Christine de Wendel kickstarted her fintech startup with a massive $24M Seed round. Followed by an even larger Series A fundraising round, just four months later. Her venture, Sundayapp has attracted the interest of top-tier investors like DST Global, Coatue, New Wave, and French Partners.
In this episode, you will learn:
- How to hire a remote team of 400 in multiple countries, in just 10 months
- Christine’s top advice for other entrepreneurs
- How to balance your family and scaling a big business
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Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
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About Christine de Wendel:
Christine de Wendel is the Chief Operating Officer of ManoMano, one of France’s fastest-growing tech companies and Europe’s leading online platform for home improvement.
Prior to joining ManoMano, Christine spent seven years at Zalando, Europe’s largest online fashion retailer, where she built up the Paris office and managed Zalando’s French business. Christine began her career as a consultant with Bain & Company in Paris and New York.
Christine is passionate about the European tech industry and has become an expert in scaling e-commerce start-ups.
Christine holds a BSc in International Affairs from Georgetown University, an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics, and an MBA from INSEAD. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Christine has American, French, and Austrian citizenship. She lives in Paris since 2010 with her husband and her three children.
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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
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Alejandro: Already hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So today. We have a very interesting founder I mean massive seed massive series. A I think that we’re gonna be learning quite a bit when it comes to the hyper growth I mean they’ve hired over 400 people in the last ten months I mean I can’t even imagine you know the the rocket ship that we’re talking about here. But again, we’re going to be learning quite a bit when it comes to building scaling financing I get things moving so without furtherdo. Let’s welcome our guests today Christine Christine and Christine Deve window I hope that I’m able to pronounce that right? But welcome to the show.
Christine de Wendel: Thank you so much Alejandro and you pronounced it perfectly right? I am delighted to be on the show.
Alejandro: Fantastic Thank you Christine. So so originally you know, really from Atlanta and I know that there is a ah letter of a combination international combination. We got Austria we got also we got in there the french side too. So. Tell us about your upbringings Christine growing up how was life growing up.
Christine de Wendel: Absolutely so Alejandro I like to say that I am half French half austrian and 100% american so grew up in Atlanta Georgia with a french mother austrian father and spent my entire childhood here in Atlanta. And then in my early 20 s moved to Europe and spent 20 years there and have now recently moved back to Atlanta since a year and a half
Alejandro: Wow And how how have you seen like the difference there or or how would you say that it has shaped you on the way that you’re looking at things and and analyzing things. The fact that you now you have these. Worldview now where you have like the European you know way of seeing things the American way of seeing things which are completely different. Yeah.
Christine de Wendel: So. The first element is yes I’m coming with a transatlantic perspective. Ah 10 years of scaling e-commerce companies in Europe and now founding a fintech in the us I’ll tell you what massive. Similarities between the tech cultures on both continents and also huge cultural differences and so it’s actually been a lot more challenging than I expected to navigate the two cultures. It’s also made it a lot more fun because it’s it’s ah it’s an everyday. Ah, experience to be working with teams on both sides of the atlantic especially at this early stage in Sunday’s development
Alejandro: and and I have to say that you are a very well-prepared founder I have to say I mean not only because you have attended some of the best schools in the world georgetown the London school of Economics Your Mba I int say it as well. But then also the fact that the. You’ve been in consulting as well and one of the things that I see a lot is that folks that were in consulting before and and and then they go into entrepreneurship. They’re very well prepared because I find that consulting perhaps you know in your case while you were working at Bain gives you access to. Grab a big problem and then break it into really small problems and then you start tackling each one of them. So how would you say that the experience of consulting has really prepared you to be an operator.
Christine de Wendel: Well, there are a couple things and I always tell young people who come to ask me for advice. What’s the best job you can start with and I like to say that it’s ah you know a top tier management consulting firm I spent 3 years at Bain out of university and loved it. So loved it because of the toolkit. I was able to develop come be it public speaking analytics presentation skills and what you just described just strategic thinking. How do you take a big problem. You cut it up into small issues and then you you deal with each issue one at a time. So for me, the consulting toolkit has been. Extremely helpful in every one of my subsequent jobs and I’ll be perfectly Frank the network too I mean the peer group I had as a 24 year old in Paris as at Bain has followed me you know over the past twenty years and not only are they great friends but they’re also a fantastic network that I can call up anytime, get help from. I have mentors from bane I have friends from Bain. So I’m a huge fan of starting off your career as a management consultant.
