Entrepreneur, philanthropist, and author Alexandre Mars on how and why his VC firm Blisce is the world's only transatlantic B-Corp certified fund, and the raison d'etre behind the Epic Foundation.
- We should stop there
- Everybody is busy
- Alexandre is going for the father of the year award
- No sleep 'till Paris
- The world has changed. How can you back the right entrepreneurs?
- We have been accepting the unacceptable
- We are voting every day. With our credit card
- Take my money, I'll go get the change jar
- Some guy named Milton
- 20% of profits are carried forward to Epic
- Epic Foundation
- What's your mission?
- How can we help you to give more, to give better, to give smarter
- A trust campaign
- The Alexandre Mars and Epic business model, as examined by Harvard University's Kennedy School
- Alexandre will present this model. You name the place and the time, he'll be there
- Blisce's two unique, and non-negotiable clauses in the term sheet
Where to Find Us:
Find Alexandre at:
Find Dan at:
Full Transcript (via otter.ai)
Dan Taylor 0:20
Well, all right. All right. All right, you have found it. This is the selected Podcast. I am your host, Dan Taylor. And we are the droids you're looking for. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back. I know it has been a hot minute it is Episode 25. And I know every week I tell you I got somebody really special for you. But this guy we're going to talk to you today. No shit. I've been chasing this man for like two months now. That's one of the reasons why we haven't had an episode this is a super special guest. We crossed paths at the changenow event. If you think I'm good on air, wait until this guy gets talking. He's super busy guy, he's got to go close 12 deals after this recording, So I'm going to get right down to it.
This gentlemen founded blisce in 2013. It is a growth stage VC firm with typical investments made anywhere between the series A and pre IPO level. Some of those notable investments include Pinterest, headspace, and Spotify. A couple of small companies you might have heard of, you know. To date, the portfolio includes 28 investments with nine exits. A year later, he opened the epic foundation, which is a nonprofit startup that backs other nonprofits and social innovators to change the lives of disadvantaged youth. And if that weren't enough to keep him busy, he's also run the Paris and New York City marathons, and he is a board member and Ambassador of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games committee. God willing those Olympics will happen. Let's not talk about Tokyo. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure and honor to introduce entrepreneur, philanthropist, author of a book you should all read, "Giving: purpose is the new currency," And a guy with seriously one of the nicest smiles I've ever seen. Alexander Mars.
Alexandre Mars 2:24
Oh, we should stop there. Why is that it? We're done right? Ask me more. Any more questions? I think it's done, I should go on vacation now.
Dan Taylor 2:36
Most of us have been on vacation for the past 15 months, I'd like to go back to work now. Well, but you know, as well as I do, when you do love what you do, it's not really work anyway. So, you know, and I'll tell you, if this whole journalism and podcasting thing doesn't work, I'm just going to start applying for introduction jobs. You know, I just want to introduce people. That's it. I think I could make a fortune out of just introducing people. But Alexandre, thank you so much for joining me today. I know you are a super busy guy.
Alexandre Mars 3:05
Everyone is busy. The truth is it's a pleasure. It's a pleasure to be with you. It's a pleasure to have the chance because it's the chance to give, you know to share the part of my story and journey with the people who are listening to you just all the time. Thank you for this now.
Dan Taylor 3:25
Fair enough. Thank you. I'm going to cut down the chitchat because I don't want to go long. Because you know what, okay, even though you're a busy guy, and I'm not really busy, I'm busy getting into my weekend. So I'm gonna keep it short and sweet. Here. I'm going to cut down on the chitchat. But there is one question that I asked all my guests, which is, what is your other? The big one is cooking but you're French so you can already cook.
Alexandre Mars 3:48
So something special? It's tucking in my baby. So I have a two year old. And I was able to tuck George to bed every day. So tuck this baby in, you know, every single day. So after lunch, I was able to put him to bed. And that's so special. And that's where the during the first lockdown. So for me is so yes, the pandemic and this crisis so bad. But on that note was very positive. Because you mentioned it's just that I'm traveling and that was traveling a lot. So it's not easy, even if you're not traveling when you are working to be home every day. So on that side, we were very lucky. I was very lucky to just be and bring George to bed every day.
