Beyond the Pitch: my week with 5 African startups — by Raphaëlle Neyton

“Awesome”, “Engaging”, “eye-opening”, “inspiring”, “intense”, “exhausting (but in a good way)”: when you get these kind of user feedback, you know that somehow, you got it right. That you had an impact. Mid-June I had the opportunity to spend a full week with 5 startups from Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Kenya and Senegal, for which I organized a 1-week bootcamp at NUMA.

During this week I think that I heard each of these startups pitch about 20 times. But beyond their pitch, I want to share some of my understandings of their entrepreneurial journey and the realities that they face in their respective countries.

Our mission at NUMA is to help tech entrepreneurs solve the global challenges of 2030. We are convinced that solutions will come from everywhere, that’s why we have opened offices in Moscow, Mexico, Casablanca and Bangalore, alongside our development in Paris, Berlin, New York and Barcelona. We also believe that solutions to the most urgent problems in low income countries (traffic jams, food and water crises) will most probably stem from homegrown entrepreneurial communities.

So when the French Development Agency published a tender to organize a 1-week bootcamp for 5 African startups that were all addressing crucial problems, NUMA had to answer this opportunity!

Yes they were right, this week was intense… During this bootcamp I decided to focus on several key aspects of an entrepreneurial journey:

  • Team: at NUMA we often say that we would rather take on a killer team with a weak product rather than the opposite… So of course building a great team was one of our key focus for this week, with 1 session with our head of human resources to challenge their team set-up and a very important session on the definition of a long-term vision, company culture, and OKRs (objectives and key results)
  • Product: then of course, having a strong product cannot harm a start-up. So on the product side, we organised 6 master classes on technical subjects such as growth hacking, communication and branding, finance and 1:1 meetings with our CTO who shared many tips and advice on their technical developments. They also benefited from the insights of the head of Google Campus London that met with each founder individually
  • Network: we leveraged our network and organised tailor-made meetings depending on the specific sectors and needs of each startups including meetings with Doctors Without Borders, University Paris Descartes, Tiler Systems, and of course 1:1 meetings with potential investors. 32 individual meetings were organised in total.
  • Funding: two of these startups had already raised a seed round and were thinking about raising a second one… the others knew that at some point, talking to investors would be on their roadmap… so I organised meetings with Orange Digital Ventures and Partech Ventures, that had just announced the creation of special vehicles to invest in African Startups.
  • Fame / Spotlight: I also organised an open event to talk about the African tech scene from a very hands-on point of view. 120 participants attended this event, during which the startups shared their own experience of entrepreneurs on the ground.

 

                          1:1 meeting between Farida Kabir (OTRAC) and Sarah Drinkwater (Google Campus London)

 

Big problems lead to impactful solutions

Digital entrepreneurs identify a problem worth solving and explore different solutions by talking to their potential users, collecting feedbacks and iterating. When entrepreneurs come from very emerging countries, the problems that they face in their daily life are often much more acute than in more developed countries… thus leading to very impactful solutions.

As an example in France, a startup in the field of mobility will develop incremental innovations (how to make public transport smarter, more efficient, less energy-intensive etc.), with a marginal impact on people’s lives. In emerging countries the problems will rather be how to build a public transportation system from scratch. With an expected impact that can make the life of millions of people better.

Looking back at these 5 African startups, they all address ambitious problems and come up with impactful solutions.

  • Gifted Mom (Cameroon) aims to reduce infant mortality in Africa through remote mobile support to pregnant women and young mothers;
  • FarmDrive (Kenya) aims at helping smallholder farmers access credit and thus strengthens food security in Kenya;
  • OTRAC (Nigeria) improves the quality of the health system in Nigeria through online training;
  • Mo’Go (Ghana) solves public mobility issues in Ghana through a car-sharing app;
  • and Weebi (Senegal) helps small shop owners keep track of their customers expenses and understand their patterns of consumption, thus helping these shop owners professionalize their activity.

