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16 of France’s most exciting bootstrapped startups

16 of France's most exciting bootstrapped startups
Written by Publishing Team

Last year, the 30 French startups with a $1 billion valuation got the most attention, praised by local politicians and the media for creating jobs and strengthening the tech ecosystem.

In fact, some of the fastest growing startups in France were coaching companies, which means that the companies that never raised any venture capital money.

Among them are sales automation company Lemlist, which has annual revenue of $10 million and more than 20,000 customers in 3.5 years; and Lucca, a provider of HR software used in 112 countries that grew by 28% in 2020 and recorded revenue of €15.2 million.

“When the French Republic wants to promote entrepreneurship, they promote forty companies that have raised the most money. This is unfair. There is no one to represent the companies that are in the bootstrap business”

These software companies are often unfairly overlooked, says Carolyn Ballox, founder of Ignition Business Recruitment and network builder for startup companies.

“When the French Republic wants to promote entrepreneurship, they promote forty companies that have raised the most money. This is unfair. There is no one to represent the innovative companies,” she says.

Fundraising isn’t necessarily a sign of success, says Jean-Christophe Boulanger, founder of the French magazine Contexte.

“What I think is very bad is that there is some confusion about capital raising and success. Capital raising does not mean success, and some people tend to raise capital just in order to highlight it.

Indeed, in Pailloux’s view, a founder who does not raise outside capital can focus on the desired function: where to invest the company’s money, hire the right people, and achieve profitability.

So what are some of the most exciting French companies joining Pailloux’s Club Bootstrap? We have only included the unobtained ones.

Carolyn Bailo, co-founder of The Ignition Program

ignition program

Founders: Caroline Ballox and Lucas Cervant

was established: 2013

Ignition is a recruitment and training platform for startups that was launched in 2013. Now it has grown to employ around 50 people and has expanded to Spain and Portugal. At first, Pailloux said she had discussions with VCs but soon realized she would need to relinquish a lot of control if she accepted any money. She decided that she would rather risk her capital, by investing her savings in the business, while still retaining her freedom.

“Today, my frontiers are my clients. If I had raised money, my frontiers would be my investors,” she says.

She adds, “When you raise money, the main goal is to spend the money you got. You have to invest more than you get from your clients. Of course, we have to invest a lot to grow as well, but we can’t invest more than we earn. This means that in their culture, innovative companies are more careful about their costs.”


Founder: Jean-Christophe Boulanger

was established: 2013

Contexte has about 900 clients, which are institutions, with each group comprising approximately 10 to 12 individual readers. Since 2016, Boulanger has focused solely on generating revenue from subscriptions and has increased revenue by 1.5 million euros year-over-year to 4.5 million euros in 2021.

“When I started, I had no cash in my pocket. It was quite a challenge because from the beginning we wanted to be independent and control the majority of the shares,” he explains.

To start the company, he brought in about 50 thousand euros from business sponsors, as well as some money granted by the French Ministry of Culture. In all, Contexte has received approximately €2 million in public grants and approximately €2 million in private grants, as well as €1 million in debt.

In Boulanger’s opinion, it is better for an entrepreneur to avoid venture capital.

“Not raising capital keeps you focused on better questions of your business’s long-term success. It keeps you focused on profitability, not spending a lot of cash, and keeps you focused on rapid growth and finding the right people,” he says.

Superprof is an introductory company

Super Pro

Founders: Wilfried Graner, Jan Legilon

was established: 2013

Granier launched the tutoring provider as a subscription service from the start, where students pay €9 per month to access tutors who can give lessons in 500 subjects. At first, he did not pay himself and returned all his profits to the company. Since its launch, it has completed 10 acquisitions, and has expanded internationally to 40 countries. Last year, the company, which employs 200 people, generated €21 million in revenue. He says that he is happy with the current structure of the company and does not want to sell a stake in the company.


Founder: Cyril Sigers

was established: 2015

Skilleos provides online courses on a variety of topics from languages ​​to vocational training. The courses are taught by more than 300 professionals.



Founder: Jill Satji

was established: 2002

Lucca is an HR software provider operating in 112 countries. In 2020, it grew by 28% and recorded revenue of 15.2 million euros. It employs approximately 250 people and has 4,400 clients.


Founder: Jean-Louis Benard

was established: 2014

Sociabble, a communications and advocacy platform for employees, is used in more than 80 countries. The company is headquartered in Paris, and has operations in New York, London, Lyon and Mumbai. Its clients include Coca-Cola, The Walt Disney Company and Microsoft.

what do you have

Founders: Mathieu Stefani, Laurent Kretz, Francois Devosses, Pierre Stephanie

was established: 2015

Digital strategy consulting firm CosaVostra has offices in four cities, including London. She has worked with companies such as Hermes, Kellogg’s, and L’Oréal. Since its inception, the company has achieved an average growth of 60% year-over-year, according to its website.

Segolene Muterde, co-founder of Teamstarter
Segolene Muterde, co-founder of Teamstarter

Team Starter

Founders: Segolene Muterdi, Vincent Desmaris

was established: 2019

TeamStarter is a corporate crowdfunding platform that allows companies to facilitate the creation of new projects by their employees.


Founders: Thibaut Desreumaux, Marine Bonlieu, Julien Davignon

was established: 2018

Wivoo is a consulting firm focused on product management. This year, it was listed in the FrenchWeb 500 – a ranking of French technology companies – at number 281.

clean me

Founders: Alexandre Belletti and Olivier Saint-Germain

was established: 2012

Cleany, as the name suggests, is an office cleaning services provider, created with the aim of modernizing the industry. The company aims to use 100% hygienic cleaning products and is working on getting cleaners on permanent contracts. She is currently working on getting her B Corp certification.


Founder: valiant clouds

was established: 2017

Klox is a digital marketing company, and after four years in operation, it had more than 350 active customers in 2021. From just five people in the beginning, it has grown to employ 40 employees.


Founder: Laurent Lefevre

was established: 2017

HelloCSE based in Lyon provides digital solutions for the economy and social commissions in France, from an employee benefits platform to training for elected professionals. In November it crossed the 1,000 customer mark.


Founders: Alain Garnier, Paul Giroudon, Mathieu Lewis

was established: 2005

Jamespot is a social networking software provider, and it’s one of the oldest on the list.

Team Limlist
Team Limlist


Founders: Guillaume Mobicy, François Lecroart, Vianney Lecroute

was established: 2018

After starting without venture capital funding, Lemlist founder Guillaume received a $20 million bid last year, followed by a $30 million bid. However, according to a video posted on YouTube, Mobchi and his partners decided to refuse the venture capital.


Founders: Alexandre Bonetti, Jeremy Kingsman, Roman Noni

was established: 2013

Simplébo is a website design company that works with more than 6000 companies, according to its website.


Founders: Clemence Rousseau Demarcais, Bernard van Leethem

was established: 2018

Nutchel is a luxury company whose first location was launched in 2020 in Belgium. Since then, it has opened a new location in Alsace in France. For Dumarsai, her lack of venture capital funds kept her focused on being profitable from day one. She says she wants to remain in control, so she is not looking to raise any capital, although she doesn’t rule that out in the long term because she thinks it could be worth doing business with international markets that need a lot of money.

Céline Bocack is a freelance financial writer based in Paris. She tweets from Tweet embed

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