Alejandro: So after bayin you went to Starwood and I think that the the in say at the program. Perhaps you know, brought some perspective because right after the program you kind of like shifted a little bit gear. so so what what happened there
Christine de Wendel: Yes, so 2 years at Starwood where I got a first haste of the hospitality industry since I’m back in it and then an Mba with a big focus on entrepreneurship and frankly when I left in seatia and I said you know what I’ve done management consultant. Consulting I’ve done corporate America it’s high time I try something entrepreneurial and I just had my first baby and I thought do I want to start from scratch or do I want to join a fast growing startup and I got recruited out of inside to join one of the. Newest rocket internet ventures at the time. So this is 2010 and I joined Alando a a fashion platform that was just starting up in France that had been around in in Germany for a year and a half they had about 100 employees and I had an absolutely fabulous ride. 7 years hypergrowth. Ah the company ipod the company grew to about 12000 employees. Why I was there and when I left we were doing about 4,000,000,000 in sales. So phenomenal growth track record and very entrepreneurial because. Had to start from scratch um very hot fast pacecd ah intense work culture. But you know very results driven and that on top of my bane toolkit ah gave me a real playbook for hyperg growthth which has been immensely helpful but most popular.
Alejandro: And what what does it look like when you join on an organization where there is 100 employees and he goes to 12000 I mean there’s probably like some some key traits or patterns or or certain colors on that picture that you know now obviously that you’ve lifted and experienced it. You know now you know. When when there’s something. There’s a what? What does it look like when an organization is is you know, prepared for greatness and.
Christine de Wendel: So. The first thing is you have to have extremely bold leaders and I only realize this in hindsight now that I’m doing it again for the third time as a founder. Have to have the guts to say I am ready to hire 5102030400 people and then a thousand or 2000 people while my business model is still being shaped and I have the guts to say I’m going to expand it to new countries even though my business is still nascent and I’m still figuring out the business model. In my core cup countries and um I was in the thick of it ten years ago when solando was starting but now that I see it with hindsight I see the courage the energy and the vision that ah the 2 alando founders had at the time frankly pushed by super bullish investors. And that combination fast access to capital and a huge vision and you know the courage and the boldness to go fast and to say you can do anything is is critical so I was a passenger at that point just riding that enormous wave of growth and um. At the time it was fun. It was intense. It was crazy but I didn’t realize the weight and the and the intensity that it was for the founders and now that I’m on the flip side trying to do exactly the same thing. it’s it’s it’s pretty exciting and I I have way much more respect for what the founders at solando did. and what the the founders at Montomano did
Alejandro: And why did you? um decide to turn page you know on sallando what? what? what? what triggereger to go to Mano Mano
Christine de Wendel: So zono’s phenomenal. Company. It had grown significantly I was there for 7 years I had did 3 kids during those seven years I showed up with a very small one and I had 2 additional ones and I was traveling every week and I had really enjoyed the first years of chaos and early stage growth and so after my third baby arrived I said first of all I don’t want to travel quite as much and maybe it’s time for a new chapter. It’s been a cycle. It’s been a fantastic story. The Ipo was was very successful and. Was running the french business and I wanted to move into a more senior sea level role and I got recruited by Monomano to be their Ceo and it was a fantastic opportunity based in Paris headquarters in Paris which made way more sense for me personally. And that again was a phenomenal ride. Ah the the culture also at Manomanana was stand out remarkable culture. Incredibly focused on developing people on worklife balance and there I was you know a young mother of 3 coming out of 7 crazy years of travel and hypergrowth. And I wanted something more balanced and so I found it at manamato.
Alejandro: And what was that experience with Manu Manami what was your biggest takeaway.
Christine de Wendel: So again, ah, the the biggest takeaway for monoamano is you can achieve hypergrowth and you can go from you know, 250000000 turnover to you know several billion and still have an immense respect for people’s balance. And that’s taught me a lot and also had me aspire to doing the same thing in at Sunday is it’s possible right? You have to pace yourself. You have to find the right balance you have to hire the right people? Um, but I had an incredible experience 3 phenomenal years where the company grew again. Very quickly. We went from about 100 employees to 800 employees when I left and ah the top line numbers went through the roof and we did it while having an immense respect for building a great culture and and respecting everyone and. I say hats off to the 2 founders at Monomano because they were able to set that as ah as guidelines for the company.
Alejandro: So I mean here you are you’ve scaled multiple organizations. What? what? what took you so long to start your own thing and not be a passenger but be the driver.
