In 2020, we bought out our investor's shares, we gave back €200K from a loan and I finally bought my co-founder's shares. What a year!

By Tom Benattar
31 Mar
2021

In our last article, we shared our crazy last year at PixelMe after raising $1.3M. Specifically, we explained why:

  • we raised 1.3 million with a 4M valuation
  • we spent €700K in one year
  • we decided to kill our attribution product
  • we received a Cease and Desist letter from Facebook
  • we dismissed 5 employees

Quick reminder: “Beginning of January 2020, our attribution product was stopped, Adinbox was blocked by Facebook, our URL shortener was still live but we knew it will never become a unicorn and the future of PixelMe was vague. We took the difficult decision to let go of our two latest employees.

Investor stocks buyback

February 2020 — Our first disagreement with our investors


February 2020, we were back to 3 and it was seriously time to think about the future. Discussions lead to the idea of selling the company assets and reuse this money to build a new product.

A long time ago, Max and I were discussing buying properties, real estate. A Simple conversation, but from which it emerged an idea about the french loans and insurance, etc. We kept it in mind, and when the time came, we thought it could be our big next move! A pivot for the company, something radically different than PixelMe and the ad market but still very connected to data.

During two hard weeks, we all worked on it, explored, created landing pages, customer research, chatted with Alan and Luko founders, etc… Next up, was the board! And we needed to be really prepared to pitch this pivot to Serena.

Unfortunately, and for the first time in our collaboration, we were misaligned with Serena. Our pivot was not in harmony with the strategy of the fund and Serena expected a ‘real’ exit from PixelMe URL shortener. They wanted us to grow PixelMe to $50K- $80K MRR in 6 months and eventually sell it. Even though we were not convinced about this plan, we did follow it for a while.

June 2020 — Back to basic


So bye-bye the big move!

For four months we worked on growing our URL shortener and finding potential buyers for PixelMe. We spoke to a few ones, our competitor Bitly, or the group who acquired Sniply, and it appeared we were too small to be acquired at the time.

Simultaneously, we realized we are definitely not aligned with Serena’s strategy. Probably after 3 years on PixelMe, tired and frustrated not to be able to work on our dream product, we wanted something else.

Important notice: in addition to the $1M in funding, we got €600K (€400K first year and €200K one year later) as a loan from the French government (BPI France) to finance our innovation research. Stay tuned, we have done something pretty unpopular for a startup in France.

In June 2020, we stopped the loan program from BPI. On the €600K loan, we did not claim the €200K and gave back €200K and kept €200K in debt. Yes, you are reading correctly, in the middle of a Pandemic, we gave back that money, even though we probably could have kept it. We think that France is awesome at helping entrepreneurs and public money should be treated like your personal money.

It was not easy, but to be honest we were glad to have really smart investors, even if we were not aligned with the strategy at the end.

During negotiations, we kept a good relationship with Kamel and we were happy to finally find a deal that works for everyone. We offered a certain amount of cash to Serena to buy back their shares (the amount of the deal was undisclosed). Which they accepted! We offered the same deal to our angels but they chose to stay with us!

Thank you for your trust, Edouard, Stan, Jean, Manu, Thomas, Christophe, and Greg!

Many thanks again to Kamel and the Serena team, even if the ending was different than the one we hoped for when we started this adventure, it was a real pleasure to work with you guys! 🙏

From 3 to … 1?

September 2020 — What a year!


We are in August, the process to buy out our investor was done, and we were left with €100K in the bank and our current MRR has decreased to €15K. And honestly, our motivation was gone with the summer…

We were happy to be free but we understood the current MRR and the cash in the bank will cover neither our expenses, not our salaries.

A big existential talk with Max and Jerem was much needed. We were aligned about one thing, we were tired of PixelMe and we needed to do something about it. We discussed the possibilities and found a deal that would make all of us happy.

The deal was simple, I offered to buy Max et Jerem shares for €50K each and I will share 20% of the money if I would sell PixelMe in the future.

Max wanted to find a new exciting adventure and he found one at Bonjour as a Head of Growth! And Jérémie started as a CTO at Biloba and as an advisor for flim.ai.

I on my side would continue to operate PixelMe

What’s next for PixelMe?


It totally changed my perspective. I am now ‘alone’ with no safety net (cash is gone) but with a product with users and MRR. To be clearer, I’m not 100% alone, Jeremie still continues to help me a lot by mentoring my new developer Baptiste! Florie is helping me closing BIG deals! If you are interested in outsourcing your sales team, I can 100% recommend Florie. And Stephen is also coding some features as a freelancer!

In February 2021, we are doing $270K+ ARR, our goal is to grow to $300K/$350K in the next 12 months! Of course, if we have a great opportunity to sell PixelMe, we might be interested.

In term of the product roadmap, we launched two new great features:

  • Link Preview: edit quickly the image, title, or description of your links. Manage easily how your links will be displayed and increase your Click Through Rate (CTR) with a beautiful link preview.
  • PixelMe one-link! Create a micro landing page in one link for your BIO on Instagram or Youtube.

Our mission for PixelMe is to become the next All in one tool to manage your online presence when your business is on third-party websites! 🚀