Inside eFounders
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Inside eFounders

eFounders Letter #6 — A Software Galaxy

Catering to a company’s every need

© Meghan Regior

Nothing is more exciting than sitting down with entrepreneurs to consider how to disrupt an industry, challenge incumbents, and imagine the future of work. Designing innovative tools that change the working lives of millions is what fuels us everyday. The first wireframe, the first line of code, the first “aha!” moment, the first pilots, the first paying customers, the first investors, the first office: it’s for all these first times that we wake up every morning and that the best entrepreneurs join us to share the magic.

We created a model : The Startup Studio

7 years ago we came up with a new model of parallel entrepreneurship: the Startup Studio. We evangelized the concept, created the wiki page and drew up a public list of startup studios. We decided to take a different route than already existing structures like Venture Builders. Not only would we build companies from scratch, they would originate from our own ideas with a clear objective to make the company fully operationally and financially independent after 18 months. We were convinced that we could only attract true entrepreneurs and build companies with their own unique culture only by giving our startups full independence.

In 7 years we built 15 companies (Mailjet, TextMaster, Mention, Front, Aircall, Spendesk, Forest, Illustrio, Hivy, Slite, Station, Briq, Folk, Upflow, Equify) that employ over 500 employees and generate upwards of $50M revenue. Our companies raised a total in excess of $175M, including $100M since the start of year. We had our two first significant exits this year. TextMaster has been sold to Technicis. Mention was acquired by MyNewsDesk. They aren’t billion-dollar-exits, but they’re fair deals. It’s just a taste of things to come, and it confirms our business model. It’s hard to make the startup studio model work — but when it does it’s like magic.

We’re on a mission : we build the future of work

Connecting the dots looking backward, we have realized that we created a common philosophy. And although our companies are all fully independent, they all share this heritage blending their specific traits with our product DNA and ambition. All of our solutions are designed to help SMEs prepare the future of work: bringing more freedom, more intelligence, and more value to companies and employees.

Teams are more and more distributed, working in across countries and time zones. We believe in offering more freedom to work. And technology enables us to create natively collaborative software. We want to build software than can leverage collective intelligence. A few decades ago software was built to map company processes. Today, building software is not only about building a product but imagining new processes and freeing time for creativity and high-value tasks.

We have a goal : creating a software galaxy

After 7 years of hard work, you wonder how far you can go. We aren’t a standard company trying to conquer a market. Instead we constantly build new businesses. Although our mission is clear — to build the future of work — it’s always more motivating to know our target. Our vision is to build a portfolio covering every needs of SMEs (companies having between 50 to 5000 employees). What does that change? We’ll keep doing what we’ve done so far, but we’ll also be more ambitious and tackle the larger chunks of software like CRMs, Project Management Tools or Recruitment Tracking Systems. We will not copy existing solutions and innovate to keep building world-class products.

We don’t intend to create a suite of software like Microsoft or to a lesser extent Zoho. The strength of our model is to make our companies independent — it creates a strong culture and a product differentiation which are required elements to build unicorns. The counterpart of that is it is hard to force our companies to work hand in hand with other eFounders companies or incorporate common elements like API, SSO, Billing etc. We can’t create synergies within the portfolio but we could create synergies above the portfolio. Distribution is what has made Microsoft so big. And we’re convinced that a portfolio approach can make allow us to crack SaaS distribution.

And a financial arm : The eClub

18 months ago we decided to create a club of investors starting with eFounders shareholders and growing with Entrepreneurs and Family offices. Today the club presently counts 164 investors. The goal of the eClub is to take a max of our pro-rata rate in every round in order to keep a decent governance in the company. Since the creation of our eClub 18 months ago, 120 unique investors have invested a total amount of $13,586,343 through 260 tickets in 12 deals on 8 companies (Mailjet, Forest, FoxIntel, Spendesk, Station, Slite, Aircall, and UpFlow). We have even created a software to help scaling the Club. it’s called Zenvest.com and we have the intention to make it available for other club deals administrators.

The goal now is to go a step further. We would like to offer a credible alternative to VC investments for our companies. Good VCs can bring large amount of money and valuable insights but they have structural constraints. When they invest in a deal, they must take a minimum stake in the company (between 20–30%). Since current startup valuations are high, they have to invest a lot of money in order to reach their desired stake. It’s much more than what startups need in the early stages. And it results in over-dilution for founders, as well as for eFounders. We’re convinced startups should raise less money and raise more progressively instead. We’ll take advantage of the eClub to try and apply this strategy to our portfolio. eClub will co-lead and sometimes lead rounds with financial conditions according to our progressive philosophy.

Conclusion

That being said, our main objective remains unchanged: partnering with the best entrepreneurs to accomplish our vision. Everything we do — including this letter — is intended to attract the best founders. SaaS proves to be one of the most profitable industry with strong economics. The only requirement to create world-class business is to find the best founding teams. That’s what we’re working on every day. Curious to learn more about our next projects, let‘s grab a coffee!

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