks to this model, today we manage around 20 investment vehicles“.
OneRagtime brings together a community of 250 investors including members from private banking, Private Equity, CEOs, entrepreneurs, and corporates like Française des Jeux through the OneRagtime Aria fund.
“The OneRagtime platform allows investors to discover companies and their teams (a key element for investment), get a quick overview and then receive a more detailed analysis (deep analysis) … When we invest, we apply the same rules as Private Equity. Even in seed, we do a detailed analysis. We perform tech and business due diligence internally and systematic legal, IP and financial due diligence externally. Once the investment decision is made, we negotiate the terms with the founders“.
Since September, investors can – instead of committing deal by deal – invest in a fund that supports the next 20 companies to come. This fund is accessible to those who invest an amount greater than 100,000 euros.
Deep Dive, a proprietary artificial intelligence solution applied to investment, represents an important area of development for OneRagtime. “Deep Dive is our AI for start-ups. Every day, we collect and re-qualify data. It’s a collective intelligence base that makes it possible to detect new companies, follow competitors, analyze the information available on entrepreneurs … OneRagtime relies on technology and data to scale so we can truly support the 25 companies in our portfolio today, and the 50 companies that will be with us tomorrow. We are building bridges between our entrepreneurs and investors, eager to be active at the corporate level, in particular by opening up address books … We create experiences to bring our community to life. Before Covid, we regularly held events and dinners to foster this sense of belonging to the OneRagtime community. We have advisors who are very involved in the daily life of the community like Philippe Bourguignon, Patrick Sayer, Virginie Morgon and Philippe Carle. During lockdown, we organized webinars with their support, which worked so well we’ll do more in the coming months, ” explains the co-founder of the platform.
Of course, Messier Maris & Associés investment bank is also very involved in the project as well as in certain operations. The bank recently advised on the funds raised by the insurance broker + Simple.
“We are fortunate to benefit from their investment banking expertise,” notes Stéphanie Hospital, whose journey as an entrepreneur and building her company from zero, helps her to better understand founders. “My journey means that today I have much greater empathy for entrepreneurs,” said our interviewee. Her experience within a large group is also invaluable because the subject of cooperation with large groups is one of the most important, not only for start-ups but also – and above all – for corporations.
It’s a fact: today, Private Equity has taken over from investments in the field of tech. “We would like to have more corporate. The build-up logic for tech companies is essential, ” she emphasizes. “We’d like our companies to be bought not only by American groups but by European players and hope that the start-ups themselves will become acquirers for build-ups,” she adds.
Today, OneRagtime manages a seed fund for the FDJ. “When a project falls within the investment thesis of this fund, called OneRagtime Aria, we seek synergies and acceleration through commercial partnerships with Française des Jeux,” comments the co-founder of OneRagtime. The platform is also very close to a number of tech giants, which enables them to form high potential partnerships.
As for the current, very uncertain context, she remains quite optimistic: “This is the best time to invest in tech … The crisis filters entrepreneurs, allowing natural selection of the most resilient. The past crises gave birth to the tech giants, in 2000 and then in 2008, ” she recalls.
“We are very fortunate to operate in this sector of activity which is among the most privileged of the crisis. The companies in our portfolio are Covid-resistant, or have even accelerated. Focused on efficient capital models, we take a very detailed look at the cash planning of our companies. We help entrepreneurs at this stage, sometimes by changing their models in order to be armed for the recovery “, she summarizes.
The ambition of OneRagtime, which now has 20 employees of 8 different nationalities, is to “become a reference fund, among the most attractive for entrepreneurs in Europe in the next 5 years”. “Today, we have a significant investment capacity and it is growing every day”, concludes Stéphanie Hospital.