Sep
22
2020
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Mirakl raises $300 million for its marketplace platform

French startup Mirakl has raised a $300 million funding round at a $1.5 billion valuation — the company is now a unicorn. Mirakl helps you launch and manage a marketplace on your e-commerce website. Many customers also rely on Mirakl-powered marketplaces for B2B transactions.

Permira Advisers is leading the round, with existing investors 83North, Bain Capital Ventures, Elaia Partners and Felix Capital also participating.

“We’ve closed this round in 43 days,” co-founder and U.S. CEO Adrien Nussenbaum told me. But the due diligence process has been intense. “[Permira Advisers] made 250 calls to clients, leads, partners and former employees.”

Many e-commerce companies rely on third-party sellers to increase their offering. Instead of having one seller selling to many customers, marketplaces let you sell products from many sellers to many customers. Mirakl has built a solution to manage the marketplace of your e-commerce platform.

300 companies have been working with Mirakl for their marketplace, such as Best Buy Canada, Carrefour, Darty and Office Depot. More recently, Mirakl has been increasingly working with B2B clients as well.

These industry-specific marketplaces can be used for procurement or bulk selling of parts. In this category, clients include Airbus Helicopters, Toyota Material Handling and Accor’s Astore. 60% of Mirakl’s marketplace are still consumer-facing marketplaces, but the company is adding as many B2B and B2C marketplaces these days.

“We’ve developed a lot of features that enable platform business models that go further than simple marketplaces,” co-founder and CEO Philippe Corrot told me. “For instance, we’ve invested in services — it lets our clients develop service platforms.”

In France, Conforama can upsell customers with different services when they buy some furniture for instance. Mirakl has also launched its own catalog manager so that you can merge listings, add information, etc.

The company is using artificial intelligence to do the heavy-lifting on this front. There are other AI-enabled features, such as fraud detection.

Given that Mirakl is a marketplace expert, it’s not surprising that the company has also created a sort of marketplace of marketplaces with Mirakl Connect.

“Mirakl Connect is a platform that is going to be the single entry point for everybody in the marketplace ecosystem, from sellers to operators and partners,” Corrot said.

For sellers, it’s quite obvious. You can create a company profile and promote products on multiple marketplaces at once. But the company is also starting to work with payment service providers, fulfillment companies, feed aggregators and other partners. The company wants to become a one-stop shop on marketplaces with those partners.

Overall, Mirakl-powered marketplaces have generated $1.2 billion in gross merchandise volume (GMV) during the first half of 2020. It represents a 111% year-over-year increase, despite the economic crisis.

With today’s funding round, the company plans to expand across all areas — same features, same business model, but with more resources. It plans to hire 500 engineers and scale its sales and customer success teams.

May
19
2020
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Algolia gets a new CEO as founder steps down

Search-as-a-service startup Algolia is announcing some changes at the helm of the startup. Co-founder and CEO Nicolas Dessaigne is transitioning to a non-operational role at the company. He’ll still be a board member, but Bernadette Nixon is joining the company to take on the CEO position.

Algolia is building a search engine API. The company doesn’t want to build the next Google. Instead, it wants to power the search box on your website or app with instant letter-by-letter search results.

The company is managing the search feature on Slack, Stripe, Under Armour, Twitch and 9,000 other companies. At its current run rate, Algolia processes 1.2 trillion searches a year. The company says it touches 1 in 6 web users each day.

“The story started right after the Series C,” Dessaigne told me. Algolia raised a $110 million Series C round at the end of 2019. “I was super excited but what was most exciting for me was the potential of the company.”

“Someone with more go-to-market experience would probably be a better person at achieving that potential,” he continued.

I asked more directly whether the decision to replace him as CEO came from the board of the company or not. “It really started on my side. The board was supportive of the decision but it didn’t come from them,” he said.

Nixon was previously the CEO of Alfresco, the company that developed an open source enterprise content-management startup that was acquired by private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners in 2018. In the past, she held various positions as chief revenue officer, executive vice president of sales and senior vice president of corporate sales in different software companies.

