Case Study

Strengthening a Private Equity-Backed SaaS Startup in Hyper Growth

Creating a dream team with a visionary CEO and a seasoned Chief Operating Officer to execute the roadmap

By Anita Pouplard

The Client 

A fast-growing Series B SaaS startup created by two young founders in France had gained impressive traction in Europe, doubling its revenue year on year. In order to reach a new stage of development and address a huge potential market, the company needed to expand in the US.

The Challenge 

Despite substantial investment, many European startups and scale-ups fail to succeed in the US because they are unable to secure the right local talent or have the wrong cultural fit to address uniquely American needs, especially when dealing with large corporations.

Often the best solution is geographic. Relocating a founder or member of the C-suite can help ensure continuity, cohesion, and an effective line of communication with headquarters.

In this case the decision was very difficult, having significant organizational and financial implications. The board was pushing for rapid expansion to keep the momentum going and stay ahead of the competition. The CEO and co-founder was willing to relocate to New York—but only if there was a key executive in France to run the company from its local base.  

The Solution

Knowing that no one within the company was qualified to replace the CEO, the board decided to recruit an external Chief Operating Officer. This individual would be fully responsible for managing all aspects of the company: R&D, delivery, sales & marketing, HR and finance.

The mandate was to recruit a seasoned leader, capable of putting the right structure and organization in place to build a future unicorn within a hyper-growth context.

Understanding the company’s needs and the talent market, the Private Equity and Venture Capital team knew the role’s specific requirements would be difficult to find, particularly in Europe. They determined that the COO would need a solid technical background to be able to challenge the Chief Technology Officer; a track record of having scaled an SaaS company from €10M to +€50M on a global scale; and ideally, a career path that included both large, process-rich organizations and smaller, fast-moving companies,  producing a leader who could meld the best of large and lean.

The Results 

The highly experienced Chief Operating Officer was immediately operational and able to structure the company while growing and developing the existing team. Having previously worked for a similar type of company, the new hire focused on key milestones for securing revenue, ensuring client satisfaction, and developing processes to scale the business globally. 

The trust between the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer allowed them to work in total transparency while learning from one another. The CEO was able to focus his energy and time on the US market while maintaining relationships with the board and the financial community. The COO focused on translating the company’s vision and business plan into reality with concrete KPIs. Despite the COVID impact, the company did not lose any customers and was able to consider structuring M&A options.

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