Hexa (eFounders), the nugget factory of the tech ecosystem
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In 2011, Thibaud Elzière, who had already created the Fotolia image bank, set himself a challenge with his partner Quentin Nickmans: to set up a start-up creation factory to give birth to the future champions of French tech. and European. This ambition materialized with the launch of the start-up studio eFounders, a structure that stands out compared to incubators and other accelerators in the ecosystem. “The real difference is that the ideas come from us. We will partner with entrepreneurs who will come to see us. And for 18 months, we will transform this idea into a completely independent company”, summarizes Thibaud Elzière, co-founder of eFounders. Each year, between three and four young shoots are born.
Rather than taking the example of Rocket Internet, a pioneer of start-up studios in Europe which had specialized in copying very popular e-commerce sites in the United States, eFounders preferred to contribute to the creation of SaaS solutions intended to simplify daily business. In twelve years of existence, the Franco-Belgian start-up studio has launched around thirty companies, which have raised more than 700 million dollars. Among the companies created, three have become unicorns, like the start-up Aircall, which specializes in business telephony in the cloud. The latter has also integrated last year the very closed circle of centaurs, these companies whose recurring annual income is greater than 100 million dollars.
Hexa, a structure to multiply start-up studios in new sectors
But rather than continue to quietly grow his SaaS B2B activities, Thibaud Elzière wanted to push the concept a step further by diversifying into new horizons. In 2021, the French entrepreneur launched Logic Founders, a start-up studio dedicated to fintech, before doing it again last year by deploying 3Founders, a start-up factory which this time targets the flourishing Web3 sector. As with eFounders, these new start-up studios engage the young shoots created in a cycle of 12 to 18 months, at the end of which they must fly on their own to impose themselves on their market.
After fintech and Web3, Thibaud Elzière and Quentin Nickmans also have ideas for other sectors. This is why they launched Hexa at the end of 2022, a structure which makes it possible to oversee the various start-up studios deployed, including eFounders. Health, education, artificial intelligence and the climate are among the fields of action that the entrepreneurial duo wishes to explore by launching start-up incubators dedicated to these themes. “We are going to stay in B2B SaaS. In the climate, for example, we are not going to create a new form of wind turbine, we are going to think about how to address the climate emergency through the creation of B2B software. If we change industry and vertical, we don’t change our horizontal”says Thibaud Elzière.
However, can the slowdown in fundraising in tech in recent months, essential for the take-off of companies created in start-up studios, constitute an obstacle to their development? Not really, believes the co-founder of Hexa, who on the contrary judges that the timing is ideal, by reinforcing the notion of “team entrepreneurship”, which in his eyes characterizes start-up studios. “Today, it’s ten times harder to raise seed than last year. It’s in these kinds of situations that the notion of start-up studio and entrepreneurship takes on its full meaning”, he believes. Before adding: “I think there has never been such a good time to launch start-ups. You have to raise funds, but you shouldn’t look for short-term profitability. The search for very short-term profitability does not makes no sense in tech, even if a company is ultimately intended to be profitable.” Good news for Hexa and newly created start-ups, fundraising is starting to pick up. But with less delusional valuations this time?