At a time when investment has been shrinking since the end of the health crisis, not all startups have access to long-term or even fast-track funding. Alexandre Perisch, CEO and co-founder of Fleet, an IT equipment leasing and management startup, but also a seasoned business owner, shares his analysis and tips for entrepreneurs today and tomorrow with Forbes France.
How did you come up with the idea to launch the fleet?
I had already been thinking about starting a business for a long time and was looking for a good idea. Among the criteria, I immediately asked myself what kind of offer do I want to make, in B2B or B2C?
I was very sensitive to solutions that made it possible to use the products without actually buying them. For example, I closely followed underwriting models like Alan’s, which simplify existing processes in the insurance sector.
And then one day I broke my computer screen by locking it on my AirPods. I spent the day in several hardware stores and had no idea what to get. My customer experience turned out to be very complicated, and on top of that, I didn’t know what to do with my broken computer.
A few weeks later, the CEO of the Edtech Ironhack startup where I worked asked me to turn my entire IT fleet into a rental. The experience was just as difficult: you had to submit 3 different reports and go through very complex and slow processes.
Is this how the idea of making a computer rental offer was born?
Yes, I wanted companies to be able to simply set themselves up and get the rental very quickly. And I realized that dealing with the SME sector was very bad. Small businesses have been acting like individuals, looking for solutions as best they can.
Fleet was built in 2019 with a value proposition that allows computers to be rented in three clicks, with no minimum order. Our offer is complete: it allows you to communicate directly to your employees, whether in your offices or working remotely, we facilitate day-to-day management thanks to a dedicated platform, and we offer premium support in case of incidents. At the end of the contract, the computers are recovered via a return label and redistributed to the associations.
How does your offer stand out in the market?
We make it easy to finance IT equipment through our lease model. Concretely, you submit your application in 3 clicks, receive your approval from our financial partners at a fast pace, sign the contract and be delivered within 72 hours.
We allow companies to convert their capital into operating expenses and thus convert their long-term investments into current expenses. More and more companies are using fully equipped offices without commitment, and they no longer have any strategic interest in investing heavily. They would rather keep their money to develop their technology instead.
This same trend is found at Amazon, which is using AWS to lease outsourcing server space. With Fleet, Device as a Service is about IT equipment and at the end of the lease, we collect it, sort it and send it for renewal to our dedicated ecosystem of partners.
How did you get through the health crisis, especially without completing a fundraiser?
We made the choice not to raise the money because we quickly realized it wasn’t necessary to develop. We do not regret this decision as it does not affect our cash flow.
However, we have not benefited from the unprecedented wave of digitization in the business world during the Covid crisis. Our clients are mainly small and medium enterprises and startups that are ahead of the curve in these subjects. On the contrary, we saw a drop in activity during the crisis, and so our hiring froze.
According to your experience as a business owner, which startups have the best chance of raising money?
There are business models that need little to raise money and others that need critical size fast enough to get economies of scale, like FinTech startups, SaaS, or even marketplaces. In general, these projects need funds initially to develop technology and product, and then acquire the first customers.
There are also businesses among them that use technology but don’t make it the core of their business model. This makes their business more efficient but their business model remains a strong base. Here, fundraising can make it possible to move forward faster but it is not an end in itself either: many startups allow themselves to be sold at a loss and without any prospect of profitability.
We must bear in mind that fundraising is a way to accelerate and advance technology but not to compensate for a business model that does not exist.
What advice can you offer entrepreneurs caught up in this context of uncertainty?
My first tip is to clearly define what you want to do, your ambitions, and what is most important to you. The goal may be to bring out a huge fund but this carries greater risks. In the same way, raising money for a large company can mean, in return, the weakening of part of your capital.
It all depends on your level of appetite for risk and entrepreneurs must understand that other paths are possible and above all venture capital funds are looking only for companies that are going to make very big profits.
The example of a successful entrepreneur finding an idea in his garage is pretty rare. Instead, it must act like a GPS: it has a destination in mind and must constantly recalculate the route to avoid obstacles, without losing sight of the final destination.
Finally, we can also identify sectors that are most likely to raise money, such as AI, cybersecurity, and all SaaS offerings that streamline existing sectors (such as industry, hotels, restaurants, and even accounting). It is clear that other popular technologies are just as promising as generative AI (like ChatGPT) or Web3, particularly around the uses of blockchain and cryptocurrency.