Frello: raising funds to transform French language learning

18 January 2023


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La Belle Histoire is a series of articles featuring entrepreneurs and their teams – the main characters – starting from where it all began – the genesis – and sharing with you the stages they went through – the epic -. What happened next? They’re still writing it 😉

The story begins on the school benches, where Théo Dumarski and Louis Rapilly met and came up with the idea of changing the way we learn together. Confronted during their studies with language teaching that was too standardized for their taste, lacking the means, given and resources provided to teachers, often leaving students alone to face their difficulties, they decided in 2017 to create Frello. Their aim is to provide teaching tailored to each individual learner, combining face-to-face and distance learning, based on teaching resources and digital tools used before, during and after class .

They developed this solution in contact with teachers, tested it at Neoma – their business school in Rouen – and brought it to the attention of the general public by winning the Aviva Factory competition. Encouraged by these initial successes, the pair signed their first contracts, recruited and joined H7 in August 2019. Frello now has around ten customers.

This presents us with two major challenges. With great lucidity, Theo recalls: “On the one hand, we had to invest in our product and services to continue to provide the most relevant solution to our customers and cultivate our difference. On the other, we were receiving more and more requests from teachers and language centers interested in our solution. We needed to expand our sales team to meet these demands.

To cope, Frello decided to raise funds from investors. “Timing is very important. You have to contact the funds at the moment when the customer curve becomes exponential.”

Louis and Théo draw up a list of investment funds that meet their criteria. They are looking for one or more structures to finance the seed stage of start-ups – for amounts generally between €250 and €700,000 – with a strong technological dimension and a concern for societal impact. Thanks to their digital platform and the educational content it hosts, the Frello teams are helping migrants and refugees to learn French.

In this quest for money and meaning, the MakeSense Seed fund seemed the ideal candidate. The meeting took place a few months earlier, when Louis & Théo had imagined their collaborations with associations and migrant reception centers during a collective intelligence workshop organized by the impact fund. At the same time, they got in touch with Investir&+, a fund recommended by Fatma Chouaieb, co-founder of Hello Charly and present in our offices since the opening in April 2019, whom they had met at a workshop organized at H7 dedicated to fundraising.

Once the funds have been targeted and initial contact made, it’s time for the first pitch to the Investir&+ investment committee. The date is set for March 18. Bad timing: the President of the Republic announces a first national confinement from March 16. The process has been delayed, as the physical meeting is essential to nurture the relationship of trust between entrepreneurs and investors. Nevertheless, Frello has entered the acceleration phase of the MakeSense Seed fund: 3 months to monitor the start-up’s progress and validate its potential, in order to determine whether it will be the subject of an investment.

Despite this postponement, an obvious source of stress and pressure on the growing start-up’s cash flow, the investment committee is set for the end of June. The team’s meticulous preparation, their many rehearsals and their ambition convinced the committee members. “It’s essential to have anticipated everything so as to be able to send all the documentation on our business as soon as it’s requested, and above all to be sure of our strengths. Funds need to find start-ups just as much as the other way round,” Théo explains. 🎯

The two funds convinced them, and put them in touch with three business angels who would complete the round table: 500,000 in equity to support Frello’s ambition. The number of customers tripled in the course of 2020, and the team is set to grow to 12 in the coming weeks. Of the 3,000 people trained in their tools, 45% are exiles, proof of their impact on the social integration of refugees and migrants. While this fundraising will enable them to strengthen their educational content, develop their digital solution and support sustainable growth, their first objective remains to train 5,000 exiled people during 2021.

Louis and Théo’s aim is to make every employee a Frello partner, with transparency cultivated internally and participative management. In fact, it was during the fund-raising process that they set aside time for the collective construction of Frello’s strategy, proving that it’s not just about financing, but above all about projecting into the future.

Sana Chennoufi


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