The Sigfox “Mafia” is spreading

Cédric Giorgi
5 min readDec 22, 2020

This is an article I wanted to write for a long time. TL;DR I believe Sigfox “legacy” will not only be relevant for the IoT ecosystem, but also for the tech ecosystem as a whole, thanks to the “mafia” of Sigfox alumni it has created.

Recent 10 years Sigfox anniversary (Sigfox was founded in 2010), but also some articles about recent Sigfox difficulties finally gave me the trigger for this article. I left Sigfox a year and a half ago, after almost five amazing years, and having collaborated with no less than 400 to 600 different Sigfoxers. Having been ”outside of Sigfox” for a while now, I’ve realized part of the company legacy is its group of alumni, that can leverage the unique experience they got during their time at Sigfox. I don’t know what the future of Sigfox will look like. I hope it will succeed, not only for the benefits of my shares. I hope the IoT network will remain European, for the sake of our European sovereignty. But one thing is sure, the tech ecosystem is/will get great benefits from Sigfox, thanks to the input of highly skilled and experienced former Sigfox employees, including some unique “operators” (Not Sigfox Operator here, but the word used to describe key employees of tech companies with unique experience in their field).

The tech industry is all about cycles, learning curves… and tech companies’ “mafias”. It’s often what is forgotten when someone (individual or organisation) tries to build a local Silicon Valley. While you can try to copy ingredients (naturally or artificially) what makes Silicon Valley what it is, there’s one thing you absolutely cannot replicate and accelerate: time. And with time comes cycles, learning curves, and tech mafias generated from big hits and unicorns.

Why do we call them a mafia, and not alumni then? Not only because of the experience such employees got, but more importantly because of the network is has created. (The first tech mafia, the one that coined the term, is the Paypal mafia.) French examples include Criteo or Exalead. (For members of FSN on Facebook, here’s a thread on this particular topic, and another one on “Startup Operators” terminology).

Here’s an absolutely not exclusive list of former Sigfox employees, showing how they’ve spread and fed the local, national or international tech ecosystem.

Welcoming newcomers in the startup World and turning some of them into “Operators”

A lot of people who joined Sigfox had no prior startup experience, but decided when leaving to stay in the startup world and bring their experience and knowledge to other lucky startups. Here are some examples of “operators” with their current position:

Enhancing experience of seasoned startup employees

They were not new to the startup world when joining Sigfox, but left with even more experience and network

I am proud to see that many of my previous team (Special Projects, then Experience Design) that was often considered “startup within the startup” are in these two lists of alumni staying in the startup world!

Sigfox XD Team in January 2019. 9 of them have now joined different startups.

The case of Kineis

There’s one particular case, a company called Kineis, who’s building an IoT network based on satellites, who is also based in Toulouse, and who has also raised a big round of funding. Kineis is the number one local startup hiring former Sigfox employees. I’m not sure Sigfox management is happy about it, but it’s the best example to show how the Toulouse-based tech ecosystem is benefiting from Sigfox. I’ve counted 6 (Claire Mignonat, Assia Bahri, Michael Legagneur, Guillaume Fumat, Nogaye Loubradou, Laurent Dudouit) of my ex-colleagues listed now as Kineis employees, but I’m pretty sure there are more, or will be more!

The case of AWS

It’s interesting to see that one major tech giant is also clearly benefiting from Sigfox experience: AWS. No less than 10 Sigfoxers have joined AWS: (Gontran Filet, Alexandra Lucke, Angelique Baque, Cecilia des Courtis, Anthony Charbonnier, Anne-Caroline Tanguy, Francesco Prato, Paula Greco, Dhiraj Garg, Xavier Raffin). The spread is also interesting, since these former Sigfoxers have joined in North America, Europe or APAC regions. Other big companies that have hired several Sigfox alumni are Google, and the Toulouse-based aeronautic giant Airbus, which is less surprising.

Sharing the entrepreneurial virus — Sigfox alumni becoming tech entrepreneurs

In this last category, I would like to celebrate some of my ex-colleagues who have decided to launch their own company, after their successful time at Sigfox.

I’m surprised to see this last list smaller than what I was expecting, especially since there was a lot about the “entrepreneurial” spirit at Sigfox. Surprising also because Sigfox relying a lot on external partners, for its network, for devices, or for platforms, so we could have expected more former employees to launch their own company in the Sigfox ecosystem.

These are of course, just a snapshot of former employees, with a focus on startup ecosystem. Linkedin shows there are almost 600 former Sigfox employees and 350 current employees.

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