The partnership behind Ardian Growth’s first $1 billion company
01 June 2020
Paris , France
David Khuat-Duy: We set up Ivalua just over 20 years ago, based in a Paris suburb. For the first decade, we developed the technology platform and grew organically, while always operating profitably. In 2010-11, we decided it was time to expand internationally. We had met Ardian and got to know the team a few years before so when the time came, they already knew the potential of our product and the management team. What we liked about Laurent and the team was the fact that they were listening to us and understood us, because they had been following us for all those years.
Laurent Foata: Our approach to Ivalua is representative of the way Ardian Growth operates. We try to identify companies with strong potential in the digital space, early on in their growth journey. We came across Ivalua in 2008 at a trade fair and first met David later that year. Back then it was a small company with about 30 people, but we were impressed by David’s vision for e-procurement and e-sourcing, and amazed by the product which had a very large spectrum of functionalities. They needed to accelerate their sales strategy, and we invested to help them to launch in the US. It was ambitious, but we knew the US was key to the evolution of the e-procurement software market.
industry-leading customer retention rate
David Khuat-Duy: It took us time to gain traction. Dan Amzallag, CEO of Ivalua Inc., moved to the US in 2011 to start the process and the first two years were like "crossing the desert" while we tested the market. We were a small, virtually unknown French company, and the US was just starting to see interest in our product. In 2013, I also moved to the US with my family, and over the following years we managed to increase the pace of growth. By 2017, our US top line was at the level of our European top line. KKR invested in 2017 on the back of this success. This allowed us to invest more money and expand across Asia and in Europe. We raised more money in 2019 and since then we’ve recruited a lot of new people. We’re 600 employees now and we’re developing solutions specific to different industries, to strengthen our position on the market. We have a very good product and we operate in a deep market, so the potential over the next few years is clear.
Laurent Foata: Going to the US was a major step. Since David and Dan moved to the US, it was key to build a strong team to drive the European operation forwards. As a minority investor, we played a supporting role, but David and Dan had to find the people and help them develop. When you look back now, it seems a natural process but in reality, a very ambitious growth project like this has plenty of difficult moments. David and Dan’s ability to reinvent and challenge themselves constantly and to trust and rely on people like us on key issues enabled the team to move forward and overcome its challenges.
leading companies empowered by Ivalua’s solutions
David Khuat-Duy: Laurent and Geoffroy de La Grandière, Director at Ardian Growth, sit on our board and they have guided us through the different stages of growth and the difficulties we faced. They also used their network to bring in Pierre Demonsant from Planisware, a global provider of software solutions for project portfolio management, as a non-executive. He has great experience and has really supported us along the way. Laurent also helped us with some of our people issues; he has strong intuition which made a big difference at certain points. You have to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the management team and know when to add new skills.
Laurent Foata: Understanding the realities on the ground is important. We support our companies in every way we can, and we always try to ensure they benefit from the experiences of all the other entrepreneurs we have partnered with through Ardian Growth. The interesting thing in Ivalua’s case is that the company has achieved great success while taking its time to build a very rich product, always focusing on its long-term vision of how the business should develop. This is quite rare in the software world. It has been a pleasure to support the company but the credit goes to them – it’s amazing to go from a small European player to the top three globally. What makes the difference is the ability to create a team from scratch. You can’t model this – it’s entrepreneurial magic that happens in an impressionistic, iterative way every day. Sustained effort, resilience and the ability to reinvent yourself: this is the DNA of entrepreneurs.