As you can see, Nixon has a ton of experience when it comes to sales and operations in general. Her experience will be valuable when it comes to scaling the startup.

“I’m excited to be now part of the Algolia team and to be leading the company as of today,” Nixon told me. Accel, the VC firm that led the Series C round in Algolia, was also an investor in Alfresco.

The transition is going to take a couple of months and Dessaigne will stick around until July. He says that he doesn’t have any concrete plan about what he’s going to do next.

Over the past year, Algolia has been ramping up executive hires. Jean-Louis Baffier joined as chief revenue officer, Ashley Stirrup joined as chief marketing officer, Kristie Rodenbush joined as chief people officer and Iain Hassall joined as chief financial officer. In other words, Algolia is growing up and preparing for the next phase. Now let’s see if it leads to an IPO or an acquisition by a bigger player.

Feb
25
2020
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Stonly grabs $3.5 million to make customer support more interactive

Stonly is building a service for customer support teams so that they can share step-by-step guides to solve the most common issues users have. The startup just raised a $3.5 million funding round led by Accel with business angels also participating, such as Eventbrite CTO Renaud Visage and PeopleDoc founders Jonathan Benhamou and Clément Buyse.

The startup isn’t building a chatbot for customer support — chatbots usually don’t understand what you mean and you end up contacting customer support anyway. Stonly believes that scripted guides with multiple questions work much better than both chatbots and intimidating knowledge bases.

But the company is well aware that it isn’t going to replace Zendesk or Intercom overnight. That’s why a Stonly guide is a module that you can embed in your existing tools. The startup currently supports Intercom, Zendesk, Freshdesk and Front.

This way, if somebody contacts you on Front or Intercom, you can reply with a Stonly guide to help your users solve their own issues (at least if it’s a common issue). Stonly is also launching its own more traditional knowledge base powered by Stonly guides so that your client can access common questions through a chat widget.

Putting together a Stonly guide doesn’t require any technical skills. After defining the steps, you can write text, add images, videos and buttons in a web interface. Stonly also supports translations.

And it’s been working well for the startup’s first clients. For instance, Dashlane noticed a 25% decrease in opened tickets for their most frequent issues after using Stonly. Other clients include Devialet, Happn and Calendly.

With today’s funding round, the startup is expanding to the U.S. with a new office in New York and David Rostan, VP of Sales and Marketing at Calendly, is joining as head of revenue.

Jan
17
2020
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Harvestr gathers user feedback in one place

Meet Harvestr, a software-as-a-service startup that wants to help product managers centralize customer feedback from various places. Product managers can then prioritize outstanding issues and feature requests. Finally, the platform helps you get back to your customers once changes have been implemented.

The company just raised a $650,000 funding round led by Bpifrance, with various business angels also participating, such as 360Learning co-founders Nicolas Hernandez and Guillaume Alary, as well as Station F director Roxanne Varza through the Atomico Angel Programme.

Harvestr integrates directly with Zendesk, Intercom, Salesforce, Freshdesk, Slack and Zapier. For instance, if a user opens a ticket on Zendesk and another user interacts with your support team through an Intercom chat widget, everything ends up in Harvestr.

Once you have everything in the system, Harvestr helps you prioritize tasks that seem more urgent or that are going to have a bigger impact.

When you start working on a feature or when you’re about to ship it, you can contact your users who originally reached out to talk to you about it.

Eventually, Harvestr should help you build a strong community of power users around your product. And there are many advantages in pursuing this strategy.

First, you reward your users by keeping them in the loop. It should lead to higher customer satisfaction and lower churn. Your most engaged customers could also become your best ambassadors to spread the word around.

Harvestr costs $49 per month for five seats and $99 per month for 20 seats. People working for 360Learning, HomeExchange, Dailymotion and other companies are currently using it.

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.

