Alexandre de Vigan started out as a lawyer helping to manage M&A transactions before leaping into the fray with his own startup. The venture Nfinite has attracted funding from top-tier investors like U.S. Venture Partners, Insight Partners, Investisseurs prives, and Pioneer Fund.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Balancing vision and what you need to do to make it happen
- What’s next in marketing tech and merchandising
- How Nfinite is helping brands sell more online
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About Alexandre de Vigan:
Alexandre holds a Master’s degree in business law and taxation from the University of Assas, then Colombia University (USA). He completes his scholarship with a Master’s degree in management at HEC (2011). Alexandre started his career as a business lawyer, specializing in mergers and acquisitions. Then he began his entrepreneurial vocation in 2014 and founded his first start-up Matchimmo, an online real estate acquisition platform. In 2016, after facing the difficulty of decorating his 1st apartment, he created nfinite (ex hubstairs).
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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So I’m very excited about the guests that we have today because we’re gonna be talking about trying and trying and trying you know to make it happen when you have an idea and they. Obviously about not giving up and about being rejected for 3 years back to back by vcs until he was able to make it happen and now he’s in a rocket ship. So I guess without further do let’s welcome our guest today Alexandre, they began welcome to the show.
Alexandre de Vigan: Hi I home on name.
Alejandro Cremades: So originally you know obviously your parents you know from the us also from France but you were you know, born and and raised there in France so give us a little of a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up.
Alexandre de Vigan: Well, yeah I was born in France um, you know, 85 and you know life was great. My father was an entrepreneur and my mother was american and grew up like in any like any kid in in France went to high school then went to law and business school and then and then I started my journey as a merger and acquisition attorney when I exited business school.
Alejandro Cremades: And and and in your case, um obviously having your father being an entrepreneur being able to experience indirectly. The journey I’m sure that that was quite inspiring from you. So so how was that for you like experiencing your dad going through the ups and downs of of building a company.
Alexandre de Vigan: Well, you know, actually this is why I wanted to be a lawyer. It’s just because he was he yeah my my father was a serial entrepreneur and and he was very successful sometimes and some of the times it didn’t work and when it didn’t work. You know. And they needed lawyers so it was kind of a hectic journey. But I think I was I got the virus with him although I’ve experienced very very young the up and down.
Alejandro Cremades: And in your case I mean you did you know management and business. So I mean and and then obviously law. In fact, you did the lllm program in the Us. So so very familiar with that. so so I guess you know how did that mix come together of.
Alexandre de Vigan: Um I.
Alejandro Cremades: Of a low on business I mean why that combination.
Alexandre de Vigan: I Think that that as seeing my father and entrepreneur and also understanding that you know and when an entrepreneur has difficulties or or legal issues that lawyers at the time were. Not understanding anything about business I felt that there was a gap to be filled in in being a lawyer that understand business and this is why I started doing law and and business school and then eventually became a lawyer and then eventually went from becoming a lawyer to becoming an entrepreneur.
Alejandro Cremades: Now you know it’s is’s very interesting your journey because he’s exactly like mine. You know I was a lawyer a lay lamb. You know all of that stuff and then entrepreneurs. So I mean I love it here. What what you’re sharing Now you know I’m sure that for you you know going into law and.
Alexandre de Vigan: Um, is.
Alejandro Cremades: And doing M and a you know now you get the experience to the dealmaking side of things and perhaps you get the exposure to the business side to to see how things work I mean at what point do you realize? hey you know maybe pushing paper here behind the disk is is not for me.
Alexandre de Vigan: Um, yeah I think ebbing very quickly. You know I practiced for like 4 years but I was very frustrated of not making the decision about making being the guy in the room. You know, giving advice but you know first of all, not. Being accountable for for the for for operating and and in the good or bad ways. Not for the success but also not you know I wasn’t responsible for anything if things went wrong and so I got kind of frustrated about that and I also felt that as an attorney for me I didn’t have an enough impact. So this is why I said you know one day I just quit and said you know I need I need to put my hands and in the in the wheels and operating and this is when I decided to start my first business at in 152 to 16.
Alejandro Cremades: And and we’ll get into that but I wanted to ask you to I mean obviously you see having that access to the M and a side I mean you get to experience to the full cycle of a business right? because you know perhaps I’m not sure if that was the case or not of of being involved on the capital racing side. But at least on the M and a side.
