I’ve become very fond of Paris. I’ve probably been there 20 times or so over the years. My first visit was in June 1997 to do a SAP HR demo for a French multinational. So yeah, I’ve led a demonstration in Paris. Most of my travels to Paris have revolved around the growing vibrant HRTECH scene, but I usually manage to find a few hours or a day either side to explore. Flâneur sounds better than walking around slightly lost.
My engagement with the start-up scene in France began sometime ago when Talentsoft was just half a dozen people, and I learnt a lot about Gestion Prévisionnelle des Emplois et Compétences (GPEC) from Jean Stéphane and Alex. I worked closely with the Simon at Multiposting team after the SuccessFactors acquisition, and since then with at least a dozen founders and leaders in the start-up and scale-up world. I’ve helped several on product strategy and M&A. I’ve been lucky enough to turn some of these into friendships.
A couple of years ago I worked with Thibaud Martin, the founder of Jubiwee. His company was successfully acquired by Coyo. Venero did the heavy lifting on the deal, and I helped along the way. We stayed in touch, and towards the end of last year he introduced me to Alexia Cordier at Fifty. I was really impressed with what she and her team had built, their drive and vision, so I connected them with Jason. Then when she and her co-founders decided to raise money, we decided to invest.
Why did we invest in Fifty?
Addressing a wicked problem that few understand how to solve.
Most HRtech does a good job of recording what people and organizations do and even ought to do. But taking the stuff that is in HR systems and turning it into meaningful actions is astonishingly rare. For instance doing a course leads to behaviour change in only about 12% of cases.
It turns out that encouraging effective behaviour change is really hard to do. This is because humans are complicated. We have all sorts of cognitive biases (loss aversion, champion bias, over-confidence and so on) and these can get in the way of us making better decisions and actions. Building software to help with this isn’t easy.
The team at Fifty works very closely with leading behavioural scientists to build the product. Oliver Sibony is on the board, and is actively involved in the company. Fifty’s product is derived from the research of Sibony, Kahneman, Sunstein, Thaler and more. It is rare to find an early stage product with this deep grounding in behavioural research. What especially impressed us in our investigation was this deep reliance on research in the company’s core design combined with really strong software/ML skills that turn the theory into compelling, robust product.
Early Market Validation
Tapping into academia has provided a strong theoretical foundation for the product, but the rapid adoption of the solution by half of the CAC40 provides a strong vindication of market fit, and the sales execution capability of team. Have a look at some of the case studies here from companies like Orange, La Poste, Bred and Sodexo. Other clients include Crédit Agricole, Axa, Michelin, Bouygues, and ManoMano.
The opportunity to expand Fifty across Europe is significant, and we think that the product lends itself well to partnering with a variety of future of work solutions, many of whom Jason and I know well from our operator days. While improving the link between learning and doing is a robust and exciting use case, we think it is just the start.
Working with founders like Alexia, Clément and Jérémy is why Acadian Ventures exists. We are thrilled to co-invest with the lead investor Christian at signals, as well as Eurazeo, S3 Partners and Tekton Ventures.
It also gives me another reason to visit Paris.