Dan Taylor 4:44
Honestly, man, are you going for the dad of the Year award or what? That's incredible. I myself have never been that brave enough to have children. But those of you out there that do I salute you because the older I get the more and more of my friends have children and I hear stories like this and I well, to be honest with you, at some point during this pandemic thing I did ask myself, "shit, did i miss out on like one of life's biggest enjoyments?" which maybe I did, but you know what I live vicariously through others. I hear stories like that
Alexandre Mars 5:12
you have pluses and minuses in everything you do. That's a choice. The thing is, for a lot of people is not always a choice, they are not able to get one or is very different. So in your case, it's a choice, you know, to assume a choice. So I have four kids. So you know, I'm, I'm used to the take care and manage those. No, but it's madness. It's I'm running a madhouse. I should I, we, with my beautiful wife, run this man house.
Dan Taylor 5:48
Right. And the youngest is two? So the last time you slept was? Right? Okay. Okay, well, good. Good. So, I'm glad to know you're living the typical parent life haven't slept in a week. Very good. Okay. Listen, I want to get down to it. Because when I was researching you months and months ago, it seems like now, to be honest with you, I did not know about blisce. I had not heard of it. And when I started researching it, I thought, holy shit, what? Are you kidding me? You know, and then we did the panel and everything. And I made sure that you got the time to get that out there. But one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show is because I feel like everybody in the world and especially every VC in the world should know about blisce. So let me let me give my you know, my copyrighted intro skills here, which is I'll lead in here with last year bliss was the first I believe it's the world's right, the world's first trans-Atlantic VC fund. That is B Corp certified. Now ladies and gentlemen, Yep, that's right, full stop. We're done, folks. Now ladies and gentlemen, if you are unfamiliar with B Corp, which I doubt you are, let me just remind you some of the things that I'm looking at the page right now some of the criteria to be a certified B Corp are quite frankly, ridiculous. And I mean, in a good way, some of the tenants are that we must all be the change we seek in the world, that all business ought to be conducted as if people in place mattered that through their products, practices, profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all. And the list goes on and on and on and on. Now, Alexander, I spent close to a decade documenting photographically the startup world, which means I sat with a lot of startups. And I sat with a lot of VCs and I sat with a lot of people in between and VCs. You know what I'm gonna be honest with you. There are some that are assholes. There are but I think I my personal opinion, overall, you guys get a bad rap. Now, you, father of the year, are just taking it to the next level and go and be caught up with it. Walk me through the how now, I got a ton of Go ahead. Cuz I got a ton of follow up questions. Why? Why?
Alexnadre Mars 8:08
Why a B Corp. Because everything has changed. And you know, you know this, Dan, the thing is, consumers and employees have changed not 15 years ago, not 25 years ago, but the last few years. So if you don't understand this, how can you just back there, right entrepreneurs? How can you just match your values with your action? B Corp is one I think is one of the best if not the best tool to really be aligned was knows the ESG. So we have been talking about ESG. But the thing is, a lot of people say oh yes. Then e fg is at the core of what I do. But I can improve this, the core is come to see you. So it's not just saying I love e, f and g is let's be clear, we want to comment and we'll go to bed and we dive into your work. And if you're doing well, you will get numbers. If you get those numbers, you will get the the more than the assessment you get the certification. So that's one piece of it. But the truth is, I think everyone will become a big call this company it's important because that's what we want. We is you it's me as everyone was listening to the podcast, we want something different for years and years and years. Dan, you know this. We have been accepting the unacceptable. We have been and we agreed on so many bad things. Sometimes because we we didn't know sometimes because we didn't care sometimes because we were thinking we were not able to be this actor of change. Now. Everything has evolved. So Everyone knows that we can do something, sometimes just with your with a credit card. No, I'm voting every day you are voting everyday everyone is voting every day with the credit card, and is no longer just every four years in the US every five years in France or elsewhere. So this is very different. So as a as a venture fund, yes, we also need to be part of this new ecosystem, we need to be you know, someone different, because if we don't change will be no changing, or pushing all there to change any of those, you know this so well, and everyone know, this finance is the real power. So we can mention all the things and you gave your great appreciation of a lot of investors. And now just then, because for so many people, we're still in the theme of the The Wolf of Wall Street's those people would didn't care at all about just the impact. The word change, and if, if investors don't change, I do think like anyone else they will face the wall.
