Hexa Letter #1: A new way for entrepreneurship
This letter should have been titled “eFounders Letter 10” to keep in with the yearly tradition that I started 9 letters ago in 2013. But more than a change of title, today’s letter is about the launch of a new structure, named Hexa, and the result of discussions which began a year ago, that I mentioned in the last letter through the concepts of “Team Entrepreneurship” and “Meta-Studio”.
Hexa isn’t a new name for eFounders. eFounders is still very much alive and remains the studio dedicated to SaaS and the “Future of Work”, and coexists right next to Camille Tyan’s Logic Founders fintech studio and Florent Quinti’s 3founders web3 studio.
We have created Hexa to bring together our existing startup studios and create new ones. More than that, we are creating Hexa to unleash a new way for entrepreneurship.
A successful model
In 2011, Quentin Nickmans and I created not just a company — eFounders — but an alternative model of entrepreneurship founded on the simple premise that building a company as a team yields better results than building it alone. For 10 years we have been working hard to refine this model and we’ve applied it to a very specific vertical, that of SaaS and the future of work.
We can proudly and objectively claim that the results of the last ten years have exceeded our wildest expectations. In one decade, we have launched over 30 companies, that employ over 2800 people all around the world.
The year 2022 was an especially unique one for us, two companies, Spendesk (eF#16) and Front (eF#14) , reached the coveted status of unicorn, joining Aircall (eF#14) who had entered that category just a year prior. While not an end it itself, reaching the symbolic milestone of $1B valuation is one that further validates our unique startup studio model. It made us realize that by starting a company with a Hexa startup studio you increase your chances of building a unicorn by 1000. No less. The year 2022 also saw the combined valuation of all Hexa companies double, from 2.5 billion to 5 billion USD. Further, the cumulated annual revenue of all Hexa companies jumped from $152 million in 2021, to $235M this year. We went from a valuation multiple of x16 to x21, which also reflects the booming times of 2021 with today’s more uncertain market outlook.
2022 was also a year that got real. After Station (eF#16) last year, it was Bonjour (eF#19) and more recently Kairn’s (eF#20) turn to close shop. Each and every time this is an extremely difficult decision for founders to take, and a tough outcome for investors, but it’s an integral part of entrepreneurship, and it’s important we not forget about it. While we may have our eyes on the stars, we remain grounded and know that failure can also be right around the corner.
Now that we’ve proved the model was successful, we’ve decided to replicate it…
We could have decided to create new studios within eFounders itself, and turn eFounders into a meta-studio. Instead, we’ve decided to create a new structure, a new brand, with all the work that implies and all the risks that come with it. But in reality, we didn’t have much of a choice. eFounders is a brand that is well known in the SaaS space, it is the brand that propels us, but also the brand that limits us. eFounders overshadows the other startup studios and confines us to the SaaS industry. By creating Hexa, eFounders can remain the SaaS focused startup studio which creates room for the other studios to affirm their own identities, independence, and culture. Creating Hexa, also gives us the leeway to create additional startup studios in other verticals, and even explore other avenues beyond the pure startup studio model.
Our mission with Hexa is to democratize a new way for entrepreneurship, one that is centered around building companies as a team. As part of this mission, we support and create startup studios in different verticals, but with one common goal: to empower entrepreneurs to create and build better companies. This isn’t just a phrase we use, but a mission we deeply believe in, one that we’ve always believed in, and that we’re going to continue to adhere to.
We want to create companies that are:
- Innovative — companies that build products to innovate, solve problems yet unsolved, open up new product categories, and pioneer new ways of doing — because we believe that innovation sparks progress and is a major contributor to economic growth.
- Ambitious — companies with large international ambitions, that aim to have an impact at scale and improve the lives of as many individuals as possible — but who focus on long-term value creation over short-term value extraction.
- Impactful — companies that are conscious of their impact. At the company level by fostering cultures where everyone feels included and where value creation, such as equity, is shared amongst all. And at the global level by striving to leave a positive mark on the world.
Hexa affords us the opportunity to state, loudly and clearly, what our end goal is: creating better companies.
Hexa, in practice
eFounders, LogicFounders and 3founders are their own entities that Hexa supports with its core team of experts. Hexa offers its startup studios access to a network, an office, expertise and financing. Each studio is led by its founder, has a dedicated operational team, with experts in product, design and marketing, and can benefit from the Hexa team for further support. Additionally, each studio has its own brand and culture, although we do try and harmonize the way we work, so that our model is clear for the entrepreneurs who join us.
In the near future, we aim to create new startup studios in other verticals. The launch of a startup studio usually occurs when we encounter a passionate entrepreneur who we match with, and when there’s a vertical we get really excited about and believe is deep enough to create a studio in. When all of this aligns, a new startup studio is born.
The second part of the equation we’ve already got, we’re brimming with ideas and currently exploring studios in climate, health, education, AI, property, and agriculture. We’re even thinking of going beyond the pure startup studio model, and delving into new avenues like taking stakes in active companies, to which we’d lend our operational support, similar to what we did with Yousign. Now, we’re just waiting to meet exceptional people and aim to launch one to two studios next year, to make sense of our new model.
With Hexa, we’re ushering into a new era. A new era that comes with its own set of challenges, a new how-to guide to write. Does the startup studio model that proved successful in SaaS will prove successful in other verticals? How will we scale it? How will we scale the financing accordingly? YC might have given us a few ideas on that front… Who are the entrepreneurs we’ll partner with? How will we find the right balance between the studios and Hexa so as to maximize our collective intelligence but without studios loosing their independence? How do we make sure Hexa’s model is understood by all, when the startup studio model is not known by most people to start with? A lot of topics that we’ll have to tackle, and all of the excitement that goes with it!
Didier Forest, our forever partner, left after 10 years of hard work making every pixel perfect, it is him who injected the creative DNA of the studio that is known, seen and appreciated by so many today. We thank him for that. Amaury Sepulchre, who has shared our journey over the last 7 years, is about to embark on the Hexa adventure too, with the role of cofounder. Us three co-founders along with our historic core team are ready to enter this thrilling new chapter.
It is thus the first episode of this new and long series, trust me to keep on sharing this letter with you each year, to tell you about our progress, our failures, our successes, our learnings — the same I’ve done over the past 10 years.