October is active in five European countries and now it’s the turn of our CEO & Founder Olivier Goy.
In our serie Meeting the CEO’s of October we talk to all CEOs of these countries: , CEO of October Germany, , CEO October in Spain, Luuc Mannaerts, CEO of October Netherlands and Sergio Zocchi, CEO October Italy.
Read the interview below!
Tell us something about your background; what did you study, and what work experience do you have?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur, always worked in the financial industry. I set up two companies, the first one 123Investment Managers, a private equity fund dedicated to retail investors. The second company I set up was October, 7 years ago. So, for 21 years I have been an entrepreneur. About my studies, it is so far away. The only thing I can remember about my studies is the huge influence HEC Montreal (Canada) got on me. During that year I discovered two key things; the first one is venture capital and the second one is internet. Learning all about venture capital and internet had a huge influence on my two companies.
You launched October first in France, 7 years ago already, can you explain a bit more about your countries’ financing landscape then and now and the challenges and opportunities this brings?
7 years ago I founded October. And October exists thanks to a new law opening a breach in the banking monopoly. Just after the 2008 crisis, the idea was to create more possibilities for entrepreneurs to get finance. Back to 2014 we have to remember it was not that easy for entrepreneurs to get money, especially from banks. Of course due to the coronacrisis it changed a lot.
The idea was to do it directly at the European level. And now we are already in 5 countries. It was our mission to create a company with a very strong European DNA. But when we started, all 5 countries were similar. Italian, Dutch or French SMEs were not that different.
But the truth is, after the coronacrisis the different landscapes are so different. For example, state guaranteed loans in France and Italy are very easy to access for SMEs. But it is much more difficult to get a state guaranteed loan in the Netherlands, not to mention Spain where it is even more complex. So as a fintech we really welcome state guaranteed loans in France, Italy an the Netherlands, but not in Germany and Spain.
So to sum it up: we started out with 5 similar countries, but now these 5 countries have very different landscapes. And if you look at it from an entrepreneurial perspective, it is very interesting not to have all your eggs in the same basket. To be in different countries is good, especially during the crisis.
What is your target/goal this year in your country? What will you focus on?
For Europe, we had a very good start in 21. We saw a 70% increase of revenues versus 2020, and a 50% increase compared to 2019. It is a very strong year in terms of lending. On top of that, we are not only selling loans, but we are selling our own technology to third parties. This is what we call October Connect. We have a very strong growth on this segment. We expected a tough year after the coronacrisis, but on the contrary we are experiencing a very extraordinary growth. An unexpected growth considering what we went through.
Which October value do you identify most with?
That would be transparency, so ‘let the sunshine in’. Transparency is easy to say, but very difficult to do, especially when you are going through difficult times. And we have proved it several times.
During our first fraud, which is about 5 years ago we had a fraud and lost €500,000 in a single day. When you discover this and have such bad news, how do you react? We had to consider how to disclose this. And we decided to be fully transparant. That was difficult, because the reactions of our customers were pretty negative, and we understood this. But after the fight, we got our money back, we put the borrower in jail, and it has been highly appreciated by our customers.
This was the very beginning of October in terms of culture. Experiencing such a difficult deal together was the key for the future. That’s why I really like this value of transparency and we have proved it several times during our journey. Explaining openly to the world our difficulties. I’ve done it myself, explaining my own disease and explaining why I am fighting ALS.
Tell us something about your most memorable project
Of course I will always remember the first one, the emotion of putting the first project online. On top of that it was a very famous project, it was Alain Ducasse, probably the most famous chef in France, if not in the world. We were so proud of having him borrowing money on the October platform, it was a great moment.link
And because I’m an entrepreneur, I also like the last one. The last one, is the project that we have announced this week, the adoption by the French Investment Bank (Bpifrance) of the October Connect technology. Once again we are a good lender because we are a tech company, and we are a good tech company because we are a good lender. We do not invent features in the offices, but we invent features because we are in the field lending for SME’s and this concrete experience helps us to improve the October product.
Looking back on 7 year October, what are you most proud of?
On day one, we realized that three things would be key to Octobers’ success, and I’m proud seeing that 7 years later these three things are still very important to October. The fact that the 3 pillars we choose at the beginning are still valid: Europe, tech and a funding mixing institutional investors and retail.
The first pillar is to be an European player; the fact that we opened offices in 5 countries is key for us today
The second pillar is not only to focus on retail investors but also institutional investors. It was an idea from day one and today we we are able to grow as quickly as we grow because we have a unique mix of retail and institutional lenders.
The last pillar is making tech and data a key asset. The strong focus on technology, helped us to launch October Connect and helped us today to be a better lender. It was a huge investment, and at times not really rewarding, during the first years. But now we are were we are and it has paid off.
As everyone within October knows, you are passionate about photography and are the founder of the foundation Photo4Food. Can you tell us a bit more about this foundation?
The foundation photo4food is a project set up by my wife and I. It is a private foundation hosted by Institut de France, a French learned-society grouping the five Academies including Académie Française and Académie des Beaux-Arts. The idea of this foundation is to fight poverty, thanks to the sale of photographs given by very generous artists. On the other side, the foundation tries to organizes exhibitions and events to promote its talented and generous photographers. It is a win-win deal. We help people fighting poverty and we help photographers to enjoy the journey. And we’ve had some very good results, we have already delivered hundreds of thousands meals. For example, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the street near the October office in Paris is closed and we serve hundreds of meals a day, all year long and the foundation pays for the meals and the transport to collect food in the neighborhood.
It is a full time job for my wife. She decided to quit her job as a CFO to be fully focused on the foundation, it is a family project.
The foundation is active in French to fight poverty in France. When you want to fight something, you have to be on the ground. Unfortunately we can’t fight at a worldwide level, so we focus on France. But this is also thanks to the support of international photographers from Canada, the Netherlands, Italy or France.