Etix Everywhere – a future Luxembourg unicorn in our midst
Etix Everywhere is the first Luxembourg start-up to be selected as one of 18 future European unicorns for the Startup Europe Comes to Silicon Valley ( SEC2SV) programme. CEO Charles-Antoine Beyney, a hugely successful serial entrepreneur who counts Etix Everywhere as his fifth company, talks to Luxinnovation about this and other exciting moments.
No small honour
Created and organised by Mind the Bridge and co-organised with EIT Digital from September 12-20, 2016, SEC2SV was recommended to Etix Everywhere by Luxinnovation’s Start-up Development team. It offers Etix Everywhere a one-week opportunity to pitch their start-up and engage with major U.S. industry players for sales, funding and collaboration opportunities in order to rapidly scale up on the other side of the Atlantic.
Asked about the real value of SEC2SV to Etix Everywhere, Charles-Antoine Beyney points to a comment of his founding partner and Managing Director, Antoine Boniface, who stated that “the week will be a fantastic opportunity to win the heart of Silicon Valley and leverage Etix Everywhere business. The programme will help deepen Etix Everywhere’s roots, not only in Silicon Valley but also all over the world.”
Indeed, the “everywhere” part of the company’s name is becoming a reality. Earlier this year, they opened offices in New York and San Francisco and they are working on data centres in Africa and Brazil.
Charles-Antoine was quick to thank Luxinnovation for their part in success, saying “We are very grateful to Luxinnovation. If it weren’t for the Start-Up Development team we would not even have known about this competition because they informed us about SEC2SV and recommended that we enter. Luxinnovation has helped us in numerous other ways as well. They invited us to present Etix Everywhere to investors at a recent event held at the Luxembourg Embassy in London. What’s more, they helped us to obtain a research and development grant from the Luxembourg government.”
Meeting top notch investors at the SEC2SV
Charles Antoine is no novice at this type of event and there will be start-ups far more junior than his. What is he expecting to achieve in terms of financing?
“We get a 5 minute pitch, so you have to make yourself the story of the week and we have been promised a list of top notch investors. Following this we have a full week of sales, funding and collaboration opportunities in order to rapidly scale-up, he says. “This is our series B financing and we have investors with us already.”
Etix Everywhere has already raised 15 million € (16.7 million US$) from two financial partners, InfraVia (FR) and Tiger Infrastructure Partners (USA) in the beginning of 2015. “We are in the pre-Unicorn era and we intend to reach the next step,” he continues. “We are looking forward to pitching our value proposition to 30 investors who are among the most important on the West Coast."
So what does Etix Everywhere do that has everyone so excited and how does the 34-year-old CEO view the future of this company? In a nut shell, Etix Everywhere provides IT housing services and designs and builds scalable data centres that can be deployed anywhere in less than 16 weeks. They offer both turnkey data centres for large customers and also develop their own colocation data centre network in which housing services are provided.
“We are building very sensitive pieces of assets. Looking at the existing model of data centres which we saw as very expensive and not very secure, we were quick to realise that we can both improve on the stability and decrease the price. This is accomplished by using less people, which both reduces cost and increases safety and PUE (Power usage effectiveness).”
As Charles-Antoine explains, “the core of what we are doing – the technical side – is the same as everyone else. Where we are innovative is the rest of the process. In a usual data centre you need a lot of people, however 80% of errors that occur are human errors and our model can reduce the number of people to 0%. Typically, it takes 7 security guards to protect the perimeter of a traditional data centre. Our model though achieves the same result by relying on technology alone using 24/7 remote monitoring, access control & intrusion detection, video surveillance and enhanced fire protection. Over ten years you are looking at savings of 3 million US$.”
