Scrolling through startup articles, it almost seems like we’re being told interesting information. After all, articles include verbs, like Raises (funds) and there are big shiny numbers, like 20 Million – we read through the rewritten press release, and the author might even give their executive opinion on the product. From a journalist’s point of view, we attempt to write articles about startups (which is, afterall, what we want to do), but we tell startups that they need ‘interesting news’ in order for readers to want to read it, and ‘interesting news’ quickly translates to a new round of funding.
I believe at one point the idea was that raising funds meant a startup was important. If a startup managed to convince investors to put more than a million dollars into an idea, then there was a good chance that startup was going to do something important. From a journalist’s point of view, the right to say “I wrote about them when” gives a little credibility (but we don’t really count all those startups that we write about that don’t go anywhere, do we?).
A different way of doing a startup…
Nowadays investors invest in people, not ideas – and yet, we write about a product or a company raising money. While it may be a great product that ultimately produces revenue, it is great entrepreneurs who bring those products to life. And with that, I present to you, Mathieu Lhoumeau. Mathieu is one of co-founders of Contract Live, a b2b contract management software. Contract Live is entirely bootstrapped and if profitable – that’s right, profitable.
“How did it all start?”
I actually became an entrepreneur by accident. At 18, in 2000, I created a popular website about video games that I later sold. I then studied at Langues’ O, Sciences Po and HEC. I met my co-founder, Florian Parain, at a 100km walk in the Juras region of France organized by HEC’s entrepreneurship organization. We clicked instantly. Florian is a computer genius so we complement each other very well. He masters the technical aspects of Contract Live while I manage marketing and sales.
“What IS Contract-live?”
We started Contract Live in 2010, just about 2 years ago. The idea came from my professional experience working in companies’ legal departments. I wasted so much time searching for contracts and trying to keep track of deadlines using Excel worksheets. It was a significant loss of productivity! I also realized that companies were losing a lot of money because they forgot about deadlines and were therefore unable to renegociate contracts and get better rates. I couldn’t believe companies were still managing their contracts by hand in 2010! We had software for pretty much everything else, so why not contracts? And that’s how Contract Live was born!
How do you know if you’re doing well if you haven’t raise money?
We started out just the two of us in a garage with 8000 euros, and that was it. We worked on Contract Live’s software for 6 months and were fortunate enough to get clients right off the bat. We were also awarded grants for our innovation at Contract Live, which was very helpful. As of yet, we haven’t raised any capital though. We even refused investors last September. It’s not that we’re against investors, perhaps we’ll work with them later on, but for now we just think it’s more important to measure our success by our ability to attract clients, not investors.
This philosophy has been very successful for us. Since we focused on getting clients early we were able to have a stable source of revenue. Contract Live’s offers, which start at prices as low as 40 euros a month, have enabled us to grow to a dozen employees. We even now count Thomas Cook, SuperU, Free and SVP, the French leader in legal counsel for businesses, among our clients.
What’s the future of Contract Live look like?
Circle the client, circle the globe! That’s our motto at Contract Live. Yes, we’re definitely going to expand abroad. As a matter of fact, we’ve already begun testing the waters in Germany.
We’re still focusing on perfecting our contract-management software and adding more features though, so more massive expansion will have to wait a little longer.
Any advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
France is a great country to create a start-up in. A lot of grants are available if entrepreneurs will just go out and get them, the quality of life is impressive, and there are a lot of talented people. However, taxes are very high so creating a start-up can be a little tougher in France than in the U.S. It’s not too big of a deal though. It just means we have to be better than the rest!