Jul
17
2019
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Stonly lets you create interactive step-by-step guides to improve support

French startup Stonly wants to empower users so that they can solve their issues by themselves. Instead of relying on customer support agents, Stonly wants to surface relevant content so that you can understand and solve issues.

“I’m trying to take the opposite stance of chatbots,” founder and CEO Alexis Fogel told me. “The issue [with chatbots] is that technology is not good enough and you often end up searching through the help center.”

If you’re in charge of support for a big enough service, chances are your customers often face the same issues. Many companies have built help centers with lengthy articles. But most customers won’t scroll through those pages when they face an issue.

That’s why Stonly thinks you need to make this experience more interactive. The service lets you create scripted guides with multiple questions to make this process less intimidating. Some big companies have built question-based help centers, but Stonly wants to give tools to small companies so they can build their own scenarios.

A Stonly module is basically a widget you can embed on any page or blog. It works like a deck of slides with buttons to jump to the relevant slide. Companies can create guides in the back end without writing a single line of code. You can add an image, a video and some code to each slide.

At any time, you can see a flowchart of your guide to check that everything works as expected. You can translate your guides in multiple languages, as well.

Once you’re done and the module is live, you can look back at your guides and see how you can improve them. Stonly lets you see if users spend more time on a step, close the tab and drop in the middle of the guide, test multiple versions of the same guide, etc.

But the startup goes one step further by integrating directly with popular support services, such as Zendesk and Intercom. For instance, if a user contacts customer support after checking a Stonly guide, you can see in Zendesk what they were looking at. Or you can integrate Stonly in your Intercom chat module.

Editor 01

As expected, a service like Stonly can help you save on customer support. If users can solve their own issues, you need a smaller customer support team. But that’s not all.

“It’s not just about saving money, it’s also about improving engagement and support,” Fogel said.

Password manager company Dashlane is a good example of that. Fogel previously co-founded Dashlane before starting Stonly. And it’s one of Stonly’s first clients.

“Dashlane is a very addictive product, but the main issue is that you want to help people get started,” he said. It’s true that it can be hard to grasp how you’re supposed to use a password manager if you’ve never used one in the past. So the onboarding experience is key with this kind of product.

Stonly is free if you want to play with the product and build public guides. But if you want to create private guides and access advanced features, the company has a Pro plan ($30 per month) and a Team plan (starting at $100 per month with bigger bills as you add more people to your team and use the product more extensively).

The company has tested its product with a handful of clients, such as Dashlane, Devialet, Happn and Malt. The startup has raised an undisclosed seed round from Eduardo Ronzano, Thibaud Elzière, Nicolas Steegmann, Renaud Visage and PeopleDoc co-founders. And Stonly is currently part of the Zendesk incubator at Station F.

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.

Dec
19
2018
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Dataiku raises $101 million for its collaborative data science platform

Dataiku wants to turn buzzwords into an actual service. The company has been focused on data tools for many years, before everybody started talking about big data, data science and machine learning.

And the company just raised $101 million in a round led by Iconiq Capital, with Alven Capital, Battery Ventures, Dawn Capital and FirstMark Capital also participating.

If you’re generating a lot of data, Dataiku helps you find a meaning behind data sets. First, you import your data by connecting Dataiku to your storage system. The platform supports dozens of database formats and sources — Hadoop, NoSQL, images, you name it.

You can then use Dataiku to visualize your data, clean your data set, run some algorithms on your data in order to build a machine learning model, deploy it and more. Dataiku has a visual coding tool, or you can use your own code.

But Dataiku isn’t just a tool for data scientists. Even if you’re a business analyst, you can visualize and extract data from Dataiku directly. And because of its software-as-a-service approach, your entire team of data scientists and data analysts can collaborate on Dataiku.

Clients use it to track churn, detect fraud, forecast demand, optimize lifetime values and more. Customers include General Electric, Sephora, Unilever, KUKA, FOX and BNP Paribas.

With today’s funding round, the company plans to double its staff. The company currently works with 200 people in New York, Paris and London. It plans to open offices in Singapore and Sydney, as well.

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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