Christine de Wendel: So I love the question Alejandro when I turned forty I had had 10 years of successful scale up as a passenger as you said I had three fantastic kids I was living in Europe as an american and. I decided with my husband that it was high time to move my three very parisian kids to the us and this was a very personal decision. My husband and I said we you know we want them to have everything that comes with growing up in America which frankly you don’t get when you grow up in downtown Paris you get a lot of other things but you don’t get it. So this is where the personal element took over. Um I wanted to have them to have the optimism the self-esteem the energy that comes up with growing up in America and so I said it’s been ten years I really want to start a company and what better place to do it than the us. So my husband and I both put our jobs. And ah we moved the whole family to back to the us for me during the pandemic with the idea that I would start a company and so this is September Twenty Twenty so a little over a year and a half ago and ah. I have absolutely no regrets. It was incredibly hard to leave a company like Monomano so skyrocketing company I was Ceo frankly, it was my dream job. Loved my team. Loved my founders and loved my life in Paris and again this goes back to what it’s like to be an entrepreneur what it’s like to be bold what it’s like. Not to be scared to jump into the unknown I said all right I’m going to change countries I’m gonna change industries I’m gonna start a company in the middle of the pandemic and so far it’s been quite a successful ride. So I I don’t regret that decision one second but it was a hard 1.
Alejandro: So then let’s talk about Sunday so obviously you were set on doing something on your own. But how did you come across? you know the problem you know, figuring out what a solution could be and and how did you bring Sunday to life.
Christine de Wendel: So this is what I like to tell a lot of people who ask me, you know how I came up with the idea. Well I I had this I was dead set on starting my own company and for about three months I thought about different concepts I explored different ideas I talked to hundreds of people. And I wanted an idea that was that was big enough I’d been through you know the the Billiond dollar story of Zaono the billion-d dollarlar story of Mano Mano so I wanted something that was really going to have impact and I frankly found it very hard and maybe because I’d been a c level and not a founder. I was having trouble finding that great idea and I got a call from a friend of mine based in London ah victor luger successful entrepreneur in the restaurant space and he said Christine I have $100,000,000,000 idea we are going to change the way people pay in physical retail today and he said you just moved to the us I’m looking for a us cofounder you have you know a fantastic tech scale up background and let’s do it together and it didn’t take me much time to get convinced. The idea was brilliant. It was a super simple idea. Everyone I talked to understood it right away and it took me you know a couple days to jump on the bandwagon and say all right? Let’s do it and at that point it was just an idea just a powerpoint. We hadn’t raised any money yet and we set off on this incredible mission to make the payment industry. Much more simple and easy in hospitality and that’s where where we are now a year later
Alejandro: And you guys have been at it for about 1 year and three months which she’s saying almost nothing. So um I mean how how do you guys make money here how what? what? What is the business model. Yeah.
Christine de Wendel: So what do we do at Sunday we have built the fastest way for restaurants to pay. We basically remove the friction that goes with payment and we put a qr code on every table and we let customers pay. In 10 seconds when it used to take them 15 minutes so the Qr code is connected to the pointof -sale system you take your phone. You scan the qr code and your bill comes up and then you can pay in 10 seconds with credit card with apple pay google pay very quick experience. It’s a web app to make it faster. And so it’s a very seamless smooth elegant payment experience. How do we make our money. Well it’s a classic fintech model so we take a margin on the transaction and ah it’s you know? ah. A small number of basis points. So we’ll take anywhere between 10 and 50 basis points depending on the deal. We’ve had with the restaurant and it’s a volume game and so we see it as we get more and more restaurants on board and we’re starting to process you know hundreds of million worth of transactions. That’s where the money’s to be bait. And it’s a massive vision because we we start with restaurants and then we can move into hotels and then you know frankly, no one has really disrupted payments in the physical retail space and the idea is how do you make it so easy. So simple. And how do you build a b to b to c solution that end consumers recognize and want to use and so I like to compare this to what venmo has done in peertopeer or what paypal has done in e-commerce. It’s really a way to create a b to c solution which takes the friction out of of payments.
Alejandro: So how how big how big. Do you think this market is sounds massive.
Christine de Wendel: I mean the the total addressable market is trillions if you take a look at just the western world. So take a look at the Americas take a look at Europe and then you take a look at restaurants.
Christine de Wendel: Hotels bars nightclubs and then you can move into certain ah verticals in in Retail. It is several trillion so it makes it for a really exciting product and that’s also why we’ve been so successful at building this large vision because everyone understands that there’s a use case. For making payments you know, frictionless.