Alexandre de Vigan: Here.
Alejandro Cremades: You get to see how riching the finish line looks like and and obviously that’s like the Holy Grail is what you know most entrepreneurs you know, wish for like one day you know like to to achieve a really big exit now a good outcome for all the stakeholders. So what were some of the lessons that you learned from being involved on. All those transactions over the course of 4 Years
Alexandre de Vigan: I think it’s a very good, very good question that the transaction on which I was involved at the time were so big that you know it was like basically numbers and working for Kkr Apple all the big big enormous funds. The lesson is that everything is very fragile. And that nothing is 1 until the finish line as you said and that that although you know everything is going well a deal can can you know go sideways and in a minute. So I think that I think it it taught me up to a lot of humility and you know nothing is granted even when you’re. If you have signed the deal and it’s not closed. So I think this was my my took my take on that.
Alejandro Cremades: So So then walk us through that transition from being a lawyer to being an entrepreneur because that transition is is pretty difficult. It’s pretty difficult because you know when when when you’re a lawyer. You know you have everything you have your assistant you have this days and that. And then all of a sudden you know you’re like hitting the ground running figuring things out. It sounds like in your case you know there was like a lot of trial and Error. You know a lot of Ideation. You know to really come up with what ended up being your baby now that you’re in in this rocket ship but it took some time and also it took some effort and.
Alexandre de Vigan: And. I.
Alejandro Cremades: Failure So walk us through that.
Alexandre de Vigan: Um, yeah, this is a great question I mean we always hear about you know the rocket ships and and all everything is supposed to be and maybe it’s the case for others not for me, but you know was clear from the beginning and well it wasn’t at all for me, it was it was very hard and and I even think that if. Someone had told me when I quit that my job that it would have been so hard I I don’t know if I would have done it um because it’s just it’s the story of of pain but and then at the end success but it’s it’s it’s very tough. So. Yeah I started that I quited my job and I I created a real estate marketplace back and 2 ah 16 my idea was to create you know a zillow and a truia and europe and this was hard I mean starting from. With nothing again. no support no money no health no nothing not knowing where you’re going no tracks to follow and and very soon I realized that it wasn’t a right I mean the right and if I wanted to make a difference I needed to to get better imagery so this was the first pivot. You know I pivoted from a real estate marketplace to know. In fact, if I want to make a real business I need to create better imagery and very quickly I just shut down the first company to create a whole company that because I saw bigger opportunity a company dedicated to create a digital imagery for real estate. So this was the first of many many trials and errors.
Alexandre de Vigan: Before finding you know the good product market fit but it took it took 5 years
Alejandro Cremades: Wow I mean 5 years is a lot of years I mean it’s a lot of years in the desert. So how did you manage to ah because I mean when you’re dealing with that trial and error and not figuring it out. You know it’s like you’re in. I find that product market fit is like being in a room that is completely dark and then you’re like figuring out where the hell is the switch so that you can open up the door and and get out of the room kind of thing. It’s very frustrating so how how do you go through that process for so long where I’m sure that you’re ahead. You know you are telling all types of whiteifs to yourself. To really be able to quiet those voices and keep and keep and keep moving forward.
Alexandre de Vigan: Um I think it’s a very difficult balance and and I think it’s more an art than a science The first thing is is I think you need to be relentless I love a saying from an entrepreneur is you only lose when you quit and and first of all, it’s not quitting. It’s just eat. Iterating and and loving after the fact the the failure because you only will find the solution because like Thomas Edison you found a thousand you failed a town a thousand times. So first of all, it’s it’s being relentless being very humble I think is very important to try and try and try and try. And at the end of the day I think what the very difficult balance is between you know, having a vision and saying okay this is what I really want to do and this vision will change but keeping like this north star and also being you know agile and in order to pivot and and and this is the hard balance between not pivoting all the time but also being ah and of hearing it enough is this the signals. Of the market of the competition of the customers of the partners of the funds the vcs to to you know you know steer the ship in the right direction to finally after several iteration fine. You know the the real thing that you will be building upon for the next few years
Alejandro Cremades: So at what point do you realize hey I think that the we got it. So.
