In 2013, Sébastien Bencherqui (C13) launched Bubblz, a start-up specialised in company process management and digitalisation. Five years later, he tells us all about his success story.
Bubblz provides clients with an intuitive SaaS platform that makes it super-simple to supervise, secure and analyse various workflows in order to gain in performance and productivity. Moreover, Bubblz enables fields of activity and expertise within an organisation to configure their own application without the need to embark upon tricky and time-consuming encoding. That is quite a feat! How on earth did Sébastien Bencherqui managed to accomplish that even though he was no IT wizard when he started out?
He explains: ‘I am a firm believer in learning by doing. When you develop a project like Bubblz you acquire experience fast in every corporate fields, from coding language to strategy.’ Granted, there are many risks – but they can be managed. ‘At the end of the day,’ asserts Bencherqui, ‘you’ve got to be aware of and know the risks involved – and learn how to control them.’ He offers advice to the potential entrepreneur weighing up the risks. ‘In my opinion, the only real risk is financial, because having entrepreneurial experience sells extremely well on the job market, meaning that there are no risks linked to your potential career outside of your project. In five years I’ve been able to acquire skills that I could never have developed as an employee.’
Sébastien Bencherqui also sought advice from the outset. ‘I don’t see entrepreneurship as a solo adventure. I work with two co-founders, external partners and a whole team who help me on a daily basis. Entrepreneurship means growing together. And building and structuring a team is what gives the most satisfaction and reward.’ He also called on ESSEC Ventures, the school’s in-house incubator and provider of seed funding to student entrepreneur projects, which remains a financial partner to this day, when Bubblz just closed a new round of fund raising. The loyalty of ESSEC Ventures is a testimony to how trustworthy the team at Bubblz is. ‘I’m used to saying that entrepreneurship is the long and winding road towards credibility. When we started we had neither a team, nor money, nor a product, nor a market. But – we had an idea! I recruited a team with whom we developed an initial product. Developing it took us a lot of time and we therefore had to find the financial resources to live out the time it took to generate our first, big turnover. We then realised that the first market we targeted wasn’t optimal. So we had to pivot and aim for a second market. It’s this second, more profitable, market that encouraged new financial partners to join us and enabled us to be where we are today.’
Long live France!
Another partner of Bubblz is the French State. ‘When you’re a tech start-up, the French state offers a lot of support through several scheme such as granting special status for young innovative companies or tax relief for research. Another example is the BPI (French public investment bank) which has a vocation to finance companies throughout their stages of development and which enormously helps companies to grow. However,’ he notes, ‘to benefit from tax relief, you need time,’ something that represented a real workload and kept him busy for 6 full weeks. ‘However after this, the advantages are so extraordinary that it’s worth it. One of our shareholders, Xavier Niel, said that France was a fiscal paradise for entrepreneurs… Even if there may have been a little exaggeration behind this statement, in France we’re in a favourable fiscal environment.’
However, Sébastien Bencherqui did think about setting up in the US. ‘But contrarily to what one might think,’ he asserts, ‘the US aren’t a start-up paradise. The North American ecosystem certainly has advantages in relation to the French ecosystem, notably the capacity to bring together private investment capital, or the fact of accessing a sole market of nearly 300 million people. This isn’t the case in France and in Europe, but the cost of work – that includes level of salary – is 4 to 5 times higher and employees are less loyal.’
A responsible attitude
If Bubblz has trouble structuring a societal approach at this stage, the company is nevertheless aware and proud of supporting initiatives that are dear to it and that let it include the company’s technological skills. ‘Not so long ago,’ recounts Bencherqui, ‘a client came to see us with the idea of creating 1,000 jobs in the communication sector in the Ile-de-France region knowing that there were 60,000 job seekers. The client needed our technology and in one day we were able to deliver the French employment and careers office (Pôle Emploi) a Bubblz module which immediately enabled them to create 40 jobs. They now receive hundreds of job offers a day from recruiters joining the scheme and today, thanks to Bubblz, they can improve the flow of the entire job recruitment process.’
The final three words
When asked to provide three universal tips, regardless of country or nationality, for the budding entrepreneur, Sébastien Bencherqui doesn’t hesitate: ‘I’ll give you three words,’ he says, ‘which for me summarise very well the challenges of the entrepreneur’s adventure: credibility, determination and humility!’
An article by Tom Gamble, International Projects and Communication Manager de l’ESSEC
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