Paris-based accelerator The Family sues co-founder Oussama Ammar

The Family co-founder and CEO Alice Zagury has announced in a blog post that the French startup accelerator is suing Oussama Ammar for multiple claims — breach of trust, forgery and use of forgery.

More specifically, Capital first reported that The Family suspects Ammar of diverting €3 million that were supposed to be invested in several startups through syndicates. TechCrunch has separately seen an email that confirms ongoing charges against Oussama Ammar. It that was sent to people who transferred money in order to become shareholders in Stripe through a special purpose vehicle. The SPV was supposed to acquire Stripe shares through a secondary offering.

“Oussama transfers funds to his personal holding companies and tells us after the fact, saying that it’s the only way to take advantage of investment opportunities in question,” Zagury wrote in her blog post.

According to her, other people working for The Family have asked several times to see documents that proved that investments went through. In November 2021, Ammar announced on LinkedIn that he was moving on and leaving The Family.

“On Friday, my resignation was published on the Companies House website. From now on I am no longer a director of The Family and I will gradually leave this ecosystem,” Ammar wrote on LinkedIn at the time.

“The ecosystem has changed a lot and raising money is not as difficult as it used to be. It has become normal to raise funds long before you have a product/market fit, and this poses challenges to entrepreneurs that are of a very different nature than those the ecosystem has faced in the past years,“ he added back in November 2021.

Zagury now says that The Family asked him to leave the company in September 2021. “We bring in a mediator then several law firms as well as an independent auditing firm (PwC),” Zagury wrote.

According to our information, The Family is working with several law firms across several jurisdictions. Capital talked with one of the company’s lawyer Elsa Sammari. She said that there are multiple ongoing cases — they are examined by criminal and commercial courts. “The Family has initiated two proceedings to freeze Oussama Ammar’s assets and the assets of his personal holding companies,” Sammari told Capital.

It’s not going to be a straightforward case as Ammar’s holding companies are spread all over the world, including in the Cayman Islands and Hong Kong. Ammar also recently edited his LinkedIn profile saying that he is based in Dubai.

Yesterday, Ammar has reacted to Capital’s report in another LinkedIn post. “This is a legal proceeding between partners with some lingering resentment. Splitting up like this is a shame but it’s frequent. Entrepreneurs know this well. Since 2020, we have been trying to find an amicable solution. But we haven’t reached an agreement despite long hours of negotiation,” Ammar wrote.

In 2018, Ammar was given a four-month suspended sentence for a separate case. Back in 2011, Ammar used to work for a company called Be Sport. The company filed a lawsuit for breach of trust, forgery and use of forgery. At the time, Be Sport claimed that Ammar had been using some of the company’s funds for non-corporate expenses.

The Family was originally founded in 2012 with three co-founders — Alice Zagury, Oussama Ammar and Nicolas Colin. They teamed up to build a different kind of startup accelerators without any batch or demo day. Instead, startups could apply and join the community of startups backed by The Family.

In exchange for a stake, they could get some advice from The Family’s team and network with other people in the community. The Family has also helped some of the startups in its community when it comes to fundraising.

Zagury listed some of The Family’s portfolio companies in her blog post. They include Heetch, Algolia, Payfit, Spacefill, Trusk, Northflank, Jow, Joone, Jinka, Doctrine, Merci Handy, So Shape, Side, Vybe, Dark, Unai, WeMaintain, Flat, Fempo, Shipix, MyDiabby, Bellman, Fairmint, Artsper, Cabaïa, Plume, Alma and Kymono.

A few years ago, The Family was a cornerstone of the French tech ecosystem. The Family’s office building was as a physical representation for a new wave of French startups with global ambitions.

Over time, The Family diversified its activities with an education business and a digital transformation business. In total, The Family has raised €22 million ($24 million at today’s exchange rate).

Penfold closes $8.5M to provide a full stack pension in an app aimed at freelancers

Penfold, a startup that offers a full stack pension in a smartphone app, has closed a $8.5 million (£6m) funding round, $4M of which was from a crowdfunding campaign. The company is now approved by the FCA to operate a pension itself rather than relying on third parties, and is aimed at freelancers who rarely save.

The round was led by Bridford Group, the Family Office of Jorg Mohaupt, allegedly the only Angel investor in Adyen. Alan Morgan of MMC Ventures also invested.

Penfold says it built the backend infrastructure “from scratch” Hykin told me. He said legacy providers are built up from “100s of consolidated schemes” and are often still paper-based and require an army of people to administer. Thus a tech-driven approach means fewer overheads and the ability to make an attractive offer to freelancers.

CEO Pete Hykin told me: “I was self-employed for two years so had no pension. I tried five times to set one up with Scottish widows, standard life, AJ bell etc. I gave up, as all of them forced you to print something, call them, or speak to an IFA. At a previous company, I set up a workplace pension for 70 staff and none of them engaged. Many left money on the table as a result.”

He said: “We rebuilt the entire backend of pensions so all processes can happen instantly, quick, flexibly and at a low cost. Then we put an amazing UX on it via a great app and amazing human customer service.” Features include search, track, consolidate old pensions, among others.