Alexandre de Vigan: Well, again, it’s it’s it’s a long journey and and maybe we still don’t have it yet. I mean that maybe not, you know? So so no I think that you know the. I think again, ah everybody so says that but I think is very important. The idea has no value. It’s really the execution of how do you fit that idea in a real market. So I mean 2 ah 16 launch real estate. You know, pivoted to a 17 launch. You know the what is today infinite which is a solution at the time dedicated to. Creating better imagery for real estate in order to attract more traffic. You know I think that what we’ve been pretty good at although it was hard is always you know leveraging what we’ve built and what we’ve learned into bigger opportunities and what we after 2 or 17 say okay, real estate is cool. It’s scaling. But the market is too small. We can do something bigger and said okay, what about adapting that technology for real estate for retailers. What about you know instead of decorating a apartment. What about you know, using the technology to create visuals for furniture makers furniture retailers. This is 2 ah 18 and 18 it. It scales bigger contract but it’s scale. The business model is not sustainable because it’s like more transactional so 192 say hey what about you know, bringing a platform and technology to that and then and then so we leverage what we do. We have a bigger vision. We invest more. So each time if you invest more you but raise more money you invest more.
Alexandre de Vigan: And then’m 219 it scales and then we’re very happy. We signed like the manager retailers in Europe and it’s boom and then Twenty Twenty covid everything is shuts down what what we’ve built. You know, no more anilation budget for our customers. Everything stops so we say okay, how can we you know leverage what we’ve built and what we’ve learned to actually solve a pain which is. Today’s pain and the pain was at the time that the retailers couldn’t shit any products couldn’t shoot anything so we pivoted the technology which was more shopper-facing to something more you know, ah customerfacing meaning merchandis or operator facingcing and and when everybody stopped investing in 2020 because we we vettted the company. And invested every single dollars we had in in platforming that saas solution that we got should January Twenty Twenty one which is when it it took off.
Alejandro Cremades: Now for the people that are listening to really get it. What ended up being the business model of infinite. How do you guys make money.
Alexandre de Vigan: So yeah, so today the the idea is we we have we are so now it seems obvious but we took client years to to to come up to to ma all is that correctly, it’s a sasy merchandizing platform. Our mission is to empower the retailers of the world to create basically unlimited product visuals. Ah, to enhance improve their online experience for their shoppers in order to increase sales and the way we make money is you pay a price per squew per year and you get to create un limited product visual. So’s you should see us as the camera of merchandising and this is what we do.
Alejandro Cremades: And how much capital have you guys raised today daliks. Yeah.
Alexandre de Vigan: Um, around 130,000,000 now. So and it it wasn’t linear at all the first few years we were rejected by all the vcs so we it was like you know business angels family offices. Never. You know I mean maybe every day I had meeting to raise funds for for 3 years and then at some point when when it took off then then we were able to explain much cu the the opportunity after which we were going had a go-tomarke motion had a sustainable I mean more sustainable business model and this is when we raised. Ah. $50000000 series a and and 2021 and then on the million dollar series b and in and 2022.
Alejandro Cremades: Now in your guys’ case I know that on on one of the first day early rounds on the first round I believe you know it kind of like things broke down and and you almost quit. So why? So why? what happened with that race that you had going on and and what were the turnaround of events. Yeah.
Alexandre de Vigan: Yeah, um, yeah, this is a painful memory. But also I think this is what explained what we are today. Ah, and in the first round I had an investor committing and um, investing money and in three trenches. And and so he unlocks the first trench but you know and then he he’s laid on the second trench but I’ve I’ve already invested the second and the third trench and and at the end of the day he he he broke his engagement of investing which he couldn so legally had. As a lawyer I had bundled it perfectly. But as an entrepreneur you know legal issue legal you know solutions have no impact in the real business. So I found myself without any money and and you know, no no dollars to to pay salad with the employees and that nothing we had. We had to stop and so. So basically everything was you know going in the right direction and at some point we didn’t have any money. Nothing was working and and so at that time I had an advisor which I think is very important for every entrepreneur It’s such a lonely lonely path at having you know advisors mentors around you that you ask for? First of all, it’s It’s kind of easy to get because entrepreneurs are you know we’re all alike in some ways where so we help like to help each other so I had one entrepreneurtor and I and I basically call him and like was like you know completely. You know I don’t know how you say but not crying but almost saying hey everything is over.
