The Top 10: #7 Nicolas Autret, investment director, Samsung Catalyst Fund

Nicolas Autret is an investment director at Samsung Catalyst Fund (SCF), a $500m evergreen corporate venture capital (CVC) vehicle for electronics manufacturer Samsung. The multistage fund invests in the new data economy and strategic areas on behalf of Samsung’s mobile, device and consumer electronics groups.

SCF focuses on automotive, robotics, digital health, the internet of things, artificial intelligence, cloud infrastructure and device-level solutions.

David “Dede” Goldschmidt, vice-president and managing director of SCF, said: “Nicolas Autret plays a major role in expanding the portfolio of the Samsung Catalyst Fund in Europe. Based in Paris, Nicolas established deep relationships with VCs, CVCs and entrepreneurs alike, across the continent and in the UK.

“As a member of the board of multiple portfolio companies, he demonstrates a proactive approach to working very closely with management teams and helping them on both financial and operational aspects. This stood out during the volatile covid-19 days, where syndicate support was critical for early-stage companies.”

Regarding his background, Autret explained: “I joined SCF in early 2018 to open our Paris office and expand coverage of the European market. Formerly, I served as general partner of venture firm 360 Capital, where I led investments in early-stage startups throughout Europe, including Sophia Genetics, Innoviz Technology, Prophesee and GrAI Matter Labs.

“My experiences also include investment roles for Sofinnova Partners and operating roles with the corporate development and strategy group of Orange North America, as well as business development positions at LeGuide Group and Twenga Solutions.

“Joining SCF was a new chapter in my career and an opportunity to be part of a team whose mission is to define the future of Samsung: identify new technologies, services or business models that have the potential to fuel the future growth of Samsung. That is a very exciting endeavour when one considers the scale of Samsung.”

When Autret joined in 2018, SCF already had a solid portfolio in Europe, with companies such as Graphcore, AImotive and Mapillary (acquired by Facebook), he said. “Nevertheless, the past five years have shown that investment opportunities in Europe no longer come from one of the three legacy ecosystems (Paris, London, Berlin), but rather from a large number of tech clusters spread across the continent.

“Sourcing these many opportunities require a different way of operating, and we decided to build strategic alliances with leading VCs throughout the continent, in the form of LP investments, three of which I personally closed since I joined SCF. This allows us to have an intimate relationship with the best VC teams on the ground, and give us prime access to the refinancing of their portfolio companies, or co-investment opportunities through regular deal flow sharing.

“This LP-based sourcing strategy has already materialised into two new investments in Europe, WeFox and SolarisBank.

“As a VC and CVC, developing a network of relationships with startups, co-investors and other corporates is essential to our daily mission. Since I joined SCF, one of my tasks has been to elevate our brand visibility in the ecosystem and to develop our network throughout the continent. Given our tech focus, I arranged for SCF to co-host some of the AI meetups that are regularly organised in Europe, gathering developers, startups and investors. We have also been co-hosting networking events with other VCs, such as the evening we co-hosted with Lakestar, Korelya Capital and Heartcore at Slush 2019, one of the most attended networking events at the largest tech conference in Europe.”