Nov
06
2019
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An early look at eFounders’ next batch of enterprise SaaS startups

European startup studio eFounders recently reached a portfolio valuation of $1 billion across 23 companies. And the company doesn’t want to stop there, as it is currently launching three new companies and products.

While software-as-a-service companies are trendy, eFounders has been exploring this space for a few years now. The company regularly comes up with ideas for new companies that improve the way we work.

In exchange for financial and human resources, eFounders keeps a significant stake in its startups. Ideally, startups raise a seed round and take off on their own after a year or two.

And here’s what eFounders has been working on.

Cycle

Cycle is a product management platform. And if you think about product management, it encompasses many things under one title, such as writing specs, planning a roadmap, assigning tasks and defining cycles or sprints.

Many startups use multiple tools for all those tasks. And sometimes, the tools they were using don’t scale well. Cycle will integrate with GitHub, Figma and Zendesk so that you can handle bugs, improvements and features more efficiently.

Finally, Cycle lets you generate product updates for your customers, create public roadmaps and collaborate with other people in your organization.

It has an Airtable vibe as you can create your own views and workflows depending on your needs. You can display data as a timeline, a to-do list, a kanban view, a normal list, etc.

Folk

Talking about Airtable, Folk is easy to describe. What if Salesforce and Airtable had a baby? It would look more or less like Folk.

Folk lets you manage your contacts more efficiently and collaborate with teammates. You can import your address book from iCloud, Gmail, Outlook, Excel and CSV files. You can then sort your contacts into groups, and add notes, reminders and tasks.

You also can create many views to go through your contacts. There’s a spreadsheet-like view, a kanban view, a calendar view and even a space view so you can create table layouts for an event.

It’s worth noting that eFounders CEO Thibaud Elziere is also going to be the CEO of Folk.

Once

Once is a new take on visual presentations. It lets you create stories using a drag-and-drop interface and generate a link to send your stories to your customers. Once supports everything you’d expect from an Instagram story, such as images, text, polls and sliders.

You also can embed tweets, YouTube videos or Google Maps addresses in your stories. The best part is that users don’t need to download an app or follow a brand on Instagram. It works in your mobile browser.

Sep
08
2019
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Spendesk raises $38.4 million for its corporate card and expense service

French startup Spendesk has raised another $38.4 million in a Series B round, with existing investor Index Ventures leading the round. The company has raised $49.4 million (€45 million) over the years.

Spendesk is an all-in-one corporate expense and spend management service. It lets you track expenses across your company, empower your employees with a clear approval process and simplify your bookkeeping.

The service essentially works like Revolut or N26, but for corporate needs. After you sign up, you get your own Spendesk account with an IBAN. You can top up that account and define different sets of policies.

For instance, you can set payment limits depending on everyone’s job and define who’s in charge of approving expensive payments. After that, everyone can generate virtual cards for online payments and get a physical card for business travel.

When you’re on the road, you can pay directly using Spendesk just like any corporate card. If you have to pay in cash or with another card, you can take a photo of the receipt from the Spendesk mobile app and get your money back.

Many Spendesk users also leverage the service for other use cases. For instance, you can define a marketing budget and let the marketing team spend it on Facebook or Google ads using a virtual card.

You also can track all your online subscriptions from the Spendesk interface to make sure that you don’t pay for similar tools. If you hire freelancers, you can upload all your invoices to the platform, export an XML with your outstanding invoices and import it to your banking portal.

Spendesk tries to be smarter than legacy expense solutions. For instance, the company tries to leverage optical character recognition (OCR) to match receipts with payments, autofill the VAT rate, etc.

With today’s funding round, the company plans to open offices in Berlin and London, add more currencies and develop new features. Over the past year, the company went from 20 employees to 120 employees. There are now 1,500 companies using Spendesk in Europe.

May
23
2019
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EFounders backs Yousign to build a European e-signature company

French startup Yousign is partnering with startup studio eFounders. While eFounders usually builds software-as-a-service startups from scratch, the company is trying something new with this partnership.

Indeed, eFounders wants to create all the tools you need to make your work more efficient. The startup studio is behind many respectable SaaS successes, such as Front, Aircall and Spendesk. And electronic signatures are a must if you want to speed up your workflow.

Sure, there are a ton of well-established players in the space — DocuSign, SignNow, Adobe Sign, HelloSign, etc. But nobody has really cracked the European market in a similar way.

Yousign has been around for a while in France. When it comes to features, it has everything you’d expect. You can upload a document and set up automated emails and notifications so that everybody signs the document.

Signatures are legally binding and Yousign archives your documents. You also can create document templates and send contract proposals using an API.

The main challenge for Yousign is that Europe is still quite fragmented. The company will need to convince users in different countries that they need to switch to an e-signature solution. Starting today, Yousign is now available in France, Germany, the U.K. and Spain.

Yousign had only raised some money; eFounders is cleaning the cap table by buying out existing investors and replacing them.

“We can’t really communicate on the details of the investment, but what I can tell you is that we bought out existing funds for several millions of euros in order to replace them — founders still have the majority of shares,” eFounders co-founder and CEO Thibaud Elzière told me.

