Zenride, the company that will make you love cycling

Interview with Olivier Issali, co-founder and chairman of GenRide, which has just raised EUR 8 million from Alter Equity Impact Fund and the RATP Group to accelerate its growth.

What was your background before creating XenRide?

I have an engineering background which I stopped on the way. I formed my first company at the age of 21 in video games called Ovalient and which made equestrian sport. We created equideow.com on the web in 2005 before the proliferation of mobile games. When we sold it to Ubisoft in 2011, there were about sixty of us in the studio where I spent 3 years. At that point, we made up three-quarters of our business overseas. Later, I founded a second travel company called Myatlas.com, a platform for travel enthusiasts, and we managed to create an integrated travel agency. It was more successful in terms of viewership than turnover and was revived in 2019. Next, I started a business angel activity and through it, I met Antoine and Thomas, my colleagues at GenRide. The company was already formed in 2018 when I joined them but was still in its infancy. In 2019, they acquired the first customer, which was Castelli in water fountains, but the activity actually started in mid-2019 with the signing of our first major customer, Joe Euler Herms.

At that time, the business model was the same as it is now?

Since 2019, the product and commercial offerings have been almost the same, but on the other hand, the operational model is different from the existing model as we buy bikes directly from the manufacturers and we store them in a warehouse. Then we will deliver them to the customer and we will manage the after-sales service. In 2019, we decided to do things differently and work with a network of partner stores. Today, we have over 250 partner stores in France, where our customers’ staff can choose their bikes and who will provide after-sales service. This is a real force on 2 levels. The first is that they have access to the full range of bicycles in the market, which means they can actually find a bicycle that matches their daily use, be it electric bicycle, city bicycle, bicycle racing Ho … Above all, it allows us to be present throughout France, which means that we have been able to establish a successful partnership with leading accounts such as Veolia, Saint-Gobain … We have established a framework with them The contracts have been signed and we are in deployment of our solutions across all their subsidiaries.

So what are you doing for them today?

Major accounts are our customers and they have three needs. They have a major concern, which is to decarbonize work-from-home travel and they must further assess their carbon footprint. We also help them strengthen their employer brand with a benefit that really has an impact on a daily basis because employees tell us we make them smile twice a day and they also have an employee health issue. how do we do ? By converting more and more of their workforce to cycling and for this, beyond the early adopters, they must be taken up hand, with a complete and turnkey proposition, which is a trigger to meet the truly long-term rental . Equipment: bikes, helmets, especially locks as well as all daily services that assure bike pulling, breaking, maintenance or modification of bikes as well as assistance for e-learning road safety, which is important because Some have not cycled for a long time. This training is used to support employees in a way that is on their “back in the saddle”. We are long as these are 36 months rental and up to 70% of the monthly rent will be borne by both the company by the company and the rest by the employee through payroll, where as for restaurant vouchers, there is a company bike line. This is often a real trigger for employees as participation of up to 70% is very interesting to them. They are very happy as they walk into the shop without taking out the bank card.

What were the big steps in getting you where you are today?

Initially it was necessary to convince the customers first and it whether in 2018 or 2019, and it was not easy in the beginning. Then, as I already mentioned, the operational model changed in 2019 with partner stores. At the end of the imprisonment we had a fast where we signed many big accounts like Veolia. At that point there was a real acceleration that pushed us forward. These various key accounts are in the process of establishing us across all subsidiaries from 2020 onwards and converting ourselves into a framework contract. I forgot the funding phase because in January 2020, just before COVID, we did a round table and about fifteen business angels took part in this round table, which was 550,000 euros, made more sober during confinement Diya (laughs). We recently took a new step as we raised 8 million euros from Alter Equity which is a leading fund especially on topics with environmental impacts and RATP Capital Innovations which is an investment structure of RATP that seeks to promote cycling Because it complements public transport. She strongly believes in this model of funding by the company which has proven itself and which is proving to be very developed in Germany.

Why did you do this second fundraiser?

We raised money for many reasons. First, because we are in the business of long term rental companies and equity capital is essential in these businesses. It’s good to have a strong back because we are talking about 36 months rental, so you have to manage the operations and the workforce.
More classically, we have a lot of recruiting to do at the sales and marketing level. We have found our position on very large accounts and now we are going to put our flag in CAC 40 and usually in SBF 120. Large accounts and ETI still has 7 million employees in France and we can go there and take market share. Later we would like to join VSE/SME as we have started getting requests. Then again, we have requests from operational fleets for cargo bikes, for example, always with a desire to decarbonize. Finally, to invest in product and technical recruitment as well as for international installations because some customers ask us if we can support them in other subsidiaries located abroad and especially in Europe. Recruitment in general will be one of our challenges, finding “dirty” profiles for key accounts, marketing, and tech in particular.

Is this experience different from your first experience?

I would say the first one was more emotion based. I approach it more professionally with more vision and more experience. This makes it possible to be more proficient on multiple subjects. It’s quite different because I was only 21 in my first company and I had no experience building a company, even that of a company. Clearly, the experience and network change the game completely. Plus, when you’ve already sold a company to Ubisoft, it makes things a lot easier, if only for part of the financing. The context of start-ups is also very different, especially in terms of financing. We raised 3 million euros in our first company and it has nothing to do with today. It’s so easy now I think. Also, earlier I was in BTOC and now we are developing in BTOB. I think the commercial approach is more rational because it is true that it is more “process”. BTOC is always a dream but there is always an irrational part in the buying decision that we don’t really understand.

What is the biggest difficulty facing you?

We had a supply crunch, especially during the big post-deconfinement boom, which resulted in stress on it. It was a bit complicated, but thanks to big e-tailers like our partner store, Decathlon.fr, we got it well. The second concern is financing because we finance our clients and therefore work with donors and financial partners because we had to give them a rental contract. This relationship is a relationship of trust which takes a long time to build. This is done little by little but trust naturally takes time to establish even though it keeps getting better and better as we have been working together for 3 years.

Do you have any advice for entrepreneurs?

I think it’s most important to ask the right questions at launch: one shouldn’t do it for the wrong reasons and ask the question “Why am I undertaking?”. On a daily basis, entrepreneurship represents a lot of work or pressure, so you have to be realistic and know that there will be a lot of sacrifices. If you start for the wrong reasons, you won’t last the distance. For example, one thing I appreciate is freedom.

“I think at launch you have to ask yourself the right questions above all: You shouldn’t start a business for the wrong reasons and ask yourself the question “Why am I starting a business? ,

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