sold and bought back, the startup has been following its adventure for 15 years

Pierre-Henri Deballon’s main driving force is freedom. A value transmitted by an enterprising father and a mother who had the audacity to resign to show her disagreement with an employer’s decision.

🇧🇷 They never tried to guide me to medicine or lawhe explains to Maddyness. They just invited me to do something I like… but to do it until the end. 🇧🇷

That frame of mind is still vibrant with him, even fifteen years after Weezevent’s release. Pierre-Henri Deballon is an entrepreneur who develops his competitive spirit and who refuses to take shortcuts.

From bootstrap to resale

It all started in September 2007, when Pierre-Henri Deballon and Sébastien Tonglet resigned to create their company’s statutes a few months later, in April 2008. In 2010, its annual turnover peaked at 30,000 euros.

🇧🇷 The first phase of Weezevent was the big leap into the void and the bootstrapdescribes Pierre Henri. And I think it’s good to remember because people often have the idea of ​​an entrepreneur who has a brilliant idea and for whom everything is easy. The reality is that creating an innovative company takes a long time.”

The next phase is not necessarily easier. They achieve profitability but reinvest it all back into the product. By his own admission, Pierre-Henri Deballon doesn’t consider himself great at fundraising. He tried unsuccessfully in 2011. By the time he Weezevent wins the Fast500 competition which suddenly puts them on the radar of many funds.

The startup’s CEO calls this period ” backgrounds i love you too 🇧🇷

In 2014, acquisition proposals multiplied. Pierre-Henri remembers amounts that could have completely changed his life.

The 2 founders have been working for seven years like crazy and they wonder seriously.

If they resell, they are covered for a long time. If they don’t resell and the box breaks, they’ve lost everything. Pierre-Henri and Sébastien are former athletes and stability is not the number one criterion when choosing. They find a middle choice.

Acquired by Vente Privée (on the sly)

To get out of the bottom that was in the capital of Weezevent, Pierre-Henri Deballon and Sébastien Tonglet resell to Vente Privée (since rebranded as Veepee).

🇧🇷 They bought back the 30 points that this fund had and Sébastien and I withdrew. Finally, we sold 60% of the capital to Vente Privée. So, actually, we sell… but we never say that. 🇧🇷

This was also part of the deal with the e-commerce giant, which agreed to create a rather unprecedented situation. 🇧🇷 What they did is pretty crazy, emphasizes Pierre-Henri. A theoretically more structured group would not have performed the operation. But the fact that Veepee is a little punk in his mindset (and so are we) made it a pretty unlikely deal.”

A reality that would not have been possible without the personality of Jacques-Antoine Granjon, the emblematic CEO of Veepee who quickly realized that Pierre-Henri and Sébastien would make terrible employees and that it was better to remain in this business dynamic.

🇧🇷 We act like we never sold and we’re in full controlreports Pierre-Henri again. So much so that we buy boxes without warning 🇧🇷

However, an attempt at synergy was foreseen when Vente Privé was in the process of structuring an “entertainment” department. Mayonnaise won’t stick and Veepee won’t insist on giving them this incredible freedom.

🇧🇷 We had this kind of immunity totem pole because Weezevent kept delivering year after year, exceeding our goals. And finally, Veepee did a really good multiple. Because this unprecedented deal finally ended in 2020 at the instigation of the small startup.

🇧🇷 We arrived at the entrance of COVID in full healthPierre-Henri confides to me. We had growth, profitability, cash. I even think to myself that it could turn into an opportunity with all of our competitors losing money and possibly disappearing. 🇧🇷

Thanks to the aids that will be unlocked quickly, this situation will not happen, but Weezevent is making the most counterintuitive choice possible. 🇧🇷 We decided to use our own money to be offensive. We were entering a crisis period, a time when everyone naturally tended to be defensive. We went on the attack.”

The two co-founders decide to buy Veepee’s shares to regain full control of their company. Pierre-Henri describes himself, along with his co-founder, as true entrepreneurs, ” subject dingoes » who find the idea of ​​having sold most of their capital rather difficult. As soon as they had the opportunity, they recovered 100% of the shares they share 50/50 with Sébastien.

Parallel to the acquisition of Veepee, Weezevent is also acquiring PlayPass, a Belgian competitor that is recovering at a very good price, since it was the only buyer during this period of crisis.

The startup thus emerges from the pandemic stronger than ever, the company that has always known how to show profitability since 2012, managed in 2021 the feat of doubling its turnover compared to 2019 (2020 being a year in glass) by making the activities of the PlayPass.

The start-up is therefore moving from a Franco-French company to a player that now generates half of its turnover abroad (compared to 95% in France previously).

Today, Weezevent can boast of reaching over 250 million in turnover with 150 employees in 6 offices. 🇧🇷 The ambition now is to become a European leader 🇧🇷

Freedom as a driver of entrepreneurship

If there was a small entrepreneur manual, Weezevent would make a point of not following any advice. In fact, Pierre-Henri completely takes the step away from the usual patterns to identify his own path, the one in which he flourished for more than fifteen years.

Because it took a decade and a half for the startup to become interested in growing outside of France, where many players would have already begun to conquer the world much earlier.

🇧🇷 We decided to be very strong in a small territory before exporting. We don’t want to be a small player in 50 countries. I also saw maps in the competitor’s business plan where there was almost a red cross in France as we have a strong position here. Likewise, we are not taking a stand on the United States. We prefer to have the ambition to create a very big and very solid European player. We prefer to be in this European Union also because there is a sense of control: we have the same currency, the same legislation… it is a little more rational from a development point of view 🇧🇷

Weezevent is therefore an atypical player at all levels. Few innovative companies have found a profitability model that can become a European leader, buy up foreign competitors and generate substantial turnover.

🇧🇷 And all this while preserving what is often the engine of an entrepreneur: freedom. Because as soon as you raise funds, eventually you come to a boss who can block decisions and who you have to ask permission from. You are already in a parenting relationship. And deep down what moves me is really being free 🇧🇷

Unsurprisingly, Pierre-Henri laments the importance given to fundraising in the French startup ecosystem.

🇧🇷 This is the case with Next40, for example, where the entry criterion is the value of your collection. I find it so reductive. When I was little, I loved Monopoly… but if you can play by rolling the dice three times, I think there’s less merit than winning by playing by the rules. Not that you cheat when raising funds… but creating a business involves creating value, which is also your corporate purpose. The initial game is to say that with one euro I can create more. If you raise one euro and make another euro… you are doing nothing, you have not created value, you have not created jobs. I admire a baker who has a positive result at the end of the year and who finances two or three jobs much more than someone who raised 100 million and loses 50 a year 🇧🇷

He will soften his remarks by explaining that he would be the first to applaud if an entrepreneur lost money for several years before creating something extraordinary, but that too often we have come to glorify fundraising rather than value creation.

🇧🇷 To take an Eventbrite as an example, I think their product is extraordinary and what they’ve done is quite impressive. But when I look at it from that point of view, I don’t blush in front of them. When we raised 1 million euros, Eventbrite raised 10. Then we never raised funds again. In turn, they raised 40, then 100, then 400, until the IPO. Today, Eventbrite is worth more than we are. But if you look at the numbers, cumulatively from the beginning, we made a lot more money than they did. And it’s a box that lost 50% of its value this year on the stock market when today we doubled in size, again this year we have profitability, growth, etc. We have a model that was longer but is much stronger 🇧🇷

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