This confirmed my expectations: entrepreneurial communities in emerging countries are not scared of tackling super ambitious challenges.

A lack of African role models: where is the African mentor scene?

One striking learning is that most of the 5 entrepreneurs I met are quite isolated: they lack mentors to challenge them, other entrepreneurs to shape their vision and give them hope that they can succeed. Without this network, giving up can be quite easy.

In Paris, NUMA has built over the past 17 years a network of 250+ experts, mentors, successful entrepreneurs that are used to mentoring startups. I tried to give these 5 entrepreneurs access to key mentors (serial entrepreneurs, mentors from Google for Entrepreneurs, former employees of Twitter and Indeed) to shape their vision. Now the real issue is how to create these networks in their home countries. There is no reason why African entrepreneurs should look for role models abroad.

Entrepreneur in Dakar or in Paris: the challenges are the same…

African startups face the same issues as French startups and their challenges are the same as the ones the 8-startups in the NUMA acceleration program face: how to recruit the best people and build a strong company culture, how to focus on one-single solution, how to acquire more users, how to talk to investors.

 

… Resources are not

Some of the resources (networks, mentoring, expertise, financing) that are available on a daily basis to French entrepreneurs are game-changers for other startups that do not evolve in the same environment. According to the startups, one of the most valuable sessions was the workshop on growth hacking delivered by Brice Maurin, founder of Deux.io. Farida, the founder of OTRAC told me “I knew that all these tricks existed but I had no idea that I could actually use them for my startup”.

 

After the bootcamp: what happens next?

It was great to host these 5 startups for a whole week in Paris. I learned a lot, and I think that this week also broadened their horizon. Yet, this week was only a surgical action in their entrepreneurial journey. The question that the French Development Agency and other international finance institutions should address is how to structure strong entrepreneurial ecosystems in these countries. Entrepreneurs in Cameroon, Senegal, Kenya, Nigeria and other African countries will not all have the opportunity to come to Paris, London or San Francisco. We need to help the development of strong entrepreneurial ecosystems in each country, to truly help these entrepreneurs to grow in the long-run.

=> Want to become a mentor for entrepreneurs based in emerging countries? Contact Raphaëlle

=> Want to learn more about the Challenge Digital Africa and to stay updated about the 2nd edition ? Read here

 

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Our first international Demoday : 12 startups from 4 differents NUMAs

Trybe, Dockbit, Vitcord, Hijiffy, Lokatrain, Goodeed, Ma Coiffeuse Afro, MaSmartHome, Energy Square, Vaonis, Syos, MySender, FilmarketHub !
All of these promising startups share at least one common point : they have been through a NUMA accelerator program and are now raising their series A round.

The scene: it’s 6pm in London, the startups have honed their pitches, investors are ready to listen attentively, and it’s time for NUMA’s first international DemoDay, hosted by Google Campus London.

 

The NUMA acceleration methodology : mission, vision and execution

As explained by Romain Amblard, Global Acceleration Lead for NUMA and Pep Gomez, Chairman of NUMA Growth (Barcelona), all of NUMA’s seven highly-selective acceleration programs (Barcelona, Bengaluru, Casablanca, Moscow, Mexico, Montpellier and Paris ) work with “mission-driven” entrepreneurs choosing to address global problems through tech-based solutions.

 

For NUMA, being an entrepreneur means 3 things :

Addressing a current or future global problem

Our entrepreneurs are “mission-driven”, which means they are not “mercenaries” who only detect market opportunities, but people compelled by a deep and sincere reason to embark on an entrepreneurship journey. Often, this drive comes from a problem they have experienced personally..

