MALT co-founder, Vincent Huguet, finalized a 25 million euro fundraising in early 2019 to once again accelerate its growth. Present in Spain and Germany, the company is now targeting sales of over €1 billion in Europe by 2023.
What was your background prior to forming MALT?
I did EDHEC, a business school. In 1998, I created one of the first French Internet companies called Dromadaire.com, a small niche market, a pioneer site in electronic postcards. I did it for a bit of fun then I moved to Mexico for a few years where I still worked on internet topics but in larger structures. At the same time as a dromedary, I had formed a company that delivered flowers to Mexico. I came back to France in 2006 when the ecosystem was moving forward and dromedary had developed in the audience but we weren’t monetizing it yet. The company grew to around fifty people and proved to be very profitable, a niche market but very worthy. We also launched a company in business card printing in SME segment from TPE, OPrint.
When and how did the idea for Malt finally come about?
There were two factors. I was one of the first AirBNB hosts in Paris in 2009, and three weeks later the team came to Paris. I saw this concept of the market, which was closely related to the community. In 2012, I wanted to start all over again with a company of my own aspirations, suited to a larger market. In fact, during my entrepreneurial experiences, I have encountered many situations where I did not have the necessary internal resources to perform, for example, a communication action. I told myself it was a real shame there was no opportunity to find the right person to join our team and accomplish. There were platforms that made it possible to find a designer, cheaply, in gold. I then met in 2012, who became my collaborators, who were freelancers, Java developers. They are part of this first wave of people leaving IT services companies. We combined our vision and saw that we can enter the huge 300 billion euro market. We launched Malt in June 2013.
Was the concept the same from the start?
More or less yes, except that initially we focused on start-ups. Increasingly, the larger accounts, which were in the process of being developed, wanted to innovate, reorganized themselves as a team and flocked to the site. They wanted enough autonomy and control along with very secure payment systems. Today, we work with thousands of clients, but also with 80% of CAC40 which represent a substantial portion of our income.
What have been the main phases since 2013?
They are quite marked by fundraising because they highlight that we are moving past a plateau. We really need to invest in acquiring new resources, especially with regard to products. After 6 months of fundraising, we typically see a positive dropout. We did our first funding with Business Angels in 2014, then with ISAI Fund in 2015, with Serena in 2016, and last with ID Invest in 2019. Each time, it corresponds to the maturity stages of the company, the seniority of the people, talent or internationalization. In 2016 – 2017, we launched in Spain and Germany at the end of last year. We are still at the beginning but it also represents big steps.
What were the various fundraisers used for?
While raising funds from Business Angels, we had a few clients and freelancers. We could have already achieved a lot and had income, but the business was still in its infancy. This helped us to recruit qualified people and save time. We could have done it self-financing but we would have recruited much less quickly and we would have passed the levels very slowly. For example, we could not recruit more senior profiles and would have had to spend time training. Fundraising can also invest in advertising, but for us, it was above the whole team and the product.
What are the biggest challenges ahead?
We have two. One that stems from the fact that large companies are realizing that they can no longer just work in consulting with the big players but they have to deal with freelancers as well. They feel that talents are rapidly taking up this position and hence they should seek them out. The stakes are high because a bank, for example, can spend up to $1 billion on it. Perhaps today they need less mentoring but more implementers developing concepts. The second challenge is to replicate our model. We could live in France because the market is huge, but from the start we wanted to be international. Market by market, we have to take what we’ve done and adapt it to each country. We have to recreate a community of clients and freelancers.
Are there any special difficulties?
Unlike the United States, market fragmentation remains a problem in Europe. You have to understand that the notoriety you have in the market in France for example is not at all like Germany. Our ways follow us but not notoriety. So it takes time and American companies are competing with a great strike force. Recruiting people who match the right velocity is also a challenge. At each stage of the business, you need to find the right people who can join the team. Everything is often a story of meetings because of most of the occasions and our issues discussed. They lead to the fact that we are introduced to future colleagues.
Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Not necessary. I wanted to work in consumer marketing. It was fortunate that during meetings with entrepreneurs, I started. The trigger is because I knew the Internet long ago. I was a rather geek on premise and I worked extensively as a small framework. The general thread is how we connect supply and demand through the Internet. After tasting entrepreneurship and making my own decisions, I wanted to continue.
What do you like most about entrepreneurship?
There is the freedom to know that if we have a personal emergency, such as a sick child, we can continually reorganize ourselves. The downside is that it overwhelms our responsibility, i.e. we have to prepare for the time being. We have created a culture in the company where we make sure that everyone can feel like an entrepreneur and have enough autonomy to be able to say “I have an emergency to manage. I get organized.” I’ve been.” We’re not going to look behind people and I appreciate that. I also enjoy getting up in the morning and meeting the people I work with, especially since we spend a lot of our time at work. We have a vision and we want to be able to choose who we do it with and the same is true for investors. Finally, having an impact on the economy and seeing how we can serve our customers inspires me.
We could have done it self-financing but we would have recruited much less quickly and we would have passed the levels very slowly.
2 Tips from Vincent Huguet
- Don’t ask yourself too many questions. The question is not about spending time on power points, but about going into the field. You have to act on and analyze customer feedback. Make mistakes, iterate and go back if necessary and never stick to principle to move towards success.
- We’ll choose who we associate with and work with. This includes investors who are just not money. They certainly represent 50% of the funding but also mentor, support and network. They have undeniable value. When you’re an entrepreneur, you quickly realize that you need people around you and that you can’t get very far on your own. You have to choose them well because you will spend many years with your associates and investors.