Hykin said users download the app, enter bare minimum legal details for KYC, choose one of 5 investment plans based on age/risk appetite, choose how to fund (Recurring Direct Debit, Open banking topup, transfer another pension). Then they receive HMRC 25% top ups until retirement.

A “Find my pension” tool is possibly the most powerful feature of this startup, where you put in the name of your old employer it tracks down your old pension pot.

Its competitors include traditional providers such as Standard Life, Scottish Widows, Aviva and AJ Bell.

Pensions are definitely heading to apps. PensionBee recently arrived on the London Stock Exchange, for instance. PensionBee also recently announced self-employed offering.

Users will be charged an annual percentage fee on their pension balance (0.75%), but with no other fees. The other founders are Chris Eastwood (Co-Founder and Co-CEO), Stuart Robinson (Co-Founder and CTO).

Original Content podcast: ‘The Family’ investigates the links between a secret evangelical group and American power

“The Family” is a new documentary series on Netflix, based on the work of journalist Jeff Sharlet — whose books promise to expose “the secret fundamentalism at the heart of American power” and “the fundamentalist threat to American democracy.”

Sarah Perez joins us on the latest episode of the Original Content podcast to discuss the series series, which offer a fascinating glimpse at a secretive group of evangelical Christians known only as The Family. Their most high-profile activity involves organizing The National Prayer Breakfast, an even that attracts major political figures, including every U.S. president since Eisenhower.

While the series opens with extensive, sinister and often cheesy reenactments showing Sharlet’s introduction to The Family, later episodes offer a broader perspective, interviewing figures who are part of or remain sympathetic to the organization, and pressing Sharlet on whether his view on The Family is correct.

Ultimately, “The Family” seems more interested in raising questions — about a specific organization and about the broader role of Christianity in American politics — than it is in answering them. It’s an admirable stance, but one might leave viewers a bit unsatisfied when they reach the end of the five-episode series.

In addition to our review, we also discuss Apple’s announcement of pricing and a November 1 launch date for its TV+ streaming service.

You can listen in the player below, subscribe using Apple Podcasts or find us in your podcast player of choice. If you like the show, please let us know by leaving a review on Apple. You can also send us feedback directly. (Or suggest shows and movies for us to review!)

And if you want to skip ahead, here’s how the episode breaks down:
0:00 Intro
0:53 Reader feedback
3:30 Apple TV+ pricing and launch date
16:59 “The Family” review

The Family raises $17.4 million to support European startups

The Family has always been an ambitious startup accelerator. But it has always felt like the company never had enough money to grow as quickly as it wanted. The Family is raising a new $17.4 million funding round (€15 million).

Private banking and asset management group LGT Capital Partners is leading the round, with HummingBird Venture, Project A, eVentures and others also participating.

“It’s the first time an investor understands The Family’s business model. It’s the first time an investor isn’t trying to turn us into a VC fund,” The Family co-founder Oussama Ammar told me.

According to him, The Family is basically going to do more of the same. Except that this funding round “makes [The Family] virtually immortal.” The Family had to double-check its bank account many, many times to make sure that there was enough money to pay all its employees. This funding round should let the company catch its breath.

The Family has fine-tuned its fellowship program over the years. Here’s how it works today. Every quarter, around 20 startups join The Family. They will attend onboarding sessions in Paris, Berlin and London.

In Paris, The Family’s team is focused on product and engineering. In London, The Family can help you raise money. And in Berlin, The Family’s team is all about operations and execution.

After the onboarding stuff, companies can still seek for advice and connections. There’s no demo day and end of batch. The Family plans to support startups when it comes to funding, product, hiring and more.

Being part of The Family is not free of course. Startups need to be willing to give away 5 percent of their equity in exchange of this support system. This isn’t for everyone and many entrepreneurs are already surrounded by a supportive ecosystem. So if you don’t think you’re getting enough value, you can ask for your shares back within a year.

I’ve covered some of The Family’s startups over the years, such as Agricool, Algolia, Clustree, Comet, Doctrine, Fretlink, Heetch, Nestor, Payfit, Side, Stanley Robotics, Trusk and more.

With today’s funding round, The Family plans to invest in every funding round after a startup joins the fellowship. As a startup, if you can find a lead investor, The Family will automatically join the round with the same valuation and conditions.

But the fellowship is just one side of the story. “Our goal with the fellowship is that we never exit because we want to maximize the returns on investment,” Ammar said.

In order to support a staff of 60 people around 3 countries, The Family had to find a way to make money before those long-term exits. That’s why the company has launched other products.

For instance, Pathfinder helps big companies become digital companies, Lion educates startup employees and Kymono sells startup sweatshirts. The Family has spun off all those products into their own companies. They all have a dedicated CEO and team, but The Family retains at least 60 percent of the shares.

And The Family wants to create more side businesses like those. It seems like The Family is leveraging this model to finance all the fellowship activities.

Eventually, The Family’s dream is to be able to follow portfolio companies at every step of the way. It’s clear that you don’t need as much external support if you’re a Series C company. But The Family wants to become an infrastructure company that lets you build European tech giants.