Over the past 11 years, eFounders has refined the startup studio model in Europe. The company has helped launch more than 30 different startups, including three unicorns – Spendesk, Aircall and Front.
While things seem to be going well for the startup studio, eFounders is pivoting — sort of. Starting today, eFounders becomes Hexa, a holding company for various startup studios.
You could have seen this change coming because eFounders was not just eFounders for a while. In addition to its initial studio focused on the future of work, eFounders has already launched two new studios — Logic Founders for fintech startups and 3founders for web3 startups.
Hexa will manage three different studios – Logic Founders, 3founders and, yes, eFounders. So what’s going on with eFounders?
“I started writing an article on LinkedIn saying this was the last time I would write as the founder of eFounders,” eFounders co-founder Thibaud Elzière told me. But it’s not going anywhere as the core eFounders team is just going to work for Hexa now.
Just like other Hexa studios, there is a dedicated eFounders team with a studio lead as well as a core team of product people. Matthieu Vaxelaire is now at the head of eFounders.
Together, the Hexa companies have hired 3,000 people and reached a total valuation of $5 billion. And Hexa is not going to change its formula in the future. Hexa’s startup studios combine an idea with a founding team.
The studio team then provides resources and helps launch a product. After raising funds, startups gain their independence and the startup studio can move on and focus on new projects.
“We have reached a limit in terms of scalability. It’s a virtuous model but it’s also very artisanal work,” Elzière told me. In addition to supporting Hexa’s existing studios, the company wants to launch studios around new verticals, such as climate, education and healthcare.
But that will depend on which studio heads they meet and end up hiring. Hexa aims to launch two new studios next year.
“It’s a crazy bet for us. We create a brand from scratch. And we’re doing it because eFounders is a strong brand when it comes to SaaS startups, but also because eFounders was outperforming other studios,” Elzière said.
A stake of 30%
“What we do with Hexa is that we democratize team entrepreneurship. We offer an alternative to traditional entrepreneurship,” said Elzière. “Like many things in life, when you work as a team, it works better.”
But that doesn’t mean that Hexa and its startup studios launch new startups for fun. They take an important part in every new startup.
“We want to launch more startups. But it costs us around €800,000 to start a business. We can either invest money ourselves or create a small fund like Y Combinator. Investors could contribute and they would end up on the caps table.
When Hexa’s startup studios launch a new startup, they try to retain a 30% stake in the company after raising a seed round. With third-party investors, Hexa could reduce its stake to something like 25%, and investors would get 5%.
Hexa’s own stake would be split between Hexa and each startup studio. “You would have 5 to 10% that would be allocated to the studio head and his team,” Elzière said. Ultimately, Hexa and its partners would still take a 30% stake. Then it would be shared between several partners.
“This deal may seem a bit unfair,” Elzière said. But he thinks eFounders’ track record speaks for itself. With about 3 unicorns out of 30 portfolio companies, entrepreneurs are more likely to create a unicorn with the help of eFounders than without. Essentially, founders can potentially get a smaller portion of a bigger pie.
The life and death of startup studios
But where exactly does Hexa come from? It comes from the hexadecimal numbering system. In particular, hexadecimals are used to represent binary digits (0 and 1) in computer programming. Each hexadecimal character represents a sequence of four binary digits.
“For me, it’s the simplest expression of the human-machine interface,” Elzière said. As a bonus, hexadecimal characters are also used by designers for color codes.
He thinks startup studios will work like startups. Some of them will thrive, others will fail. “The studios will have a certain lifespan. At some point, they’re going to run out of steam because the studio head won’t be around or there won’t be any more opportunities,” Elzière said. As always, we will judge the quality of Hexa’s work by the new startups that emerge from these studios.
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