Dan Taylor 11:14
And all seven of my follow up questions just got answered in that statement. I mean, yes, yes. And yes. And to be honest with you, just explaining to me or raison d'etre, because I did want to say something in French today. Maxi and explaining your reason of being I, as an LP, sign me up? Where do you take my money? Get? Let me give you my money. Let me give you my money. I was I will, I will send you the wire, get the change jar, it's right over there. I can give it to you right now.
Alexandre Mars 11:54
So no, it's it's a why people are joining us. So over the last six years. So let's talk about B Corp, but what we do we only back mission driven entrepreneurs. So it's not just Yes, you want to be successful, we understand this, but what will be your impact on the ecosystem? And if we believe that's everything will be aligned, we will be so happy to back you up. The question there is if we are doing so, if we are putting ESG the core mission? And at the core of what we do we need to outperform any other funnies. Otherwise, some people will say, we told you before, they'll let's get back to real finance. Let's be back to Yes, we invest. And you remember Milton Friedman, you remember this guy? I haven't heard of him, you know you with your three PhDs in economy, I'm sure you remember him, it was clear said let's make money. I was just I would try to give five perception of premium. Let's make money. And the shareholders will decide what to do with the money. That was the old world. What we see is very, very different. So we need to outperform the other funds. And then if we do so people will say it's it's doable. You can back good businesses and outperform. So we have deployed more than $300 million dollars over the last six years. And results. Beside I think that great entrepreneurs was mission. We have more than 37% net return year over year. It proves What's it prove? And it's it's because we have been able to back good businesses and the good is was a capital G that we have been able to get those returns right that's what we attract and true to prove. So and it's not only just trying to back mission driven entrepreneurs Dad, it's also us when if tomorrow you want to quit your job and to Alex I want to work with and for you. I will tell you one thing many things with one thing is important but your compensation that was a 20% 20% then of what you will be making will go to social good 5% of your time will go to social good. And and yes, I'm surrounded by super smart people, but super committed and real activists because they know why we do what we do. We push finance, but also we are able to get the money. No funneling to the trenches and now being a lot of people were suffering So it is the balance of, of, you know, my life and the life of people were just with me.
Dan Taylor 15:07
And I'll tell you what, ladies and gentlemen, the man is no bullshitter, because according to the bliss website, 20% of all of their income revenue is carried forward and moved over to epic, which is a perfect segue to Alexander. I mean, you know, running a B Corp, VC fund generating returns like that, you know, you could just walk away and be a happy guy, right? Well, let me ask you a question. In the last year, have you given to charity? And do you think you've given enough if these words sound familiar, maybe you can tell us why.
Alexandre Mars 15:51
Okay, seven years ago, so I started my first venture at 17. Then, and, and I built every five years, it was building something new in the tech world, building something, growing something internationally and selling the business to a bigger firm. 10 years ago, I was living in the US. And then I said to myself, let's go back to my dream. And my dream job. And my dream job when I was 20. was, I think, do two things, one, to be let you become a social worker, to to have enough money, to really help the needy, and to devote my life to others. So that's why I was working pretty hard.
Dan Taylor 16:42
Those two usually don't go hand in hand. You know, that's, that's a real tricky pull that off.