In a blog post, Elzière writes that eFounders has acquired around 50% of the company through an SPV (Single Purpose Vehicle) that it controls. The startup studio holds 25% directly, and investors in the eFounders eClub hold 25%.

Yousign now looks pretty much like any other eFounders company when they start. Of course, founders and eFounders might get diluted further down the road if Yousign ends up raising more money.

Nov
24
2018
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Upflow turbocharges your invoices

Meet Upflow a French startup that wants to help you deal with your outstanding invoices — the company first started at eFounders. If you’re running a small business, chances are you’re either wasting a ton of time or a ton of money on accounts receivable.

Most companies currently manage invoices using Excel spreadsheets, outdated banking interfaces and unnecessary conversations. Every time somebody signs a deal, they generate an invoice and file it in a spreadsheet somewhere.

Some companies will pay a few days later. But let’s be honest. Too many companies wait 30 days, 40 days or even more before even thinking about paying past due invoices. You end up sending emails, calling your clients and wasting a ton of time just collecting money. You might even feel bad about asking for money even though you already signed a deal.

In France, most companies use bank transfers to pay invoices. But business banking APIs are not there yet. It means that you have to log in to a slow banking website every day to check if somebody paid you. You can then tick a box in an Excel spreadsheet.

If everything I described resonates with you, Upflow wants to manage your invoices for you. It doesn’t replace your bank account, it doesn’t generate invoices for you. It integrates seamlessly with your existing workflow.

After signing up, you can send invoices to your client and cc Upflow in your email thread. Upflow then uses optical character recognition and automatically detects relevant data — the customer name, the amount, the due date, etc.

You can view all your outstanding invoices in Upflow’s interface to see where you stand. The service gives you a list of actionable tasks to get your money. For instance, Upflow tells you if you have overdue payments and tells you to contact your client again.

You can set up different rules depending on your clients. For instance, if you have many small clients, you can automate some of those messages. But if you only work with a handful of clients, you want to make sure that somebody has manually reviewed each message before Upflow sends them.

By default, you write your emails in Upflow so that your other team members can see what happened. You can browse invoices by client to see if somebody has multiple unpaid invoices. Upflow lets you assign actions to a particular team member if they’re more familiar with this specific client.

But all of this is just one part of the product. Upflow also generates banking information with the help of Treezor. This way, you can put your Upflow banking information on your invoices.

When a customer pays you, Upflow automatically matches invoices with incoming payments. This feature alone lets you save a ton of time. The startup transfers money back to your company’s bank account every day.

Upflow co-founder and CEO Alexandre Louisy drew me the following chart when we met. It’s probably easier to understand after reading my explanations:

In other words, Upflow has created a brick that sits between your company’s back office and your customers. Eventually, you could imagine more services built on top of this brick as Upflow is learning many things on your company.

According to Louisy, small and medium companies really need this kind of product — and not necessarily tech companies. Those companies don’t have a lot of money on their bank accounts, don’t have a big staff and need to save as much time as possible.

Now let’s see if it’s easy to sell a software-as-a-service solution to a family business that has been around for decades.

May
29
2018
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Startup studio eFounders is gaining some serious traction

European startup studio eFounders is slowly but surely building a portfolio of successful software-as-a-service startups. The company is behind some of the most promising enterprise startups in recent years.

Over the past six months, six eFounders startups have raised $120 million in total, with Front and Aircall leading the pack with a $66 million and a $29 million round. Spendesk raised $9.9 million. Forest, Slite and Station raised seed rounds.

Some of them also attended Y Combinator’s most recent batch. Finally, Technicis acquired TextMaster for an undisclosed sum.

If you don’t know the eFounders model, it’s quite simple. At first, the core eFounders team comes up with an idea and hires a founding team. In exchange for financial and human resources, eFounders keep a significant stake in its startups.

After a year or two, startups should have proven that they can raise a seed round and operate on their own. This way, eFounders can move on to the next project and start new companies.

eFounders currently lists 14 companies on its website. In addition to the ones I already mentioned, there is Mailjet, Mention, Foxintelligence, Forest, Hivy, Folk, Upflow, Briq and Illustrio.

Based on this list, you’d think that eFounders has a nearly perfect track record. But eFounders had to stop a couple of projects, such as PressKing and Muxi. Illustrio seems to be on pause right now as well.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that eFounders has cooked up a secret playbook for software-as-a-service startups. More importantly, it’s also clear that eFounders managed to attract some talented entrepreneurs to lead those startups and transform them into their own startups.

Overall, eFounders companies have raised $175 million in total, have 100,000 clients and 500 employees. Together, they generate $50 million in revenue. eFounders itself has raised $11.4 million.

It’s going to be a long play for eFounders as the company only generates revenue when there’s an exit or a secondary market transaction. As long as startups keep raising more money, eFounders doesn’t get anything, and its stake gets diluted. It’ll only make money when there’s a significant acquisition or an IPO. But the valuation of eFounders’ portfolio also keeps growing, so the outcome looks more and more positive.

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