Alexandre de Vigan: Ah, you know the and the fundraiser the broker the deal and and he said you know? Okay I understand come to my house tomorrow morning I will help and for me what what it meant is he was going to write me a check. And so I’m I’m you know taking my train and at’s six zero a m in the morning I arrive at his home and then he receives me and he says okay so tell me your story and I and I complain about the story and I and I say this is what happened it’s unfair about mind. This is what I said he looks at me and he says hey. You no one forced you to become an entrepreneur and I say no and you said okay so like every entrepreneur it’s hard and but either you continue and you don’t complain or you quit but you’re not coming and complaining and he gave me walks me out of his home. And that that moment I was saying I’m not gonna quit and for whatever I can’t quit so it was a big lesson for me of not quitting and and from that on I I I find 15 k twenty k thirty k and then and then that I could put the machine back again. on on the track but this was a very big lesson for me and that turning point in my andric life.
Alejandro Cremades: And on the financing side I mean you guys are they are in France but but but you raised money also from us investors. So how is it you know, raisingcing money from investors in Europe versus raisingcing money from investors in the Us.
Alexandre de Vigan: Are.
Alexandre de Vigan: Um, well we it’s a tough question. We had more success in the us I mean from the Vc fund and from my understanding and again it’s only my opinion. But I think that and so first of all, now we’ve become a us company. Um, and we were able to raise us fund because we had us customers and I think something very important to keep in mind if you want to raise fund. It’s not so true anymore. But if you want to raise fund from the us you need to have us activity now unless you have a us fund coming to europe to fund you which is different. But if you want to if you want to go to the us and talk to us Vcs you need to have us customers. Um, and for for us it was easier because I think that the the us vcs um are more risk takers and to bigger opportunities than than what I found at that time but you know it’s.
Alexandre de Vigan: Maybe restating the fact after the war but for us this is how we felt that as long as we understood what was needed to to raise in the us which was having us customers and that we were able to explain clearly a very big opportunity. And what we were doing and how we were doing it. It was easier for something that is very disruptive to res in the u as it was to rise in New York for us.
Alejandro Cremades: Got it now in terms of the of the operation I mean how how big is the company to I mean anything that you can share in terms of number of employees or anything that you’re comfortable sharing. Okay.
Alexandre de Vigan: Um, yeah, short, we’re are 150 people mainly ah well in europe and the us in Europe we are. The r and d and and part of the operations while we have shifted every customer facingcing part of the company in the us and sales marketing even product ah customer facing. Um, yeah, and we have like maybe around 60% of our revenues in the us for now.
Alejandro Cremades: And how how about culture because when you have all these different offices. You know you see every office has their own culture even though they get influence from the main culture of hq and the founder mainly and or the management team. You know, obviously the first is the founder you know and then you know is everything else. But I guess. How does that culture shift from 1 office to the other right.
Alexandre de Vigan: This is very this is a very yeah you know, complex question and I don’t think we have a right solution today and I think that that there are 3 I mean 2 different you know sides to that. First of all, yes, you know having multicultural you know pieces of an organization is hard. Don’t communicate the same way in France in the us in the Uk. We have an asian team also an Api Team Apac team so this is hard and also I think the remote world makes it even more difficult unless you were remote. You know net native which we were not we were we had offices in France and so and so I think basically ah the the culture part is how do you hire the the leaders in different organizations that leave and bre the same values and for us it’s It’s you know, being relentless being humble being very competitive. We’re not here to be second and also being have a lot of empathy for your colleagues I think this is what we want to? we want to share and as long as we we’ve been successful in sharing the culture because we found people that share that at the management level that were able to hire people that share that. Also. And then and then after all, you know of course and reunion is are important ah and personal if possible we try to do that once a year otherwise it’s like how can you have you know Yeah a reunion is even virtual at least on a monthly basis.
Alejandro Cremades: And obviously the um, the mindset too in the us is different I guess in the and and I find that in Europe you know things are changing you know now the whole startup thing is is is becoming more sexy than ever before you know you were only cool if you were a lawyer or you were. You know in Bank Ginggo or or a consultant. But I think that now that mindset is changing but I’m sure that you’ve seen the difference when it comes to recruiting top talent you know in in in in the us you know, maybe it’s a little bit easier or people are a little more open minded versus maybe in Europe where. You’re competing against the big corporations and people that are a little bit more risk covers. Did you find that too or no.
