If our partner The Family is not an incubator, then what's their concept?

What exactly is The Family? An accelerator? An incubator? A bit of all of these and more?

Hermes and a God are trying to plug a tablet in



This post was written in 2015. Please note, Mailjet no longer partners with The Family.

Just three weeks ago, I was reading this top French newspaper called Libération. Who do I see in it? The Family. Damn, I was writing an article about French incubators at that same time, and my point was: The Family is the youngest, but still, they are everywhere. So yes, they really are omnipresent. As we at Mailjet just made a partnership with them, I think it’s quite interesting to try to figure out who they are and what they actually do. Being a bit mysterious actually seems to be part of their strategy.

Oh wait, The Family is not an incubator

Incubators, accelerators, startup studios… It’s often difficult to understand the differences between these structures who aim to launch startups. Definitions change from one country to the other and everybody is a bit lost. In fact, even Google or Quora don’t provide clear answers: everybody has a different opinion…

Hence, it’s very interesting to underline the fact that The Family chose to position itself as a “for members only” club, that provides “education & unfair advantages for startups.” Their website gives no further details. In fact, they leveraged the existing blurry lines to draw their own picture: clever isn’t it? This positioning is well-thought-out.

The 3 advantages of The Family’s “mysterious positioning”

Firstly, it provides the necessary conditions to create a real community. The “members only” policy creates a mysterious image. By definition, a community actually needs to be closed to the rest of the world, otherwise it gets diluted by the passive members who don’t care. Of course, you also need openness to nurture the community and ensure you bring in fresh blood. That’s why one finds a friendly CTA at the bottom of each page on their website: “If you want to join TheFamily, shoot us an email now!" This counterbalances the "member only" mention.

Secondly, having a new positioning ensures you differentiate yourself in a world saturated with structures who want their piece of the big startup cake. This is about innovation: The Family creates its own category. They are telling the world: “If you want to compete with me, follow me”. A bit like Apple when Steve Jobs was in charge: to grow, you don’t try to grab new market shares, you simply create your own market.

Thirdly, last but not least: by not competing with everyone, they can cooperate with everybody. They can federate the whole ecosystem and multiply useful touchpoints for startups. Not only VCs and grown up startups, but also accelerators and incubators: they’re all friends.

Of course, the press often refers to The Family as an “accelerator”, because you always need to put names on things. But if you look at their website, the words “incubator” and “accelerator” are not mentioned, except when they refer to third party press coverage. Their branding strategy is obvious and now we understand why.

What's their model?

Their model reflects their difference: only 1% stake in each project selected. Sounds fair, right? This allows them to get hundreds of applications, if not thousands. Quite a few people were skeptical about this strategy: how can it be viable? They will need time to validate their concept, but meanwhile, Index has just invested: reassuring, isn’t it? They love disruptive models.

The woman behind The Family: Alice Zagury

In fact, there are two men as well: Oussama Ammar and Nicolas Colin, but I know them less well. Both Oussama and Alice used to manage Le Camping, the most famous French accelerator (or incubator, or call it whatever you want). We at Mailjet also have a partnership with them: they are doing an awesome job, helping French startups and offering them opportunities to network and build visibility on an international scale.

That is to say: what Alice had made with Le Camping was completely new in France. Before that, there was no such structure: very ambitious and turned to the rest of the world. Today, she’s clearly replicating Le Camping’s success factors,  but on top of that, she can add her personal views and has the authority necessary to innovate even more.

Partnership between Mailjet and The Family

For the reasons above, we really felt like partnering with The Family was the right thing to do. In fact, their philosophy matches ours. We always believed in the importance of building a tight community which once it is put together, can produce “unfair advantages”, as stated on The Family’s website. Therefore, we both share our expertise for free.

Concretely, this means that The Family gets access to our services for free. This includes email sending of course, but not only: they also get consulting when needed and deliverability training if desired. On our side, we’re very happy to be part of an adventure which may at the end contribute to change the European tech ecosystem. We love this kind of relationships and encourage other grown up startups like us to do so.

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