Alexadre Mars 16:49
Yeah. But that is important as in, I'm sure the same for you. And the same for you, listeners. What's your mission? Hmm. And it's hard sometimes you know, the mission when you're 20. But when you're 3040, or 50, it's time to define your mission. Sometimes you something you will never find it and and you can still just be happy. But for me, it was very clear of one mission, my life. So put aside my four kids, my wonderful wife, my lovely mom, that's, that's the mic for everything else I'm doing. Everything else I'm doing down is to really just follow my mission. How many people I'm able that will be able to help in the before I will pass away. That's the only KPI I have the only one. Everything I'm building Billy's epic. The books I'm writing the podcasts I'm getting is against this mission. So 67 years ago, I said to myself, it's done. It's done. I've enough. Yes, we can see I've more Yes, but it's enough. So now I will devote the rest of my life to others. But what does that mean? It's not in theory, when it becomes very practical. Then I did start my market research, like all the startups I was building I did before. So I want to see the Dan is of the world. And that was asked me two questions. That's a question he asked me. I've been given time or money to any social organizations, nonprofit last year 100% of the people, and I'm sure that will be the same with you, listeners, everyone wants to Yes, be sure I did something, then different question. Do you think you've given enough 95%? Maybe you then get my hand goes down at that point. 95% of the people I trusted? Told me No. And I said but why Dan, why on earth? You are seeing now the despair, the issues, the everything there? And you still know all this money? And then you know, I said, I need to understand. And I interviewed people and said Alex, three main issues. I don't trust nonprofits, no trust scandals, every year Why? And so no trust to no time. We have crazy lives, busy days, impossible to take time three lack of knowledge. It can be a great journalist, a good CFO, a good marketing guy, but no social is different. For those reasons. Most people when they give, they will give to their school or their kids school, to their church, most synagogue temple, and then when you get about 50 years old, you start getting to, you know, the
Dan Taylor 19:40
cancer research. Close hospitals. Yes, I'm on my path, right? Why then preventative medicine because was given I'm gonna get there,
Alexandre Mars 19:54
because giving you have content giving, giving is a selfish tool to buy the future or what's next, or you want to leave just longer in this novel because humans are not perfect. And the day you understand this, you understand that you cannot judge people, it's impossible to judge is normal that you want to live longer is normal that you want to have your kids in the best schools. The my point was, don't change this tone changes. But let's work together to see how can we help you to give more better and to give smarter than how we've been dealing with Epic?
Dan Taylor 20:32
from everything. You've just said? This sounds like trust campaign, right? You're asking me to trust you to know how best to use the money I give you? I don't know you. I don't know you. How do I trust you? You know, I I'd like to trust the Red Cross. But they've had a scandal. I'd like to trust XYZ. But I really don't know where that money goes. How do I trust you?
Alexandre Mars 21:00
It's a very good point, it was even harder six years ago, when I started everything. Because I was coming from the for profit world. I was running businesses for 15 years. And suddenly, I became a social entrepreneur saying I was just up you funneling your money. So to get this trust, because that's what are the core of what we're doing. Why people trust other people, and that was sent. So it then you have money, where you put your money, if you want to have this money, just being worth protecting, even getting more money said, p world, let's talk about finance, again, this private equity world where if you put $1 to Sequoia that we know is one of the best if not the best venture fund in the world, you can imagine that the $1 will become will be protected, will become certainly $2 or three or four or five. Why? Because they will follow a very simple framework. That's how can I select, I can find, I can monitor, I can get back those businesses. But we should be doing the same. We shouldn't be funny, selecting motoring backing social organizations across the world. That's what we were no, we started doing so we start traveling the world funding, selecting mining and backing amazing social entrepreneurs was those nice and impactful businesses, definitely youth issues. So we started with Chinon youth in 11 countries around the world, from the US to the UK, to France to India, in South Asia, Africa. But with that kind of framework playbook said, let's be clear. So every year, were analyzing hundreds of NGOs. And we're selecting 235 10. So the likelihood that that will be selecting you. It's very, very small, but it's part of the trust. Something else very important. When I was doing the market research was people like you. The first answer our gods said, but Alex, how much money if I'm giving 100 years 100 pounds? $100? How many will get to the trenches, how many will get, and it's hard to tell. So I decided something they want, I will pay for everything else. So all the other adds the travels, the teams that offices, the technology is paid by me. So when you give $100 And please, you can prepare your checkbook, then you will know you will know that the money is going is going 100% of the money to the causes. So and that's because we started with police. But that's why I said police down. I made money, I made good money. But if I want this to be sustainable, long term, I will still need to fund the system. Sure men are the reason why I started this bullies is the money I make personally I'm not talking about my team, the team is giving 20% of the carry. But the money I'm making is going to the trenches to the organizations. And that's hide works. So that's the motto of epic. So an epic, you know, this standby thing is important because I'm trying not to be, you know, I'm trying to be humble, but I'm happy saying it's it because it's also the work of my teams. We are a nonprofit themselves. So that's pretty clear now, so we'll never be acquired. So for for the very first time of my life. It's my fifth startup. And the first one I will never be acquired I will never go public. And so for us, the for us the the the MLR Yeah it was if that's importance we can be studied it we are abysmal or Amala award could be taught in the best universities and colleges around the world that's far as we'll be, you know the growl. Three years ago, the Harvard Kennedy School came to see us is for me is one of the best if not the best public policy school in the world, they came to see us and I can we I can we just mentioned this work and and on on your organization's they spend nine months with us great team. And they spend time with us and now is a business case taught in many, many places. But it's a it's a jaw line, it's an interesting is from the Kennedy School, and also from the business school. And that's for us, where are some fried, to be honest with you is, is when we go and we've been doing it when I'm going to the schools. And if any colleges and universities are listening, or teachers are listening to this podcast, please. It's if you can just go online, it's on the kidneys go on the business school website, get the case. And that will be so happy to come into presents. Because that's part of the fun is having those students so smart, getting into the case, asking questions, pushing hard. So that's very special.