Building a vision to deploy the right solution

An entrepreneur’s vision is their ability to project their solution/product in the future, and extrapolate its impact. It is their fuel allowing them to engage others as their company grows, including employees, mentors, investors…

Being fully dedicated to executing their vision

Maintaining a consistency between vision and execution is both extremely powerful and incredibly difficult. Challenges might include refusing a customer who brings “bad traction” or constantly tweaking a business model to adjust to market changes, increasing competition or barriers to entry.
Objectives by objectives, KPIs by KPIs, these entrepreneurs are fully dedicated to building companies that achieve their long-term vision, and reaching scale.

 

Our first international Demo Day : 12 startups from 4 differents NUMAs.

Being accelerated by NUMA means being part of an international community, since we have acceleration program in 6 countries and 7 locations : France, Spain, India, Mexico, Morocco and Russia. It is not simply addition but multiplication of opportunities for our startups. So it was time to gather everyone in the same place, and to make them meet europeans and londonians’ investors.

 

 

The pitches

Trybe  is an SaaS enabled marketplace for independent chefs to set up, manage, and promote an online food business. They are building the world’s biggest restaurant, with locations in every corner of the globe.

 

Dockbit turns complex software deployments into simple and manageable workflows. They bring teams together by empowering them to ship code better.

 

Hijiffy connects guests to hotels through Messaging Apps. They provide the first messaging as a service with personalized automatization, as a way to reduce friction in customer communication, improve service, and drive more revenue.

 

Goodeed democratizes online donations for non-profits. They’re building the first worldwide community of donors that mobilizes instantly, and for free.

 

Ma Coiffeuse Afro connects masters of afro hair with people who struggle to find a hairdresser. Their vision is to make health and beauty simple for people of color.

 

MaSmartHome makes it easy to create a customized and evolutive smart home. They turn any home into the home of your dreams.

 

Energysquare has developed brand new technology that charges any device placed on any flat surface.Their first product is an intuitive charging surface for smartphones, that can be installed at home or in your office.

 

Vaonis has been founded in 2016 by two enthusiastic astronomers who met during their aerospace studies , Vaonis designs intelligent astronomical instruments, starting with the world’s most compact telescope.

 

SYOS disrupts the industry of acoustic musical instruments making by offering musicians a 3D-printed custom mouthpiece,-based on an algorithm linking the musician’s desired sound aesthetics and the geometry of their instrument.

 

My Sender is a platform that aggregates all communication channels between companies and their clients.

 

Filmarket Hub is the AngelList for the Film Industry; an online marketplace to connect film projects in development with production companies and financiers around the world. It is Europe and Latin America’s leading platform

 

Vitcord creates contagious live stories. Real-time collective memories are created, by enabling video-mixing of life’s best moments from different points of view. Vitcord transforms, for the first time, a community of viewers into re-actors, and contributors.

 

You can find out more informations on our dedicated website !

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Pizza with a CTO — NUMA x OpenClassrooms

Every week, Alban Dumouilla, NUMA’s CTO, will have a Pizza with a CTO from different stages companies to talk with them about their roles, constraints, management issues… Let’s get started for this first article, we are hungry.

OpenClassrooms is an online learning platform for vocational training, providing courses in IT, technology, entrepreneurship, and digital skills at large, in English, French, and Spanish.

  • Founded: 1999 by Mathieu Nebra & Pierre Dubuc as le Site du zéro
  • City: Paris, France
  • Funding: 8.5M€
  • Company size at time of writing: 60
  • Tech team composition: 14 in the team(back, front, integration, QA, UX)

What’s on your pizza?

Tradimento: Tomatoes / Mozzarella fior di latte / Prosciutto cotto / Egg at ZAZZA, 18 Rue du Faubourg Poissonnière, 75010 Paris

 

Romain Kuzniak, CTO at OpenClassrooms

You and the CTO job

“The time I can spend coding is a good indicator of the efficiency of our workflows.”

Tell me a bit about your background

I’m originally a sound engineer. I worked for different recording labels and studios for about 4 years, but music is a bit too random when it comes to money. I got into coding by building a website for my band and finally studied programming at Paris 5 University.
I then worked for a few tech services companies on a lot of interesting projects, some of them really big, that made me level up in professionalism. After 2 1/2 years of it, I headed to a hiring firm and found OpenClassrooms that were searching for developers.

