In nine years, the Parisian platform for private lessons Superprof has swallowed 15 competing sites. A bulimia of acquisitions assumed by its Wilfried Granierwho co-founded the site with Yann Leguillon. “Superprof was built on external growth”, sums up this engineer by training, who went through consulting before launching his company, reaching today 21 million turnover with 203 employees.
His last catch dates from this summer: Kelprof.com, active for 20 years. The 350,000 teachers who were referenced there will be added to the already very rich database of Superprof, with 19 million teachers.
For Wilfried Granier, this is the sinews of war: accumulating massive amounts of data in order to accelerate traffic on his site, whose matching algorithm puts individuals and teachers in touch. “A takeover operation saves a lot of time to recover both many teachers and registered students. Incidentally, this eliminates a troublesome competitor,” explains the entrepreneur.
It is still necessary that this competitor is ready to sell and at a reasonable price. It has often happened that the “targets” reject Superprof’s offer… before accepting it a few years later. For example, the French leader had been around his challenger Kelprof for five years. “That’s why you shouldn’t have a predatory attitude,” advises Wilfried Granier. From the first approach, I try tomaintain good relations. You have to wait for everyone’s interests to align and sometimes that ends up happening”. Thus, the takeover of the British site Tutorfair materialized four years after the first takeover proposal.
Each redemption is unique
There remains the question of the financing of these chain acquisitions. And there, surprise, Superprof has, until now, never appealed to outside investors. Rather exceptional in the Edtech universe, not spared by the fundraising fever. Once installed on the board, would “Venture Capitalists” have allowed the founders to risk themselves so quickly in Spain to buy from 2015 and 2016 two rather expensive competitors (Donprofesor and Miprofeparticular)? Wilfried Granier in doubt.
But the entrepreneur recognizes it: the very first acquisitions, even if they did not exceed a few tens of thousands of euros, were difficult to complete, the company not having enough recurring income to reassure the banks. “We managed by negotiating thespread of the redemption amount over time,” says the Parisian manager. Since the company found a good rate of growth, it pays cash and finances its acquisitions by credit with its usual banking partners. The takeover of Kelprof, the amount of which remains confidential, was no exception to this method.
But apart from the final settlement process, each time a different context arises. “Employees to integrate or not, founders who want to stay or not… there are no two similar operations, you have to adapt to each situation “, testifies the entrepreneur by recommending not to neglect the psychology of the transferor. “I try to find out what exactly he has in mind to offer him a life deal”. This is what happened with the leader of Kelprof. He wanted to develop a new business project.