Alexandre de Vigan: Um, and I think that was true a few years ago I think that now with their what they call the scale up. You know of you know all the all the. The glamour around the scaleups that we have in Europe people are are more and more willing to quit corporate jobs to get the adventure of of a scale. Not so much of a startup when it’s crappy and but a startup that has scale to a certain point is getting its very sexy. So my yes. For for me first of all I think it’s in the us I think people are more pro-risk to get earlier in startups. Although it’s very difficult when you’re not a Us -born company to hire in the us this I think is’s very important to acknowledge and then we need to leverage your vc the Vc ndraising some pr some because it’s hard. Don’t trust you and now I think that in france. It’s very hard to hire top towns at a small scale startup and it gets easier when you scale the more you scale the more it gets easier.
Alejandro Cremades: and and and 1 thing that comes to mind here. Is you know imagine you know you were to go to sleep tonight Alexandre and you wake up in a world. You know where the vision of infinite is fully realized what does that world look like.
Alexandre de Vigan: Um, know I dream up that every night. So even when I when I’m walking in the street. So well the the vision for us is is very simple. We believe that we’re we’re building a new category in the and marketing the mar tech. Um. You know space at which is what we call the merchandising so the the ability to create visual experience product visual experiences and and I believe that this is the next ecommerce before. Virtual commerce before the metaverse and that you know within the next few years what we do today which is very disruptive for our customer will be obvious the need to create unlimited product externals. They need to a b test visual. They need to customize visual to a shop or will be. Ah, will be obvious and I you know in my wildest treated I believe that will become the salesforce of this of this merchandising world and so that this is this is what I agree with my end during the day.
Alejandro Cremades: And and and I guess you know something that comes to mind I mean you have obviously all these people now and and and and these different offices. So when you have this vision I mean how do you?? How do you get people to rally up so that because I find that. Having everyone excited about the future that they’re living into is is Critical. So How do you go about conveying that vision. So that people are you know, very much aligned and and pushing in the right direction with that excitement.
Alexandre de Vigan: Um, yeah I think that you know this is a very hard topic. But for us it might be a easier than than some any ah some and other industries because what we do is visual. So every everyone relates to they need when they shop so everyone shop online and everyone is is. Specs a certain experience expects would like to have more visual would like to have more customization would like to have to to because it’s a single touch fund within the product and the consumer so you know relying people with the idea that tomorrow shoppers will will need more visual exposure to the product. And that in order to do that classic solution doesn’t weren’t need technology and that the technology that we enable to do that is a assassinism or emerg on a merchandizing platform is not easy, but it people can relate that pretty easily relate to that pretty easily.
Alejandro Cremades: And and and also I wanted to ask you if imagine if I was to put you into a time machine and I bring you back in time you know maybe to that time that where you were still a lawyer you know doing m and a type of work and and all of a sudden you know you have the opportunity of sitting down with that younger Alexandre.
Alexandre de Vigan: Yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: And giving that younger Alexandre, you know a piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now.
Alexandre de Vigan: Um, it will be don’t quit ah don’t quit. It’s just that you know although all this there is you know a lot of culture around. You know it’s easy. It’s. You know success can can come in one day an idea can make it all right? It’s it’s just not true. So I would I my advice would be you know pursue your dream but but be agile and and don’t quit and success did not come. Easy. It’s no pain. No gain and whether you read the all the biographies are the great entrepreneurs at least for me, you know from Sam Waltter not Walmart but Ray Kroc ah Jeff Schultz I mean ah. For me at least maybe it’s because I only read the one I relate to but everything is hard. Everything takes time. Everything takes you know to be relentless to learn and it’s step out to step. So this is yeah, it’s not easy if you want easy. Don’t do it. But if you want if you want a great adventure and and a potential. Great outcome. You should do it for me. It’s like surfing you know surfing is when you surf I’m not a good surfer but it’s you crawl and swim for like twenty twenty minutes to get 1 myth of maybe on the board where you feel like god and I think maybe it’s a good method for our entrepreneurship for me.
Alejandro Cremades: Ah I love it I love it. So Alexandre, for the people that are listening. What is the best way for them to reach out and say hi.
Alexandre de Vigan: Um I think Linkedin is great. Ah Linkedin and my Linkedin I always answers to to people especially for few people you know and then looking to for advice or you know exchange I’ve been I’ve been there. I’m still you know you always saw smaller than someone else. So I’m I’m doing that for other entrepreneurs are like I like to have advice from so please please do each other.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing! Well hey Alexandre, thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.
Alexandre de Vigan: Well thank you so much. It’s been an honor my end. Thank you so much. Alexandre.
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