How did you join OpenClassrooms?

I had a Java background and the site was already in PHP, so the match wasn’t an obvious one. But at the first interview, I surprised myself imagining the future of the product, new features, what could be possible, etc. Things were starting pretty well, and I got hired.
I joined a team of already about 10 to 12 people, as a developer. I started taking the lead on quite a few things, as I was more experienced and was the first one in the team with a significant professional experience.
I then slowly migrated towards the CTO role, organically.

What do you consider your current job to be?

I’m mostly a facilitator for tech and product — I try to help everybody to work in the best conditions, find talent, get the best tools for the job, use the best workflows, etc.
The rest of the job is about project management, decision making with the founders and still quite a bit of programming (30 to 50% of my time). The time I can spend coding is a good indicator of the efficiency of our workflows. More time to code means that everything else went faster.

Has anything changed for you since you started?

The job changes every 3 months, because the company changes every 3 months. There’s no way to get bored while working at OpenClassrooms as it’s constantly evolving.
An example is when we decided to onboard quality mentors on the platform. Managing a community of dedicated mentors is a bigger deal than adding a few options on the site: it completely changed the organization and the thought process around the new vision.
I’ve also been trying to give more and more autonomy to the developers in the team. I used to keep an eye on everything, but I learnt to delegate.
I’m more of an experts’ manager than anything else now, I guess.

 

Let’s talk about tech

“It took us 6 months to restore all the functionalities of the site after breaking everything during the migration to v4.”

 

What’s your stack and why?

Symfony and everything that goes with it, on AWS. We go through a different company that manages our servers because we don’t consider devops being part of our core value. We used to manage everything, but it wasn’t the best use of our time.
On the front-end, we use React, with some parts of Jquery/JqueryUI still around. We’re currently building our mobile app in SWIFT, and we are closely looking at Progressive Web Apps for the future.
We can’t really switch technologies to follow the trends, we need robust ones because of the 3 million UVs on the site.

Have you ever had to change your stack?

Nothing huge. I joined when the site was already at its third version and at the very beginning it was a homemade framework. I migrated to Symfony 1, then Symfony 2 and React.

Have you ever faced a crisis?

Yes, and a huge one. A month after I joined, we released the v4 of the site, that wasn’t well tested enough. Everything worked well on our dev machines, but shit hit the fan when we went live because of the traffic.
We had to shutdown functionalities of the site that we reopened slowly — forums reopened first in readonly mode — over 6 months.
Since then, we got a lot more professional. We thoroughly test everything, and iterate a lot with small deploys. We can deploy up to 50 times a day, so nothing can really break the entire site.

 

The CTO life

“We’re were we are now because we failed when we needed to”

What is your main responsibility as a CTO?

Everything needs to work, always. I’m responsible for the product experience in general, that I manage with the founders.
One of my biggest responsibilities is to know when to say no and find the minimal iterations to reach a specific spot where we want to be. For example when we started onboarding the mentors, at the beginning everything was done through emails and Google Hangouts. When we validated that it worked, we actually built the feature.

Anything you would want to change in what you did in the past?

Nothing. We have a fail fast take decisions fast mindset. We are where we are now because of this attitude, because we failed when we needed to, and we learnt.
Learning from your failures is in our DNA, as long as the failures stay reasonable!

The people at OpenClassrooms

“I’m not telling them enough, but they are amazing people.”

Describe your tech team in a few words

Kindness is the first word that comes up to mind. And they are good, like, really good. I have complete trust in every single one of them.
What really spots me the most at OpenClassrooms is that we work on a product that makes sense, that helps real people. But building this is being part of a full human experience with the team. There were and will be hard moments, but everybody pushes each other to the top.
I’m not telling them enough, but they are amazing people.

Any hiring tip?

