Earlier this month, at a Frog Valley event, at Runway East in London, Thibaut Munier, COO Numberly shared his journey of creating, launching and IPO his business originally called 1000mercis, a data marketing, CRM and programmatic advertising company. He described his journey as being extremely focused and data driven.
Thibaut explained where his inspiration came from. One afternoon his life changed when his wife to be, Yseulys Costes, was sorting out gifts for the fast approaching Christmas. She was using Post-Its but realised that there could be a more efficient and modern way of doing, using a computer and a database. This was 17 years ago. From an idea borne in a kitchen, they created a business called 1000Mercis and quickly realised this database was more than sorting out ideas and understanding what consumer want, and all geared towards digital marketing and data usage.
In 2004, they needed to raise money and they were fortunate to meet Marc Simoncini, a serial entrepreneur and investor, who invested €5mill in 1000mercis. Thibaut noted that this was their first and only round of fundraising. At that time no one was truly interested in data with the preference being getting things done the traditional way, however they focused on working with startups, who were the only one giving attention to data, and within a couple of years they became a profitable business.
In 2005/06, the company started to grow significantly. Now in their sixth year, they had 35 employees, data was gaining interesting and the company began to generate a buzz. They were offered acquisition a few times, however they systematically refused, and they decided to go through IPO to boost their growth. They had absolutely no idea about the financial side of things, they did not even have a CFO, however they learnt a lot along the way. They made it happen within four months and in one day went from two shareholders to 13,000 (they kept over 50% of the business equity). Choosing an IPO was a good decision as they did not have pressure from a board of investors, they had six years of learning, and they were ready to face more complex challenges and clients.
Following the IPO, one of their employees had to relocate to London, so they grabbed this opportunity to open an office in the UK. They knew nothing about the UK market yet again it was an exciting new venture. They started to work with large corporations, they had to adapt to a more sophisticated way of doing business as they started to work with P&G.
They continued their global expansion and in 2014, Thibaut and his wife moved to Palo Alto, with the view to scale up the business internationally. In addition, they also changed their model to a more product-driven business. On this journey, they discovered Real Time Biding (where cookies are being auctioned). They started to target marketing more efficiently and launched Numberly.
Thibaut stated that all of their global offices are run by women and they are really proud of it, because the focus is on building long term relationship, an ability to grow at a steady pace and having a strong work culture was vital, as opposed to focus on scalability only. At the beginning, Thibaut explained they had no one in sales & no one on marketing. Their focus was on delivering top quality services and ensuring repeating business. To this date, they still are working with people they started with 15 years ago. However Thibaut insisted that, all along the journey, they have managed to keep a strong cultural identity, with this being the key to their success and without the loyal team that they have on board, they would not have gone this far. Having loyal people and a strong vision is critical for the business to grow.
Thibaut quoted Brian Chesky, CEO Airbnb who cited:
“After we closed our Series C with Peter Thiel in 2012, we invited him to our office. This was late last year, and we were in the Berlin room showing him various metrics. Midway through the conversation, I asked him what was the single most important piece of advice he had for us. He replied, “Don’t fuck up the culture'.”
Where we’re at
In addition to sharing his journey, Thibaut shared his view on the digital world: In 2011 machine learning started booming, automated learning researches increased and the end results is that it works. The number of errors have significantly reduced from 28% to 7% for images recognition and down to 4% for speech recognition. The world is becoming about mobile first and Artificial Intelligence. The mobile is eating the world with 2.5bn mobile phones globally. The GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) are going to rule the world, they currently represent $400bn sales per annum. Denmark was the first to appoint an ambassador dedicated to the GAFA.
Data should be part of everything, especially when you start.
Having a strong culture and having loyal people is key to go on a long journey.
Every entrepreneur should write down what their business represents and reinvent themselves on a regular basis. What is key is to build environment in a positive way...? Remembering to have fun at work otherwise it is not worth it.