Fall of Silicon Valley Bank: some fears in France but no substantive concerns


A Silicon Valley Bank facility in Tempe, Ariz., March 14, 2023.

Thursday, March 9, the wind of panic that preceded the closure of the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) crossed the Atlantic in no time to reach the office of Frenchman Gilles Samoun. Like many other clients of the banking establishment specializing in start-ups, he urgently needed to recover the assets of his company, Successeve, founded in the United States. “We had tohe explains. Not to do so, when a member of the board or an investor asks you, would be professional misconduct. » Almost heartbreaking for this investor who has been operating between France and the United States since the 1980s and had been a client of the SVB since 2000: “It was an essential institution when raising money in the United States. »

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“It was the bank that best embodied the values ​​of Silicon Valley”, abounds François Veron, the founder of Newfund, a fund based in Paris and San Francisco. When the announcement of the fall of the SVB, he felt a “huge shock”. Its teams were mobilized all weekend to ensure that the start-ups supported by the fund would not bear the brunt of the establishment’s bankruptcy. Until considering injecting fresh money to support these nuggets. Option evacuated on Monday March 13 when the American authorities guaranteed that no client of the SVB would lose their assets.

These specific cases were relatively few in France. The violence of the earthquake felt across the Atlantic bears no relation to that perceived in France and in no way seems to call into question the fundamentals of the French start-up scene. “As of Sunday, we were able to reassure our partners about the consequences of this event on our portfolio”testifies Pierre-Eric Leibovici, co-founder of the Daphni fund.

Bpifrance, the French counterpart

The implosion of the SVB, however, leaves a void in the United States, where it was an important player in the debt venture, this tool that allows start-ups to finance themselves through debt, which has become particularly useful in a period when IPOs have become too risky and fundraising is in decline. According to the specialized site Dealroom, the amount of fundraising in the world fell by 32%, from 734 billion dollars (685 billion euros) to 483 billion dollars between 2021 and 2022.

Ironically, the SVB served as inspiration for the creation of Bpifrance, which is the reference bank for young French start-ups, explains Paul-François Fournier, its executive director: “SVB had a culture of proximity to its customers and a strong understanding of the business model of the technology company ecosystem. But we don’t have deposit business. » Rather than relying on a main player, Bpifrance preferred to convince French banks to participate in the development of French start-ups: “We co-finance projects with them, we offer them guarantees on the riskiest loans, and they rely on us for risk analysis,” adds Mr. Fournier. “Banks are beginning to understand that these companies are high-potential future customers”also supports Mr. Leibovici.

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