I pretty much know after a few minutes if I’m going to extend an offer or not. An informal discussion is everything it takes to know the attitude of somebody.
I end up asking very specific tech questions during an interview, in the hope that the candidate won’t be able to answer. I then measure how they react about not knowing. Are they going to try to bullshit me? Or just let go and say they don’t know? Or try to work with me to get more details?
If you’re going to work every day with somebody, you might as well want to be able to trust them fully.
The last thing I’m looking at is rigor. I’ve learnt from my experiences that it’s not something you can teach to somebody. They either have it or not. So I prefer to figure if they do beforehand.

 

Article written by Alban Dumouilla and originally published on CTO.Pizza

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#FounderStories: Renaud Visage, co-founder of Eventbrite

This time, we are honoured to welcome Renaud Visage, co-founder and CTO of Eventbrite, who agreed to take part in our “Founder Stories”. Over an evening, Renaud Visage shared with us his incredible experience and answered questions from the start-ups in the acceleration programme.

Like many others, Eventbrite’s story started with an encounter: that of Renaud Visage, with Kevin and Julia Hartz, in San Francisco in 2006. What followed is totally extraordinary. At the time, many on-line ticketing platforms existed for major gatherings such as sporting events and concerts. However, there was no service to create, organise and manage more intimate events. That is how Eventbrite came about.

Leveraging this opportunity, the three co-founders developed their product, mainly used for tech events in San Francisco’s Bay Area. The service was simple and free of charge. Its rise was meteoric. “One of the keys to our success is the virality of our product. Each event organiser brings users to the platform. These users then create their events. Almost one third of event organisers on Eventbrite are former participants”.

Eventbrite joins the Unicorn Club

In 2008, the time came for the first venture round: $1.5M. The rounds then continued at a dizzying pace – $6,5M in 2009, $20M in 2010, $50M in 2011, $60M in 2013 – until in 2014, the start-up completed a round at $60M, which valued the company at over one billion dollars, thus ensuring its entry into the prestigious “Unicorn Club”. The total amount of the successive venture rounds represents the impressive figure of $200M. When asked by an entrepreneur why they didn’t raise a higher amount earlier on, Renaud Visage advised: “be careful not to be too greedy at the start. If you raise a lot of money, it makes it very difficult to justify your value at a later date”.

While the trio held out for two years, they started to hire in 2008. Eventbrite now has 550 employees and offices in eight countries. “You are bound to lose some of the spirit of camaraderie when you jump from 3 to 550 employees, but we maintain an excellent atmosphere in the teams. It’s very important to us. A company’s culture comes first and foremost from its employees. Select them carefully,” he advised NUMA’s start-ups.

Eventbrite also knows how to pick its support. Its Board of Directors includes Sean Moriarty, former CEO of TicketMaster, and Lorrie Norrington, former Chairperson of eBay Marketplaces. “Their experience is a significant asset”.

International strategy

Renaud Visage insisted on the platform going global as of 2011. He was the main driving force behind this. With his persuasion skills, he started to install Eventbrite on the European market in 2009. “First, focus on your product. Perfect it. Then go global as soon as possible.” The multilingual website was created in 2011. A key moment, according to its co-founder. The start-up then had offices in eight countries (USA, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Australia, Ireland, the United Kingdom and Holland). Through this platform, events were organised in 187 countries!

Ten years on from the start of this venture, Eventbrite has sold more than 200 million tickets on-line, the equivalent of $5 billion in ticketing sales. “I don’t suppose you need the money anymore… Why do you carry on?” asked an entrepreneur. “Why did we create Eventbrite? I like to think that we help people to get together. We facilitate meetings. I created this company out of passion. I still have that passion ten years on”.

Our warmest thanks to Renaud Visage for coming to advise the start-ups on NUMA’s acceleration programme. We wish them all similar successes!


To recap:

  • For ultra-fast development, think of a product that is intrinsically viral.

