Cathay Innovation’s Man In Paris

April 9, 2021

Cathay Innovation, based in Paris, has a global portfolio. But its leader, Denis Barrier, is a French researcher who sees growing opportunities in France and Europe.

Denis Barrier is co-founder and CEO of Cathay Innovation, the Paris-based investment fund that part of Cathay Capital. While Barrier and Cathay have a global portfolio, having their global headquarters here is certainly a feather in France’s startup cap.

And given Barrier’s roots in the country and its sizable team in France, that means a chunk of its money is flowing to French startups. In recent weeks, Cathay has invested in French startups Alma and Iziwork which now join Cathay’s portfolio of more than 80 companies. Among the French names in that group: Drivy (acquired by Getaround for $300 million), Ledger, and Heetch.

Still, Barrier believes the real strength of Cathay is its international vantage point. That’s a plus for French entrepreneurs looking to scale rapidly because they would have an investor that has a sense of different territories.

“It is extremely useful for investing because you see whatever happens in the world so you can make better choices,” Barrier said. “For entrepreneurs to have an early growth fund to be able to work with them and get new ideas from any continent as they rollout is also very effective.”

Barrier began his career as a researcher in optoelectronics before moving into venture capital. He wanted to see more startups being created from French labs, but had a sense there was a disconnect between the academic and startup world. So he joined a new joint VC fund created by Orange and Publicis and moved to San Francisco about 8 years ago.

From this perch, he began to get a perspective on what was happening in China and the U.S. But he also began to notice that things were beginning to accelerate in Europe. A few years ago, he met Ming-Po Cai, a Chinese investor who was living in Paris.


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