Portrait of Georges Gavelle: CEO and co-founder of Ignimission
Sébastien Bourguignon, is an expert in digital and blockchain and in his series of articles “Portrait De Startuper” he highlights the journeys of startup creators, the difficulties they have encountered, and how it all materializes in practice.
Find down below his interview with Georges Gavelle, the CEO and Co-founder of Ignimission.
How would you describe your company?
Ignimission is first and foremost the meeting of three people with a passion for sailing who wanted to join forces and write a story together. Our initial idea was to equip certain processes with a simple and easily configurable solution. We wanted to address the secondary processes that are often handled manually and with little or no tools at all. We started with open-source technologies before quickly migrating to our own technologies.
Ignimission was born out of friendship and trust. We are three extremely complementary partners who are still on their honeymoon after 4 years of partnership! This fluidity and harmony in our relationships is what we also bring to the company.
Why this choice of product/service?
It was our history in software and project management that gave us our first use case. In the context of large integration projects, we systematically find ourselves having to search for information that is difficult to consolidate, share and even more difficult to industrialize. The collection of data that does not exist in the IS (information system) is therefore often addressed through Excel files to compensate for the lack of agility of ERP solutions, for example.
However, this solution has many drawbacks, such as the lack of data security and reliability. With Ignimission Platform, we offer a secure data collection form that is available in a few days and shared with an unlimited number of users. With our initial successes in data collection and enhancement, we realized that we could capitalize on use cases in certain fields and we decided to verticalize our solution by working on the management of privileged accounts in the leading CyberArk solution. This is how we launched the Ignimission Protec product, which is currently used by around ten CAC 40 companies, and for which we have strong ambitions, especially internationally.
What are your ambitions, your goals for your company?
A fairly simple trajectory. Today, Ignimission has about 20 clients in France (mostly CAC 40 companies). In 2021, our goal is to expand our French customer base to build a solid foundation for international expansion in 2022. Our Ignimission Protec vertical offers us the opportunity to leverage CyberArk’s partner network to test the potential of our solution on the international scene.
How would you describe yourself as an entrepreneur?
In all modesty I would say that I am an entrepreneur who listens to others. First of all, my employees, because the success of the company depends on our teams, and my entrepreneurial peers who have already successfully (or not) undertaken a project and whose feedback is always beneficial. I am also a very social person who loves to reach out to others and grow as a team! Finally, I have always believed in my lucky star, and I have always been lucky enough to meet good people who have helped me evolve. Here’s a little anecdote: I met our first partner after a wrong call, and it was a decisive meeting for Ignimission’s growth!
What is your educational background?
I had a classical background, I went to a business school and then I fell into the software sector by chance when I was looking for my first paid internship. After that, I never left it!
What makes you passionate?
I get my energy and pleasure from the quality of the relationship I have with others. My driving force is to meet new people and the entrepreneurial profession is the perfect framework for this since the story we write will be nourished and evolve as we meet new people. My objective as an entrepreneur is to create and to please both my customers by having an irreproachable quality of service, as well as my collaborators by allowing them to bring their personal touch and emotion to the company.
What has been your entrepreneurial path?
Before Ignimission, I evolved into a kind of antechamber of entrepreneurship since I had the mission of creating French entities for American software companies. It was a great experience that showed me that I had the basics to build a company and that at some point I had to take the initiative and do it for myself.
How long have you been an entrepreneur?
In its strict definition, since the summer of 2017 when I left London where I was VP EMEA at Datawatch. But I feel like I’ve been on a journey of initiation with my Anglo-Saxon and American experiences. I was ready to launch myself and it was my encounter with Gilles and Olivier that triggered everything.
What difficulties did you encounter in this adventure?
The first difficulty was to recruit the right people, especially at the beginning when you find yourself selling a story where the paint is not yet dry and several layers are to be expected. When you’re a small structure starting out with few resources, each recruitment is key and a casting error can quickly become a tragedy because you lose time and money. In the end, we were able to overcome this difficulty and today we have 35 employees. Another anecdote on this subject: at the launch, we posted an offer on APEC for which we received only one application! We were 6 employees at the time. However, it was the best meeting we ever had because this candidate became our Product Owner and an essential part of our cybersecurity strategy.
The second difficulty was to make our know-how and our solutions are known. We operated under the radar a lot, thanks to our network and our customers who recommended us. Today we are investing in a network of partners as well as sales and marketing teams to increase our business potential.
The third challenge was funding. As we were selling subscriptions, and therefore services, this secured our cash flow but it also distracted us from our strategy as a software publisher versus a service provider. Today we have shifted the integration to our partners to focus on our core business and have raised debt to finance our growth.
In your opinion, what are the key factors for success in entrepreneurship?
As far as Ignimission is concerned, the key was to be well associated. Being complementary gives us a shared but well-defined playing field with a little overlap to speak the same language and have that connection.
More generally, I would say that to succeed in entrepreneurship you have to be passionate and not count your time. If you only think about making money, the adventure won’t go all the way and you won’t involve your partners and collaborators in writing the story.
Finally, make sure that you are well surrounded and well accompanied so that you have the right advice on the subjects that you do not master.
What method of financing did you use to launch your company?
Since the beginning, we have been self-financing, thanks to the sale of our subscriptions and the associated service. We did not raise funds but rather debt from banks and the BPI. This gives us the means to grow while remaining in control.
If there was only one, what would be the most important thing to watch out for when launching a startup?
First of all, you have to make sure you have a market and give yourself the means to communicate with it. You can have the best product/idea in the world, but that’s not enough. Once you have reached your market, the question of financing is secondary.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to launch their own startup?
My first advice would be to connect to your entrepreneurial network. By gathering the impressions and experiences of people in your network who have already started a business, you can better understand the obstacles and difficulties of entrepreneurship and therefore save time.
Find the article in French here: http://sebastienbourguignon.com/2021/05/31/portraitdestartuper-46-ignimission-georges-gavelle-ignimission-startup-frenchtech/