  • Do not raise too much money at the outset. It would be subsequently difficult to justify the company’s value.

  • Pay special attention when hiring your first employees. They are the pillars of your corporate culture.

  • Think about global expansion from the outset.


A few key dates and figures:

  • Date of creation: 2006

  • Co-founders: Kevin Hartz, Julia Hartz and Renaud Visage

  • Employees: 550

  • Total amount of venture rounds: $190M

  • Tickets sold: 200 million

  • Website: http://eventbrite.com

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NUMA Mexico is here!

Venture Institute teams-up with NUMA to launch NUMA México and boost Mexico City's start-up ecosystem.

  • NUMA’s international community expands to Mexico City through a joint-venture with Mexican top startup accelerator, Venture Institute, founded by Federico Antoni, and Fernando Lelo de Larrea, to launch NUMA México.
  • NUMA México will play a leading role as a catalyst between startups, communities and corporates in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
  • NUMA México launches a crowdfunding campaign to raise MXN$700K to open the first free coworking space for entrepreneurs in the country. A meeting space to bring together the startup,VC, and corporate community.
  • NUMA México will be a key hub of NUMA’s global innovation network, aiming to spread the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship in all Latin America.

Mexico City, April 6, 2016 – Venture Institute, founded by Federico Antoni and Fernando Lelo de Larrea, joined forces with french ecosystem accelerator NUMA to launch NUMA México, and speed-up the consolidation of Mexico City’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Starting today, Venture Institute becomes NUMA México and strengthens its startup accelerator, corporate, educational and community programs.

This joint-venture brings together Venture Institute’s 5 years expertise in the Mexican ecosystem with NUMA’s 15 years of experience in France and international markets. “We are excited about announcing our joint-venture to present NUMA México. Mexico City will be the gateway to the 400 million Spanish speaking consumer market for startups in Mexico and Latin America”, says Federico Antoni, founding partner at Venture Institute.

Mexico shows all the signs of an entrepreneurial ecosystem on the brink of exponential growth. The team at Venture Institute has an impressive track record and is incredibly passionate about spreading the entrepreneurial mindset. Together we hope we can help the city to pass the tipping point. The connection to Europe and other growing ecosystems will give fresh market opportunities to Mexican entrepreneurs“, adds Frédéric Oru, International Director at NUMA.

Mexico City is NUMA’s fifth international endeavor,following openings in Moscow (Russia),Bangalore (India), Casablanca (Morocco), and Barcelona (Spain). Building on the success of NUMA Paris, NUMA will expand its global network to 15 cities during the next three years, aiming to accelerate 700 companies, install 250 open innovation programs for corporates, and thrust entrepreneurial communities.

 

BUILDING A STRONG COMMUNITY

Building a strong entrepreneurial community is a core activity at NUMA México, in order to create a sustainable ecosystem. NUMA believes in the pay- it forward culture, where successful entrepreneurs share their knowledge, discoveries and experiences, and serve as inspiration for other founders that are just starting, and people with an entrepreneurial drive. NUMA México collaborates with all of the actors involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem; startups, education institutions, both large enterprises in the tech industry and companies with an innovation mindset, government, incubators, accelerators, Venture Capital funds, andAngel investors.Creating a large network of mentors and people who share the conviction that collaboration is the fastest way to innovation. Globally, NUMA hosts 1,400 events per year, bringing together 80,000 attendees.

 

CO-CREATE A WORK SPACE – CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN

NUMA believes in openness and diversity. To that purpose, NUMA México Startup Mansion – a 1,000m2 space located in Campeche 233, Hipódromo Condesa, Mexico City- will be open to all startup founders, corporates, SME’s, communities and public institutions to consolidate a sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem. “We are raising MXN$700Kto truly fulfill our mission of co-building an open and collaborative entrepreneurial community. NUMA México will offer free coworking space for startup founders, and will open its doors to serve as a meeting point for all the actors involved in the ecosystem”, said Coni Riveros, General Manager at NUMA México.

