Net Economy : Fabrice Grinda is raising the bidding
Fabrice Grinda, a 25 years old man, is the Aucland CEO. In only one year, he made it the first on-line auction site in Europe.
When Fabrice Grinda decided to create his company in Nice, it dealt with going back home : born in a family from Nice that owns the Westminster Hotel (one of the finest luxury hotels in the Promenade des Anglais) and industrial laundries, he got his high school diploma in the Massena high school. When he was 17, he went to the USA, to Princeston University, where he studied for an MBA in Economics.To finance his studies in the USAHe was already bitten by the enterprising bug : to finance his studies, he founded a small company that exported computer material from the USA to France : 'I started with 100 dollars, and I quickly made a turnover of several millions.'Once he got his MBA, he got a job in Mckinsey's, in New York, the worldwide leader in strategy consultant. 'I learnt a lot but I thought to be a consultant was less entertaining than to be an entrepreneur. Thanks to the money I earned when I sold my flat in New York, and to some shares, I decided to create my company, in the Internet sector. For a long time I looked for an original idea, but in vain; finally, I decided to draw my inspiration from an activity that had already been well-tried in the USA, and to export it in Europe.''I fell in love with the auction on Internet. This niche met exactly my criterion : a high potential of turnover in billion dollars, an idea that had already succeeded, that could be realized with a venture capital of 5 or 10 million francs, that could be applied in Europe and that opened a new market. Moreover, this activity allowed me to start without any stock or logistics.'First premises : a pizzeriaTo create Aucland, he needed a bright partner in the sector of computer programming : he found him in the Inria, in Sophia Antipolis, he was Sacha Fosse-Parisis. Former start-ups (Apple, Hewlett-Packard…) started in a garage. The company from the French Riviera (the local colour wants it ! ) started in the premises of a former pizzeria in Nice !“I first asked the venture capitalists in view to take up 40 million francs. But, I thought they did not have enough ambition ! In April, we decided to go ahead by ourselves, with the 2 million francs I had saved. One million was allotted to create the team, and the other one was assigned to advertising.”As it left the pizzeria in Nice, Aucland got a more prestigious address, as it settled in Sophia Antipolis. Fabrice Grinda quickly found investors : as early as July 1999, Europ@web, the Internet pole of the Arnault group, took a major shareholding in Aucland. “We could take up 120 million francs. Then, we went ahead and did it !”The team has been growing in an exponential way : 25, then 50 people, 130 today. The company is multiplying, settling in Great-Britain, in Italy, in Spain, in Germany… It signed a joint-venture with an American partner. European people know it because of an aggressive advertising campaign on TV (see the article “Controversy about the TV spot of Aucland”).The offices are also growing permanently : “it is a bit exhausting to move every six months ! In Sophia as in Paris, we will be in new premises of 1000m2.”A stressful lifeFabrice Grinda himself “does not know anymore where he lives” : “In Nice, I live at my grandmother’s, in Paris as in the European cities where we have opened subsidiaries, I live at my associates’… In Madrid, I spend the night in the office ! I always spend my time between two flights. And I decided to set up my firm in Sophia Antipolis with the illusive idea I could ski on the weekend !”But, obviously, he does not mind this stressful life : “it is true that I would like to have some time to spare to my hobbies : skiing, playing tennis, reading… My personal ambition is to spend one week on holiday by the end of the year, without computer nor phone ! But, I do not complain because I am having fun ! I do not imagine myself doing something else.”He has got great ambitions for Aucland : “to reinforce our setting up in Europe, to go on increasing the capital, to float the company by the end of the year.”How did he reach such a success ? Fabrice Grinda comments on it without any vanity : “I was lucky to have the right skill when and where it was needed. I have got the enterprise feeling. You have to be ambitious and to go ahead quickly. Now that I am not too closely involved, I can say that I was too careful and perfectionist at the beginning : You have better to go ahead quickly even if you are not completely ready !”Contactfgrinda@aucland.fr