2CFinance supports companies and investment funds via its CFO and transaction services activities. Since it was founded in 2008, the firm has distinguished itself through the quality of service and depth of market knowledge it provides. Benjamin Britton and Jacques Haccoun look back over the astounding rise of 2CFinance, which has five partners and a staff of 50 based in Paris, Aix, Nantes and, soon, Bordeaux.
Leaders League. An established name in the tech and digital ecosystem, 2CFinance has many strings to its bow. What are they?
Benjamin Bitton. 2CFinance’s two departments have propelled the company forward based on the idea of being an entrepreneur’s best asset. Our dedicated transaction services team acts in high-value operations such as fundraisings, carve-outs and spin-offs in the small- and mid-cap segment. In parallel, our part-time CFO and transition activity, which started out in the service of tech and digital players, has increasingly been directed towards entrepreneurial adventures. 2CFinance has grown alongside our clients and of that we can be most proud.
We will continue to work with startups and scaleups. From an intellectual, but also pragmatic standpoint, these will be the unicorns of tomorrow. This was the case with BlaBlaCar, Aramis Auto, Dataiku, Meero and Qonto. Knowing how to give the right advice to entrepreneurs at the start of their project puts you in position to capitalize during the years to come.
Jacques Haccoun. On the transaction services side, we essentially work with VC and corporate VC funds and investors in the broadest sense of the term, traditionally French, but increasingly international as time goes on. We started out helping them identify targets in France, but are increasingly active in audits in the UK, the Benelux, Italy, Spain, Germany, the United States and Israel. Our sector-specific knowhow and high standards of quality and care has seen our transaction services department grow in stature in recent years.
Would you say the skills of the team are equally important?
B.B. It all begins with the recruitment process and the quality of our co-workers. We prioritize speed, innovative thinking and operational expertise. Starting out with a team of 4-5 people, we now dispose a staff of 50 professionals, all of them entrepreneurs at heart.
What, typically, are the needs of the companies you act for?
J.H. The companies we represent are fast-growing and they need us to organize financing in a way that ensures this growth continues. The people running these companies are focused on their products, technology and their workers. The directors, of course, also handle the financial side, but they often need to bring in specialists to open up new avenues and provide a fresh perspective. Support functions are rarely the top priority for growth companies, so our role is to ensure we provide added value in this regard.
"The companies we represent are fast-growing and need us to organize financing in a way that ensures this growth continues"
How do you view your role?
B.B. We anticipate the needs, issues and stakes for clients, while maintaining an overview of the market. An advisor that has the instincts of a financial director will be capable of reevaluating a company’s financial results, and put the information into an operational context. Similarly, for a CFO, understanding the expectations of investors means you can anticipate questions that will inevitably come up during round-table discussions. I would say that we are entrepreneurs working for entrepreneurs.
J.H. Apart from financial ratios, investors and entrepreneurs want to present the intrinsic components or metrics of their own economic models.
Do you believe in advisors taking risks?
B.B. You need to be able to provide clear and concise advice, be able to push back against owners and say ‘no’ when you have to. Investment funds expect not only an exhaustive approach, but also that you be able to speak your mind and give them the right recommendations to maintain profitability.
J.H. From day one, our debriefs go beyond the merely operational. Investing in a company is a marriage of data analytics and gut feeling. Our investigations reveal the propensity of directors to share information and generally act in a transparent way. This is a good indication of how the entrepreneur/investor relationship will pan out.
Another key component of our success is being flexible and available. We are able to treat complex issues in an expedient manner. This is crucial for building a strong connection over the long term.
What are your thoughts on the digital market?
B.B. The signs are good, given the resilience it has shown in the face of the Covid-19 emergency. Those active in the digital domain have more easily adapted, while others have fallen victim to too their size and inertia.
J.H. Alternating between rupture and maturity, this market is attracting an increasing number of investors. There is some way to go for this sector, and digital will continue to show growth in coming years. Series B and C funding rounds will be particularly important, the capital is there. That said, companies in this sector must continue to improve in upstream phases, notably in the start-up phase. Serious consideration must be given to putting in place an ecosystem that will allow tech IPOs to flourish.
Has the priority of funds changed following 2020?
J.H. Previously, ‘classic’ funds were not overly concerned with digital or tech companies. These days, an increasing number of funds have a dedicated VC team capable of making smart investments in this ecosystem.
B.B. The market has matured in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis. The potential for hyper-growth and profitability is there. That said, competition is fierce, especially when it comes to the hottest prospects.