 

ACCELERATOR PROGRAM

Applications for NUMA México’s first batch will open inApril, and next July 20 startups will join its portfolio in a 5 month long accelerator program in exchange of a small percentage of company equity. NUMA México will give entrepreneurs the opportunity to benefit from 1,000m2 at the heart ofthe Mexican financial, innovation and startup capital. NUMA México accelerator program will attract 40 startups to Mexico City on a yearly basis, from Mexico, Latin America, and international founders, whose value proposition appeals to the spanish speaking market. “With 130 companies in our portfolio, NUMA México, formerly Venture Institute, is the most active startup accelerator in the country,” said Fernando Lelo de Larrea, founding partner at Venture Institute.

 

INNOVATING WITHIN LARGE COMPANIES

Shifting enterprise mindset to build an innovation culture via training, intrapreneurship and open innovation will also be one of NUMA México’s main goals. In 2015, NUMA doubled its corporate innovation team and developed no less than 60 projects involving large worldwide companies.“If Companies wantto grow or simply to exist in the future, they need to reinvent the way they innovate: their processes,their methods,the role of their employees and partners and their management system. The good news is that entrepreneurs are everywhere and companies understand more and more that the key to Digital Transformation is Entrepreneurship and not Technology.” Claudio Vandi, Director of innovation programs.

 

Discover NUMA Mexico

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#FounderStories: Nicolas Brusson, co-founder of BlaBlaCar

Recently, we caught up with Nicolas Brusson, co-founder of BlaBlaCar, as part of our Founder Stories meeting forum for NUMA Paris start-ups. It was quite simply an honour to welcome one of the greatest icons of French entrepreneurship to our premises.

Does BlaBlaCar still need an introduction? If you have been living in a cave and have suddenly turned up in a city, “BlaBlaCar connects people who need to travel with drivers who have empty seats”. And, incidentally, BlaBlaCar is the global ride-sharing leader (if this term means nothing to you, go back to your cave). 

The company is present in around 20 countries, boasts no less than 25 million users and has raised several hundred million Euros for a market capitalization that sends chills down the spine.

Other than that, how are things going Nicolas?

From 0 to unicorn

Nicolas’ arrival at NUMA has an amazing magnet effect. A Slack and a few announcements on the various floors are enough to gather quite a crowd. Who would miss the visit of the man behind the most amazing French success story of the last twenty years?

Nicolas happily sits on the sofa on the third floor, in front of an audience keen to learn his tips for success.

Stubble, trainers, jeans and cotton t-shirt: this sober look conceals a very unique adventure.

It all started with a love story. Nicolas lived far away from his girlfriend and was looking for a way to visit her at little cost. At the same time, Frédéric Mazella wanted to visit his family over the holiday season and came up against a lack of transportation. At first, they thought of a service that would enable employees in the same company to share a journey and the expenses incurred.

From then on, the magic was quick to happen: passengers and drivers rushed onto the platform, originally known under the name covoiturage.fr and which constantly evolved into the current version.

Of course, it would be totally naive to think that this story ran so smoothly that it never encountered difficulties. The company’s figures read like a crazy rollercoaster ride prior to its current success.

Nicolas tells us that, faced with difficulties, himself and his co-founder managed to find the energy to start again, and to move even closer to users to offer an experience that significantly meets their needs.

Nico’s tips

  • If you think you have a good idea, step up a gear, raise funds and go global. It is highly probable that others have had the same idea, and only those who can operate on a very wide scale will win the race.
  • Find the right co-founder. Yes yes, of course you know that already. Here’s one more story that should urge you along in your quest.
  • Don’t get bogged down in the legal details. Yes, it is important but it should not hinder international expansion. “JUST GO FOR IT”.
  • Surround yourself with mentors, good mentors, the best. A good piece of advice could make all the difference.
  • Push back the limits, always think further, bigger, faster. 