Dan Taylor 26:26
I think it might be time to throw this Milton guy out and get the Alexander guy model in there. What do you think? I would say that it matches the Zeitgeist and quite frankly, sounds good to me. You know what, Alexander, I do want to ask you this. And we are kind of running out of time. I wanted to keep it short and sweet. The organizations that you invest in, do they adhere to the same two very unique clauses that you have in your bliss term sheet? Can you talk about those for a second?
Alexandre Mars 26:52
When we discussed earlier just said but the the the B Corp, we were saying when we back an entrepreneur, if you come to see us? Well, we back to Series B and series C, consumer tech us Europe, entrepreneurs, we are, we are very clear with entrepreneur, we say you need to agree on two terms. One, we need you to get this B Corp assessment. So we really want you to go even if you're not a B Corp. Now, it's fine. But we want you to go that path. And not having this conversation, just the two of us. We want this conversation to be held at the board level, because we believe ESG DNI all those terms, all those very important topics will make you becoming more successful or being more successful if you just manage this, right. So this is very important. If you don't give a shit. But B Corp if you don't want to know more, if you only want to get to the to the to the simple bottom line. We are not aligned. So it's it's fine. Just Good luck. The other close is more on the on the diversity side. I was just mentioning DNI before, what we are asking entrepreneurs is when you hire anyone, within your in the organization, we want at the very least of being in the final or in the final pool. And people coming from other representatives can you say it could be on the gender side could be on the ethnicity side, it could be on the regional side sometimes, but the goal is really to is to to match what the world is. And the world has changed immensely in the last 100 years. 50 years, 10 years. So it's also very important. Sometimes I can tell you entrepreneurs love this. Sometimes I can feel the first minutes. That's Alex, you're asking a lot, and it will make me spend more time recruiting someone. But after 20 minutes, the same guy was Thank you. Because if no one is pushing me that direction. I will and it's normal. I will go fast. I will recruit someone in the same same network. And I think we can. Now yes, everyone is in a rush. But you know what, sometimes we need to define what is really important.
Dan Taylor 29:27
This is all the time we have. But Ladies and gentlemen, I'm gonna leave it in the show notes. Please do yourselves a favor, check out bliss. Check out epic, Alexander tell the good folks where they can find you on the interwebs if they want to chase you down and send you a good pitch or send you flowers whatever they want to send you money wherever they send us send money or LPs for Billy's donors for
Alexandre Mars 29:50
epic formation. Please just join and it's important that and that's why I think we we we get along well just when we Talk last time. Hmm. migraine wants to see changes. That's where we are. And I know that your listeners they want the same. We are activists and for I think the very first time for years or decades, we see that we can change things. And that's, that's huge. That's huge. So you can check me and check police.com epic dots foundation. So if you want to see epic it's not epic.com is epic dot foundation and LinkedIn is an easy one. It's out it's on there. It's Alexon. Be careful. R e the French Way Mars ma RS twits it's at Alexandra Mars and Instagram, maybe tik tok. What do you Instagram? It's Alexander. Alexander Mars. underscore. Particularly more was my 11 year old daughter. We love dancing hip hop. So that's that's something different. So maybe for next for next session.
Dan Taylor 30:57
Well, there you have it. Ladies and gentlemen, you can find him at Alexandre Mars pretty much all over the internet. And if you want to watch him dance hip hop. He's also on Tick Tock. I'm sure I know. You can find it on Amazon. I'm sure you can find it on many, many other outlets if you don't want to support putting Bezos in the space any faster than he should already be there. But do yourselves a favor, please grab a copy of Alexander's book which is giving purpose is the new currency. Ladies and gentlemen, this has been the selected podcast I am your host, Dan Taylor. And on behalf of Alexandre and myself, we are here
Transcribed by https://otter.ai