His passion for skiing led one day Javi Fondevila (Barcelona, 34 years old) to add Bernat Ripoll (Santpedor, Barcelona, 30 years old) as a friend on Facebook. They did not know each other personally, but there was always time for snow on its walls. Especially in that of Ripoll, who set out to make snowboarding his way of life. Given the lack of financial resources in his family, he had to pay for travel. He even decided to go around the world, board in hand. To get some money, he served the same hamburgers that he charged for small computer programming projects. “When my friends played soccer, I programmed and built legos. I started with seven years. The snow saved me from being very geek”, He jokes over a video call.
Fondevila also liked to travel with the excuse of skiing, although not enough to travel the world. His life was completed with his law degree and a startup dedicated to the retail trade that she set up during her last college year. He kept it afloat for almost seven years, opened 14 stores throughout Spain and had a hundred employees under his responsibility. He drew a few lessons from his first entrepreneurial experience, including the thorn in the back of not having found a good business management software program. “The chaos was enormous. I duplicated tasks, I was missing information about the products and the accounting only had my manager. As a user, the product I wanted did not exist ”, he explains in the same video call.
At that time, six years ago, a mixture of need, chance and opportunity emerged that crossed the lives of both entrepreneurs. Ripoll had been in Austria for two weeks, almost unable to move due to the amount of snow that was falling. It was common to see more than snowboard photos on his Facebook, such as his complaints about how difficult it was to manage self-employment bills or documentation. And it was in the middle of a snowfall, at an Austrian gas station, where he bought the Holded internet domain as the first stone of a project that would serve to solve these types of problems and allow him to continue paying for his adventure of snow. In short, a cloud software specialized in the digitization of SMEs and freelancers or, in the jargon of the sector, an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software.
The history of the origins of this startup, which last week was acquired for 120 million euros by the Norwegian multinational Visma – whose sales exceeded 1.7 billion euros last year and with a workforce of more than 12,000 workers – would be incomplete without Fondevila’s contribution. He wrote to Ripoll on Facebook when he saw the Holded project on his wall. I wanted to meet him. He had just found the project of the program that he had searched for so many years. The rest is already history, although somewhat unknown. “We met at a Starbucks and we hit it off. That’s how I stopped snowboarding to get into this. I was not expecting anything from what happened to us, ”says Ripoll.
Holded helps manage and automate accounting, inventory, human resources and any department of both small and medium-sized businesses and freelancers. No need to buy individualized programs because it works from the cloud and always under a subscription model. The user pays a monthly or yearly amount for the software. Since 2016, its growth has been exponential. For example, the startup It has reached agreements with giants the size of Stripe and PayPal, in case any of its more than 80,000 customers want to include these payment gateways in their products. “If you are not a little crazy, you cannot be an entrepreneur. The statistic says that you will fail 100%. You have to care how it will turn out, ”says Fondevila.
The food that almost closed the company
Holded’s image, that of success after a million-dollar sale and that of a human team that exceeds one hundred, cannot be confused with the roller coaster lived by the co-founders during this trip. Fondevila transmitted to Ripoll from the first moment that they would obtain financing without problems. That he knew the world of financing, that of venture capital funds and business angels. They went out for a million euros, then they asked for 40,000 euros and the reality was that nobody put a penny. “I remember an investor meeting us at a quite expensive restaurant. Did not go well. He did not invest anything. But the problem came when he got up without paying. A ticket of 187 euros! And we almost without money. There the startup”Recalls Fondevila.
They survived the day, with what they were wearing. There were constant fights between them. “We closed the company 80 times at the beginning,” concedes Fondevila. “It was difficult for someone to be the first to cheer up. We worked 15 hours a day and the reality shock was very hard ”, adds Ripoll. Until luck took the form of an investor – who they do not want to give the name of – just when both founders were considering how to take the company forward or if it was worth so much effort. “That movement unleashed the financing whirlpool. They even tried to buy us several times along the way ”, ditch Fondevila.
The future plans of Holded, based in Barcelona, look towards the stability provided by the injection of money from Visma. In Fondevila’s words, he now has sufficient financial resources to pay for some crazy ideas that he intends to develop. And they can be of all kinds, even far from business management. A short time ago he entered the creation of content with a space that he has christened Holded TV. His intention: to get closer to the little digital reality in which more than three million SMEs and freelancers live in Spain. “If someone wants to undertake, let them do it. There is a lot of guru for something that is not taught. It is not taught to be an entrepreneur. It doesn’t matter what they tell you. If we had heard those voices, we would not be here ”, concludes Ripoll.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.