Less capex, more security, happy customers
As we walk around the Etix Everywhere offices Charles-Antoine shows one employee creating a 3-D scale architectural model of a data centre and then walks to a different office and picks up two simple pieces of equipment as if to emphasise his next point, “What we are doing is in fact really simple. We are building data centres and decreasing capex while increasing security. If a company doesn’t have the building to house a data centre we build or buy it and lease it to the customer. Plus, we deal with the telecom operators and the energy companies. Only the chilling system has to change depending on the country because it is based on the climate. We help the customers get what they need and we offer 16 weeks to do it.”
“What we do is complex”, Charles Antoine stresses, noting that “this complexity must be presented as simple so that our customers can focus on their business while we innovate in ours. We manage the value chain from a to z and we are absolutely building this company for a scalable global market and yes, we believe we are going to be a unicorn,”
A question of trust
“We are the first company in the world that funds infrastructure to back up a data centre business and these are ten-year investments with a much lower return for investors. This is the way we see the business: very long term. We are not going to sell this company but I cannot really tell you where we will be in 10 or 15 years. If you had told me 2 years ago that I would be building data centres in Brazil and Africa I would have said no way.”
“In a long term vision what is looked for is what I call the “non-volatile cash machine” meaning a business where your customers will stay. There is 95% recurring revenue with a data centre. With that kind of revenue, you can innovate as much as you want but we want our innovation to come from inside our company and that takes trust. This is why we say trust is golden. We have the money to finance our innovations. We want to expand even quicker and put new technologies into the market. That is why we want to only hire people with entrepreneurial minds here.”
Innovation is the driving force behind Etix Everywhere who allocate a significant part of their budget to R&D. “Innovation is the driving force of all start-ups. This is our most valuable capital.” says Charles Antoine. "30% of our turnover and 50% of Etix Everywhere employees are devoted to the R&D lab”, a pool of creativity and technology in which the developers and electronics engineers are encouraged to work with the latest technologies to develop innovative projects. "Our team works on the biggest challenges the data centre industry is facing: power management, physical security and energy efficiency."
This includes computer scientists, big data analysis, constantly updated software, concrete equipment DCIM (given to the customer) and Artificial Intelligence that can monitor access. And for all that service it takes only 4 people for 100 data centres. The system indicates the problem when something goes wrong with the equipment and a certified subcontractor is given access to do the repairs. "We are focusing on creating smart and fully automated data centres using Artificial Intelligence so our clients can count on the reliability of their infrastructure and make the most of their data centre."
Where the Chief Happiness Officer comes in
This leads us to the people part of Etix Everywhere; perhaps the most valuable part of their long-term vision: First, find a model that generates a lot of revenue. Second, hire smart, innovative and entrepreneurial people and allow them to flourish – the “ethics” factor they are looking for. Third, use the money to fuel more innovation. Everybody wins.
“The toughest thing to establish with someone is trust, says Charles Antoine. “If we can get our employees to love and stay with the company we can build and change the world together at the speed of light. We can offer them new roles, they learn and evolve; in fact we try to have everyone learn one new thing every day. This is the secret to retention.”
The only person the company has every used a head hunter for was their “Chief Happiness Officer” or Human Resources Director, Julian Troian who speaks 5 languages. “He is the guy with whom we are going to build an empire,” Charles Antoine says. “When you are integrating 18 different nationalities into one company in one year you really need to create a team spirit and he is the guy who is doing this.”
Indeed, as you walk around the Etix Everywhere offices it is patently clear that the happiness of the employees is vitally important. There are specialised sleeping beds that can actually improve the quality of a nap, there are two employees playing a rambunctious game of “kicker”, darts, and a gym and most important, and a relaxed and happy working environment evident from the moment you walk in the front door.
“Five to ten years’ experience in a company equals real value. We have no desire to take advantage. Some of our people are young and some are more senior and both profiles bring something to the table. We want a complete mix of people and genders and nationalities.
“It is important to have all sorts of perspectives. Being in Luxembourg is a great environment for this. It is easy to get people to come here and what Etix Everywhere is interested in is getting them on board for the next five to ten years. I myself am here because I have small children and if you look at safety and infrastructure and culture Luxembourg is an easy sell.