Ecosystem Jan 05, 2018

On the 19th of December 2017, the Partech Shaker hosted Arnaud Burgot, COO of Ulule, the leading European crowdfunding platform. He shared with us the platform’s history, looking at three key moments in its development: the pre-funding stage, the funding itself, and post-fundraising reorganization, with a special focus on HR issues.

Ulule enables creative, innovative and community-minded projects to test their idea, build a community and make it grow. In just 6 years, Ulule has become the leading European crowdfunding platform, with more than 20,000 successfully financed projects, over 1.8 million members worldwide and a record success rate close to 70 %. Behind this speedy success lies personalized coaching provided to each project owner before, during and after his campaign. “Our aim is to empower makers and entrepreneurs at scale, explained Arnaud Burgot. Connecting people and projects is our main motivation, and this is what differentiates us from our competitors. Our business is not driven by financial objectives but by commitment. We do entrepreneurship for entrepreneurs.”


The main pre-fundraising stages
One of the main characteristics of Ulule is that it started with the simultaneous development of two activities: Ulule created in 2010 by Alexandre Boucherot and Thomas Grange and Botify created in 2011 by Adrien Ménard and Arnaud Burgot. Botify, cash positive from Day 1, supported Ulule’s growth, as it was a cash consumer. In 2010, Ulule had 2 employees, 7 members and collected 70,000 euros. One year later, it reached its first million collected for project crowdfunding and had doubled its headcount.
2013 was an important year marked by the first partnership with BNP Paribas for a B-to-B project, which contributed to accelerating growth to 7 million euros collected. However, while some Business angels invested 400,000 euros, no Venture capital funds wanted to invest in a two-activity business. This led to the split of the two activities – Ulule and Botify – in 2014. The same year, Alexandre Boucherot moved to Canada to prepare the future internationalization of Ulule. In 2015, Ulule launched its activities in Canada and became a certified B Corporation. One year later, Ulule, with 39 employees, 25 million euros collected, and 174,000 members raised 5 million euros. “We didn’t want to raise funds earlier because we were convinced that a successful company is a profitable company, stated Arnaud Burgot. But after 6 years in business and 1 million members, we felt frustrated as we had plenty of projects and wanted to accelerate our growth both in terms of products and internationalization.”


The fund-raising
5 million euros raised in Series A in 2016 from Citizen Capital, MAIF Avenir and BNP Paribas Développement. How did we do it?
- No support from levers (6% fees) or merchant banks as Ulule had its own internal communications and financial skills
- Business Plan and Pitch deck prepared in January 2016
- Investors’ round table validated in June 2016
- Funds raised from investors already known to Ulule


The main post-fundraising stages
“After the fundraising stage, Ulule doubled its team from 30 to 60 employees in 8 months, said Arnaud Burgot. This was a very intense phase and we had to change our culture as we suddenly had plenty of cash. We ran our first FB and AdWords campaigns, officially launched our activity in Spain and Italy and launched Okpal, dedicated to collecting money from friends, fans or family to fund small personal or organizational projects.”


Their corporate and HR culture
- Arbitration between fundraising and having a profitable business
- Tech + products are our core business: “Appointing a developer as one of our associates was key to controlling this aspect.”
- Industrial culture: we do ourselves all that can usefully be done. “We believe that relying on consultants means that you disempower yourself. We don’t need a communications agency, but we do say yes to lawyers, PR agencies, innovation’s financing.”
- No initial fundraising to enable long term strategic choices. “Our business model is based on our personalized coaches who support projects’ holders before, during and after their project. We believe that our project holders are our best ambassadors, this is why our coaches are so important. If we had raised funds earlier, we would never have been able to keep up this pace.”
- No Bullshit + “ethic = long term intelligence”: “We only communicate on what we truly believe in. To have a coherent and reliable voice gives you credibility amongst your audience. It attracts people. We communicate a lot with our communities as we know that they will never forget.”


Their organizational and management modes
- Follow the “Ululer Rules”
- Be demanding but benevolent too
- One project = one project leader
- One project = one roadmap + deadline
- Proposing an idea is great, proposing the way to achieve it is better
- It is forbidden to criticize unless you have something better to propose
- The best is the enemy of the good: done is better than perfect


Their organization and team structure
- Try to work as a tandem, each with his own skills: “When we started, Alexandre Boucherot focused on Product/ communications/marketing/Canada and I focused on Finance / HR/ France / International markets excluding Canada.”
- No formalized organigramme as our organization is not static
- One manager for each project/ job


HR growth from 30 to 60 people in 8 months
- Our HR mantra: our team is our biggest asset. Recruiting the right people is key to success.
- We’re not attracted to fancy degrees such as HEC or X. “Experience and recommendation is key. A lot of our staff don’t even have a degree.”
- If there is a doubt = no doubt. “Our recruitment process goes through 3 filters. If one of us is not convinced, we don’t hire the candidate.”
- We have been understaffed for 6 years, so we have had the time to identify the right profiles.
- Our HR manager arrived late in our development, so I fully recommend hiring an internal HR if you are raising funds.


Their attractivity and HR policy
“Our strongest asset to attract talents is that Ulule is a company that makes sense and that has a positive impact. Besides, we offer “street credibility” as well as sexy stack tech to attract good developers, which is key for our business. We offer our employees perks such as private health insurance, restaurant coupons, free fruit and drinks, half-year assessment and “Ulule Swap” whereby any employee can work in the Ulule overseas office of his choice for one week, every year. Staff can book flights a few days before and stay over for the weekend or a week’s holiday.”
Useful tools to ease your HR management: ADP, Lucca, Confluence, Breezy, Spendesk…


A big thank you to Arnaud for this testimony!


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