Thank you Nicolas for taking us on this very invigorating ride!


BlaBlaCar: key dates and figures

  • Launch date: September 2006
  • Last venture round: $200 million
  • Audience: 25 million users – 10 million travellers per quarter
  • Employees: 500
  • Facebook fans: 4 million
  • Website: https://www.blablacar.fr

//

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#FounderStories: Jessy Bernal, co-founder of Doctolib

At the start of the month, we were delighted to welcome Jessy Bernal, co-founder and CTO of Doctolib for NUMA’s monthly Founder Dinner. We would like to thank him again for speaking to us about the incredible adventure that this little French gem has been on.

Doctolib, a little-known story

Meeting up on LinkedIn, joining forces and then going from 3 to 200 employees in the space of two years? This is the very real and a little crazy story of Doctolib, as recounted by its co-founder Jessy Bernal at the last Founder Dinner. This meeting format designed for the start-ups supported by NUMA invites a remarkable entrepreneur once a month, to hear an inspiring story and to give a kick-start to anyone striving for business success.

Jessy’s story fits the bill perfectly.

A graduate of EPITA, Jessy started his career at OCTO Technology. He tells us, very humbly, that he is none other than one of the founders of Massive Music Quiz. You’ve probably heard of this blind test game which brought together several million users in France.

Buoyed by this initial success, he then joined the teams at Skillstar, a project financed by the BetClic Everest Group, to develop the first Skillgames website, on which players can face each other live on television, via the Internet. The venture was not a success.

After a few months working as a freelancer, in 2013, Jessy was contacted via LinkedIn (note to self, update profile) by Stanislas Niox-Chateau who had an idea and was looking for co-founders.

His approach was both clear and surprising: Stanislas proposed to Jessy, and to his school friend Ivan, to “revolutionize the medical sector”.

After a few discussions, Jessy, Ivan and Stanislas began to work together.

The dream team was created, the success story could begin.

Genuine programming prodigies Jessy and Ivan developed an initial version of the product (the famous MVP) in a very short space of time while Stanislas perfected the business model. The principle of Doctolib is simple: making it easier to make an appointment with a healthcare professional.

MVP
+ Business model
+ Dream team
= Fund raising.

In the space of two years, the winning trio raised almost €23 million and hired more than 200 employees.

 

If this happens to you, what should you do?

You, too, could have your (updated) Linkedin profile consulted by a pioneer who asks you to revolutionize an outdated technology.

Jessy shared some tips with the entrepreneurs present at the dinner:

 

  • Pay special attention to your recruitment: only hire the best, organise several interviews and ask applicants to complete tests. This is obvious but essential: success is very closely linked to the team you create.
  • Define your culture: Jessy admits that it’s difficult to hold culture meetings when you only have a handful of team members. The exercise may appear artificial and there are many other urgent things to deal with. However, giving your start-up this foundation is essential: with it, the structure will stand tall and make great progress. Clearly, it works: Doctolib has taken giant steps. Defining your values means making them official, sharing them and providing group moments with employees (i.e. going out for a drink).
  • Put processes in place. This is inevitable. For a start-up, processes are like props for small plants: totally superfluous at first but then absolutely essential for elegant, and above all efficient, growth.
  • Forge ties as soon as possible with VCs. Don’t wait until you have a totally pampered product to pitch it to potential investors. Your users’ feedback is important, that of your potential shareholders is just as much.
  • Be ready to step into the spotlight. You are now a rock star, that’s the way it’s going to be. So try to be nice to the crowds and find yourself some time to relax away from watchful eyes.

In short, it was really nice, simple and inspiring. Just the kind of chats which leave you full of energy. Thank you Jessy.


Doctolib: key dates and figures:

Launch date: October 2013
Raised funds: €23 million
References: 7000 healthcare providers, 220 clinics, 80 healthcare facilities
Audience: 3.5 million UV/month
Employees: 200
Website: https://www.doctolib.fr/

 

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