Alejandro: I up a hundred percent I mean when I heard it I was like absolutely you know why why? the hell would I want to wait for the waiter to bring the check now I mean it makes total sense. So I guess the the question that comes here to mine is typically when you think about launching something so ambitious like what you guys are doing here with Sunday. You know you would think more around the different life cycles that come with the financing cycles and how you’re unlocking those and typically you would go out you know and and tackle different markets where you’re more past like a series b it sounds like your guys’ case, you’re like no let’s go. Let’s go all out. You know, right away. So. What was that thought process and also did that create any any kind of like concerns with investors when you were thinking about fundraising stuff
Christine de Wendel: So not at all. It’s a great question aandro if you think of our product. It was very related to timing so we put qr codes on tables for payments in restaurants and if you think two years ago pre pandemicdem not everyone knew how to use a Qr code frankly a lot of ah mobile phones were not qr code enabled and most restaurateurs two years ago would never have put a Qr code on their table. The pandemic unfortunately went through there and that created a unique opportunity in the market where. 1 restaurateurs had suffered the worst crisis probably of the last couple decades for the restaurant industry and they were ready to innovate to end consumers knew how to use Qr codes. Every mobile phone was now enabled with Qr code technology and everyone had seen Qr codes on tables for menus and ah 3 the sanitary situation meant that frankly people didn’t want to touch a payment termal anymore. People didn’t want to leave their card in a sticky fake leather envelope and use a pen. They’d never seen people didn’t want their card to go back of house for 5 minutes and then come back because they didn’t know what someone had done with it or who had touched it and so the the touchless factor plus the appetite from the restaurant industry. Plus the expectations that consumers have today which is to get immediate service and people are so used to you know instant gratification via technology made it a perfect storm and so when we came in in March Twenty Twenty one we had this product which is perfectly adapted. It made perfect sense that this was going to be an execution play and this was going to be a fast execution play and so it also helped us raise a very large seed round so 24,000,000 and then four months later as we were getting fantastic traction with restaurants in our core markets. It made it quite simple to explain the size of our vision and the traction we were getting to raise a very large 0 a round.
Alejandro: I mean crazy seed on crazy series. A normally when you when you raise around it. It takes you like 18 to twenty four months to raise the next cycle or the next day financing. So here. It was like in no time you just went at it seed series a what. What does that look like or or or ah how how do you get investors or at ease with deploying money so fast in the company in such a small period of time. So.
Christine de Wendel: So I like to tell entrepreneurs who asked me this question a couple things. The first one is for our seed round. We were coming with a great story. So my cofounders are restaurant owners very familiar with the space. Who had used tested the product in their restaurants I was coming from the text base and I had 10 years of of 2 successful scaleups behind me so as far as the investor perspective went we were seasoned cofounders who actually knew to a certain extent what we were doing the second piece. Is um, we had put together a great team and so ah between the series the seed round and the and the a round we were able to go get some of the best people we knew in the industry just because of our network. And and frankly we went and got the best people we’d worked with in the past twenty years and said will you come join this adventure. We’ve raised a big seed round where we had this huge vision and and that was incredibly helpful for the the a round because we had a seasoned leadership team. Another factor is you asked? it. But. You know what’s the total addressable market and investors look at that every time how big is the pie. What’s the size of the prize and in this case as I mentioned earlier. It’s enormous. It’s one of the you know, largest total addressable markets out there when you look at different pitches for different products and that’s obviously attractive. So the size of the vision and the total addressable market and the leadership team that together makes a great story for for raising quickly.
Alejandro: No kidding now in terms of now having the capital I mean it’s it’s time to deploy. So I guess how many people have you guys hired so far.
Christine de Wendel: So we’ve hired about 400 people we have about 350 people on the team across 7 markets and that has been an incredible ride in itself. So how do you hire 400 people in ten months and how do you hire 400 great people in ten months with a full remote footprint across 7 countries. So that’s been a great learning experience for me and so far we’re you know we’re we’re really pretty delighted in the way it’s played out but has been quite challenging.
Alejandro: So how do you do that? Christine.
Christine de Wendel: So I said it earlier. The first thing you do is you go hire a leadership team so you start with the the senior people and you say okay, who’s the best person in tech I’ve worked with who’s the best person in product who’s the best person in finance can I bring them on board. It’s obviously easier to bring someone on board who’s quite talented when you have a large seed round and you can actually pay them so you can give them equity. You can pay them and you have this you know great vision this great story to tell and then once you have somebody leading each one of your departments. Then you set the bar really high and you say well now it’s up to you to hire. Ah the next great people in your team and we did a lot of recruitment through network. Um through you know former colleagues that we’d loved working with that. We knew were good and through referrals. So when we’d interview someone who was great. We would say okay who are the 3 best people you you know come with and that allowed us to grow that first maybe 10020 base and so we started with a fairly senior team and now I’ve hired more junior people as we went. And that’s made it much more manageable for us as cofounders just because we’ve had you know a fantastic team to support us.
