From investment to disposal: taking a company to the next level


Growth stories

From investment to disposal: taking a company to the next level

  • 04 April 2024

Reading time: 6 minutes

    Christophe Eberlé, founder of Optimind, and Alexis Saada, Head of Growth at Ardian, look back on a successful partnership that saw the consulting firm specialized in risk management, double its revenues in four years.

    What prompted Optimind to team up with Ardian?

    Christophe Eberlé: I am an actuary by training. Optimind, the company I founded in 2000, offers risk management, actuarial, finance and compliance consulting services. After our early years which were primarily focused on delivering actuarial services, the consulting side gradually developed across the entire institutional and large-corporate risk chain. Our goal of becoming France’s leader in risk management crystallized over time. 

    We decided to bring in an investment fund as a minority stakeholder as we sought to take the next step in our growth journey, particularly in terms of acquisitions.

    Ardian, whose investment was completed in early 2019, swiftly turned out to be a natural partner, thanks in the first place to the quality of the Growth team, whose entrepreneurial approach and involvement in our project were invaluable.

    Christophe Eberlé, founder of Optimind

    Another key factor was the fund’s reputation. Ardian is a known and respected name among our customers, which include many banks and insurers.


    Alexis, why did Ardian choose Optimind? 

    Alexis Saada: Here at Ardian, we like category leaders. We took a stake in Optimind because our analysis quickly highlighted the platform’s unique qualities in continental Europe. By the way, the investment was part of a competitive process, as we were not alone in spotting Optimind’s promising financial metrics. 
    Based on our strategic analysis, we could see that the company combined an astute understanding of the market with a higher potential growth ceiling than other firms with a more full-service emphasis. But was the existing management team capable of taking the company to the next level as part of an accelerated growth trajectory. 

    Did we share the same vision of the path to follow? We soon realized that management had what it took to get Optimind to the next level. As well as sharing the same growth vision, our business interests were aligned.

    Alexis Saada, Head of Growth at Ardian

    Shared success: Optimind’s growth boosted in partnership with Ardian

    What were the key strategic decisions that underpinned Optimind’s transformation following Ardian’s arrival in 2019? 

    Christophe Eberlé: We had already reached a high level of maturity in our ability to recruit talent and offer the right services. Alexis and his team helped us above all in devising a methodology to identify targets, deciding which companies might meet our goals, and supplying expert support for our exit strategy. While we were obviously mature in terms of our internal financial functions, we lacked experience in merger and acquisition strategies. M&A is a business in its own right, and the Growth team at Ardian unquestionably has skills that we do not. We learned a lot from them. Their grasp of the sector, funds and exit strategies was instrumental in helping us to identify acquisitions. As a result, we made six acquisitions in total, including five in the space of two years. By the time we got to the third acquisition, we were able to start applying our newly created internal methodology. 

    Alexis Saada:  It’s true that there is a fundamental difference between successfully acquiring another firm and having an M&A strategy. The latter entails certain analytical capabilities and task standardization. The M&A journey represents a decisive experience curve for any company looking to consolidate its market.


    How did the partnership between Optimind and Ardian play out?

    Christophe Eberlé: There were two distinct phases, starting with an initial period of analysis and building mutual trust. Ardian got to know Optimind and its senior executive, while Optimind figured out where the fund fit into its governance structure. Following this phase, and post-Covid, everything picked up speed and we began working together smoothly, with a lot of shared trust. 

    We built an effective relationship, typified by the determination of both parties to zero in on the essentials while taking the time to make the right decisions.

    Christophe Eberlé, founder of Optimind

    Ardian made itself truly available, which we appreciated. 

    Alexis Saada:  We adopted an informal “on demand” approach, meaning that if something cropped up, we didn’t wait around to hold a formal meeting. That way, things could move ahead quickly and in a coordinated manner, supported by a real willingness to work together. We formed a relationship where everyone had their place and where we were all on the same page. Besides creating value for everyone, it was also a very rewarding and gratifying way to operate. 

    Winning strategies and a swift rise with Ardian’s support

    What did Optimind’s transformation look like? 

    Christophe Eberlé: Between 2019 and 2022, we expanded from 180 to 450 employees, and boosted our revenues from roughly €30 million to €60 million. We took all of that in our stride, thanks to effective logistics, especially on the IT front, plus a substantial initial financial allocation that shielded us against higher interest rates. We learned about core metrics and established a clear definition of what made sense for our business. In a nutshell, we went from being a big SME with a local specialization to being a small mid cap with a global specialization. 

    • 450 employees

      in 2022 compared to 180 in 2019

    • € 60 milion

      in 2022 compared to €30 million in 2019

    Alexis Saada: The company and its workforce doubled in size on our watch. By the time we exited in July 2023, Optimind had become a truly attractive platform catering to industrial firms in Europe. 

    From software publishers to healthcare patent holders and corporate service providers, the companies that we support at Ardian’s Growth team share a similar trait: they are driven by the brain power of skilled experts operating in the knowledge and intelligence economy.

    Alexis Saada, Head of Growth at Ardian

    The profitable growth trajectories of these companies hinge on the expertise not only of their senior managers, but also of their highly skilled teams, who need to be motivated, urged on and retained. Hence the need for a management group that can lead the company to the next stage as part of a sustainable growth strategy.

    Eyes on the future: Accenture sale

    What was your rationale behind the disposal of Optimind?

    Alexis Saada: We draw on past experience to ensure smooth outcomes when we engage in the art of the exit. The challenge is to imagine the best scenarios and keep options open in the face of different possibilities. To do that, you need to think about building the exit very early in the process. Then, based on these expectations, you can steer a course to open the right doors at the right time. 

    Christophe Eberlé: This final stage was informed by the work we had accomplished together, and particularly the successive acquisitions. Based on our analysis, the logical next step was geographical expansion within Europe. However, the timing was not right. Accenture’s acquisition of Optimind was finalized in July 2023, fewer than five years after Ardian came on board.

    Christophe Eberlé, founder of Optimind
    Christophe Eberlé, founder of Optimind