In the past ten years, we’ve done something no one’s ever done before: launching companies as a team. The majority of startups are launched…
In the past ten years, we’ve done something no one’s ever done before: launching companies as a team. The majority of startups are launched by a couple of founders, who in the early beginnings are by themselves trying to get their ideas off the ground. At eFounders, startups are launched not by just a couple of founders, but with a core-team of 15 people, who team up and build altogether. It’s what makes us unique, and what we call team entrepreneurship. And despite the singularity of the model, we’ve made it work and even proved it could be virtuous. In ten years, we’ve created more than 30 companies with a total valuation of over $3B USD! But scaling our model without compromising on what’s made us unique all along is tough. Building many more companies at once would mean losing the crucial human element of team entrepreneurship. And so our only way to scale the model is to add new verticals and work with other entrepreneurs. We’ve successfully tested it by launching a fintech studio with Logic Founders and we will try to replicate it on other verticals.
A model of Team Entrepreneurship
Ten years ago, we developed a new model of parallel entrepreneurship: the Startup Studio. We decided to take on a different approach than existing structures like Venture Builders. The companies would not only be built from scratch but would originate from our own ideas with a clear goal of becoming fully independent, both financially and operationally after 18 months. We were convinced and still are, that the only way we could attract true entrepreneurs and create companies with their own unique culture was if we made our startups fully independent.
The startup studio model is based on the simple premise that a team of people can achieve more than a couple of individuals. While it sounds obvious, it is contrary to the classic entrepreneurship tale that depicts a couple of founders locked up in a garage in Palo Alto. Do not get me wrong, I am not saying it doesn’t work, it can bring great benefits (high celerity, no consensus) but it is certainly not the only way to build companies. Bringing together a lot of successful people helps to address more complex issues and achieve faster and better results, which are essential qualities in a rapidly-changing and fast-growing tech market. The team we bring on board to help the cofounders is only temporarily there, and they’re not intended to help any longer. Our goal at eFounders is to make the company completely independent within 18 months, which is an essential step for the company to gain its own culture and DNA
Much like YC helped define the accelerator model, we helped define the concept of the startup studio. eFounders has inspired many studios that have replicated our internal structure, capital repartition, rituals, communications and even names, hundreds of times across different geographies and verticals. And while dozens of large studios have disappeared in the last decade, we are still going strong ten years later. We are still excited as if it was the early beginnings and eager to go further than we could have ever imagined.
10 Years in Numbers
Our ten-year anniversary is a great time to reflect on all of our accomplishments as a team. In ten years the core team grew from 2 (Quentin and I) to a team of 15 people today, with Didier and Amaury joining us as partners a while back. We have launched 32 companies including five that have been acquired (Mention, Mailjet, TextMaster, Hivy, Briq). They’ve all raised a total of 500M EUR with tens of VCs in the US and in Europe. We now have 16 independent companies in our portfolio, that are valued at 3B USD and employ almost 2000 employees in more than 16 countries. Given these numbers, we can only conclude that the model is working and might even be worth replicating.
In other words, if eFounders were a startup, it would employ 1833 people, make 153M EUR in revenue, and would be valued at 2.5B EUR (multiple x16). A rather successful business if you ask me 😄
And while our numbers clearly spell out success and growth, the year 2021 was a reminder that not all of our companies follow the same trajectory. While team entrepreneurship does stack the odds in our companies’ favor, we need to be reminded that the majority of startups fail. In the past year, we closed the first company that ever came out of our studio (Station — eF16, which didn’t find its product-market-fit despite a fast launch) but also celebrated our first unicorn (Aircall — eF14)!
It is fair to say that we’ve managed to create a successful model in a specific vertical. Now, this raises the question of what this would look like in other verticals. Productivity SaaS has been the core of our business for ten years. And it’s a market that’s been particularly boosted by fast digitalisation and remote work. We believe that there are still many opportunities to create on this market, but there are also more fields to play out there. This is what led us to launch Logic Founders with Camille Tyan, to specifically address the fintech market. The last 8 months have confirmed that it is a good strategy and we are actively working on opening new verticals like manufacturing, health, blockchain etc.
Building a company cannot be industrialized. Each new company requires a huge amount of personal commitment, resources, and time. This is why we believe that every studio should be managed independently by an entrepreneur with deep knowledge of the industry. By doing this, we’ll be able to create 4 to 5 startups per year and per vertical. That will be our play to scale the startup studio model. But it is still a serious challenge as we have to demonstrate that we can make the startup studio model work not only because we were at the right place at the right time but also because we’ve figured out how to create a company as a team — in any given industry.
What has always been particularly exciting at eFounders — and partly the reason why we decided to follow this path instead of launching one single software company — is that it’s allowed us to imagine a completely new form of organisation where everything has to be invented: how we get financed, how we hire, how we attract entrepreneurs, how we get visibility, how we build and make our projects independents. Going from a startup studio to a meta-studio opens new challenges in terms of organisation. What kind of profile should we partner with to launch new verticals? How should they incentivised? Should they help finance the startup they help creating? What is their relationships with the core-team? Should the core-team be specific or shared among studios? Should the historic studio also become a vertical? What will be the role of the historic partners in this organisation?
As usual, we will be learning by doing, launching a first, then a second startup studio, taking a step back, adjusting, and iterating again. We have been building eFounders the way we like building products. That’s what brings us joy and keeps us motivated and excited to continue this wild adventure for the years to come.
10 years in Letters
This one is the 9th eFounders Letter. I posted one letter every year since 2013 in September/October to take a step back and review the achievements of the current year. We discussed the birth and evolution of the Startup Studio model, the rise of the SaaS market, the growth strategy of eFounders, and now the emergence of a never-seen-before model: the meta-studio.
- 2013 : Efounders Letter 1 : DNA of a Startup Studio
- 2014 : eFounders Letter 2 : Birth of a Startup Studio
- 2015 : eFounders Letter 3 : Rise of a Startup Studio
- 2016 : eFounders Letter 4 : Time to touch base
- 2017 : eFounders Letter 5 : A startup Studio on a Mission
- 2018 : eFounders Letter 6 : A Software Galaxy
- 2019 : eFounders Letter 7 : Cracking the Startup Studio Model
- 2020 : eFounders Letter 8 : Scaling the Startup Studio Model