Alejandro: I mean this is incredible I guess the the and we were we were talking about it. You know earlier the the size of the market and I guess where do you think or better yet imagine if you go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world Christine where the vision of Sunday is fully realized. What does that world look like
Christine de Wendel: So it’s very clear and I always tell this when I pitch to restaurants that world looks like you know three years from now where every restaurant in the western world has a digital payment. Technology on its table and will that be the Qr code or will that be some sleeker more lean elegant technology. We don’t know yet, but certainly most of those tables will be someday tables and will have been able to go in almost every country and get the majority. Of restaurants and so that world will basically look like 1 where you never have to ask for the check anymore and I always when I explain this to restaurants or journalists or investors I always raise my hand and say that gesture of trying to find the waiter make eye contact. Ask them to bring you the check that will have disappeared. The same way today when you take an airplane. It’s second nature that you have your ticket on your phone or when you take a train and the same way today when you take an uber you don’t ever think about paying anymore. It just happens seamlessly and and almost magically. That should also be happening in the hospitality space and so that’s exactly what we’re out to do how do we disrupt payments in hospitality space to make it the seamless most easy experience for end consumers possible.
Alejandro: And in your case, 1 thing that is saying very interesting and I’m sure that you know there’s goingnna be a lot of female founders that are listening. You know to us and and watching us that that they’re gonna get inspired. They’re gonna get inspired because you know here you are in a rocket ship that that you’re pushing. You have. Supportive and loving husband you have three kids. How do you manage to really push everything you know at at the same time. So successfully Christine.
Christine de Wendel: Holly Honder I wake up every morning, ask myself the same question the first the first answer is I am intimately convinced. You can’t do it all at the same time and I’m not gonna lie to you. It is challenging. It is taxing I am in airplanes every week I am. Ah, cheerleading for my team I’m speaking to journalists I’m working with my team I’m selling to restaurants I’m speaking to investors. It’s a lot. Um, but how does it work that hands down. It’s my support network first and foremost my husband who’s fantastic. And who takes a large share of the you know the family responsibilities. It’s also the rest of my support network. The incredible women who surround me who help me out from you know my babysitters to ah my mother and you know when people say it takes a village to raise children that. You know I have a pretty sweet village around me to help me make the ecosystem work The other thing is setting priorities I am ruthless about timing and I know I will be home for dinner. No matter what and spending time with my family in certain. Windows is my utmost priority and that allows me to find some ballots. So do I have any time for self-care. No let’s face it I don’t and I’m certainly convinced I’m gonna find it again. But I don’t right now but do I have time for my kids do I have time for my husband and do I have time for the business. Yes. And so that’s sort of the tradeoff I’ve made is trying to find that balance right now. The the person who’s losing out is you know, good me time but it’ll come back and frankly this is so much fun that right now. Ah you know after year one. It’s it’s absolutely worth it.
Alejandro: I hear you incredible. So Christine imagine you know, obviously now you are the driver you know of this incredible um a rocket ship with Sunday but you’ve done it also before with sallando and with Manomano. I guess imagine if you had the opportunity of of time traveling you know back in in time and and you were able to have a sit down with that younger Christine maybe that younger Christine that is thinking about launching a business. Well we that piece of business advice. That you will share with that younger Christine and why given what you know now. Yeah.
Christine de Wendel: So I think what I mentioned it earlier but what I’ve learned the most is in order to build a company at this scale you have to be bold and um. The wonderful thing about working with my cofounder victor is he is a successful second time entrepreneur and he is fearless and ah partnering with someone who has that level of vision that level of ambition and is willing to take risks. Willing to to think always bigger is is quite exciting and so I think it’s something I couldn’t have imagined. Um when I was you know, just an executive in in Hypergrowth companies that being fearless and ah, that bold. Is is critical for building a large business like the one we’re trying to build right now and for disrupting an industry like we’re trying to do and I’m lucky to have stumbled upon it by partnering with Victor at you know age 40 and and building Sunday but I don’t think I realized how important that was. Um, with with starting a company and finding someone you want to partner with.
Alejandro: So absolutely. So um, this is incredible Christine for the people that are listening. What is the best way for them to reach out and say hi.
Christine de Wendel: Linkedin is fantastic I love talking to other founders I love talking to women who are looking ah to innovate to shake up their careers and so it’s very easy to find me on Linkedin.
Alejandro: Amazing. Well Christine. Thank you so much for being on the deal maker show. It’s been an honor to have you with us.
Christine de Wendel: It’s been an absolute pleasure Alejandro and um, thank you for inviting me on the show.
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