ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Jean-Manuel Rozan
Imagine an Internet where you have no privacy concerns. No hackers, sure. But not even social media or search engines gobbling up all of your personal data. It’s easy if you try. That’s what Jean-Manuel Rozan WG80 did when he co-founded Qwant, a Paris-based search engine with its sights set on competing with Google. With a few million users across 166 countries (mostly in France), its differentiator is that it does not record your search history while you use it. We spoke with Rozan, a serial entrepreneur with Wall Street ties (he traded options with Nassim Taleb in the mid-’80s), about his interest in tech, life in Paris and more.
WHARTON MAGAZINE: Why move from being a financial entrepreneur to tech?
JEAN-MANUEL ROZAN: In finance, I was working for a very small number of clients, who were phenomenally discreet. After a while, I got tired of being under the radar. I got tired of it [and said], “Next thing I do will be very visible … a global search engine.”
WM: What is Qwant’s main value proposition?
ROZAN: One, we respect our users’ privacy and don’t keep records of their searches. We display both from the Web and social in a neutral way, and there has to be a market for that.
WM: What’s your day-to-day like at Qwant?
ROZAN: I have all of the outside of the organization and my co-founder has all of the inside, though there are things we do together externally. It involves speaking to investors because we’re raising money constantly. There’s a very large element involving European Union awareness and making regulators aware of what we do and how to support us.
WM: What are some recent successes?
ROZAN: Last year, we signed up a very large investor, the Axel Group, the most successful online media company in Europe.
We are completing raising $50 million—$25 million in equity from investors and $25 million in debt, already committed by the European Investment Bank.
WM: What’s the Parisian startup scene like?
ROZAN: The level of energy, the number of startups and the dynamism of the tech sector in France is quite unbelievable. There is seed money. There is A and B series funding, but there is a big shortage of late-stage capital. But I know that people are trying to fix that.
WM: What was your Wharton experience like as a student?
ROZAN: [During my first semester] I started to have terrible grades. I had two French friends who had been there for a long time, and one day they told me, “Let’s have lunch together,” and they said to me, “Listen, you’re stupid. You’re not even trying, and it’s the best place in the world to get knowledge, to get confident with yourself, to accomplish something that no other French guy had a chance to have.” I found an apartment and I locked up myself in my apartment. … I worked like an animal literally until 3 or 4 in the morning every day, studying like my life depended on it, and I graduated easily.