Pierre-Antoine De Preux: Banking on finance led to surfboards, marketing, and a tech company
Pierre-Antoine is the son of a wealth management company owner. He didn't follow the prescribed path, and has now built and is running multiple marketing agencies and a SaaS poised to take off.
Pierre-Antoine grew up in Geneva, Switzerland. His father was in finance, and he was expected to follow the same trajectory. In his teens, Pierre-Antoine interned in different banks and went on to earn a degree in math and finance, and then a master’s in mathematical modeling.
If you know anything about Geneva, you could probably have guessed that this would be a likely path. What you wouldn’t have guessed is that Pierre-Antoine earned his degrees in Australia. That would lead him on a more interesting journey that he ever imagined.
Waves, Shades, and Investing as a Student
Pierre-Antoine grew up as a native French speaker, the predominant language in Geneva. He knew, however, that English was incredibly important to the banking world, and wanted to earn a degree somewhere that he could work on his language skills through immersion. P-A’s dad suggested Australia, and off he went to the University of Technology in Sydney.
While working on his master’s degree, Pierre-Antoine found that he had a lot of time free on the weekends. Being in Australia, he would often spend that time surfing. He got really into it, and wanted to have his own surfboard.
P-A winds up finding out about a guy who has just started a factory to make boards and is welcome to people visiting to get a firsthand feel on what they’d like to order.
They hit it off. Pierre-Antoine visits every few weeks, doing odd jobs for the founder here and there just to stay close to the operation. He was fascinated by it.
After a few months, he decides to make an offer to invest. The owner accepts, and suddenly Pierre-Antoine owns part of a company in Sydney, Australia.
The company wasn’t growing tremendously, so P-A decided to help out with marketing. He heads over to California, USA, for a larger market and new opportunities. As he looks around though, he realizes that there isn’t a platform to recruit brand advocates. Social media in 2015 hadn’t grown to the level it is today, and finding influencers for surfing was a real challenge.
Influencer Platform, v1
Pierre-Antoine studied the market. It was fragmented and difficult to manage. Finding influencers was hard and the results were difficult to measure.
He approached a few friends to help fund and create the technology for an influencer marketplace. Once the technology reached a usable state though, the real work began.
As anyone who has contemplated starting a marketplace knows, it isn’t just about building a product. In fact, the marketplace itself is the easy part. The difficulty comes by needing to recruit both the customer and the seller. And remember - at this point, influencers were just starting to get recognized as a legitimate marketing avenue.
Influencer Platform, v2
As Pierre-Antoine tried to sell his product, he kept hearing the same thing: companies were unsure about their social media product. They needed help running it.
In 2016 they shifted from running the influencer business full-time to having an agency to manage social media for different companies.
This split the responsibilities of the team, but also managed to make them money for the first time. Unfortunately, while they were busy making a living, competitors started popping up.
These companies were offering similar influencer services, but at drastically reduced rates. Lower rates meant lower quality, but most companies weren’t concerned about that at the time. There’s a large separation in the market - either low cost and low quality, or high cost for high quality. Even today, there’s very little middle ground, which is where Pierre-Antoine was trying to build his business.
They needed money, and started pitching to VC’s. Rejection follows rejection, and by the end of 2018 P-A has realized that he isn’t going to make any headway. They start the process of shutting down both sides of this business.
Serendipity Meets a Compiled Product
Pierre-Antoine didn’t want to work on another creative agency, but his experience with the agency would drive him to another discovery: performance marketing. With his technical background and love of marketing in general, it was a perfect fit.
He had retained his best coder and the code base, and set out to start building a tool for himself as he managed this new company. He started compiling a program to manage Slack’s messaging, Trello and Monday.com’s task management, and Pipedrive’s CRM all in one place. He wanted to streamline his work, not to sell it to others.
As luck would have it though, Pierre-Antoine already knew someone who would love his new software. In 2017, he bought an Instagram account for his influencer marketing. That account was following a course creator teaching how to run agencies and do performance marketing. P-A wound up buying his course, implementing some of the ideas in his agency, and getting involved in the community they had set up.
As Pierre-Antoine’s software was being built out, he realized there was a lot of value there. He didn’t want to start from scratch though, and decided to chat with this course creator in 2020, who happened to be selling products as an affiliate to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
This is where the stars aligned. Pierre-Antoine’s tool was bundling together the same software that this course creator was selling. A working SaaS would simplify the use for countless agency owners, providing an immediate “in”.
Pierre-Antoine set up AgenciFlow as a standalone and continued to build. Today, they have integrated with the community to build the software with them.
In mid-2021, AgenciFlow’s first access codes went out to 200 agencies. 180 signed up, an incredible early result. Another 5,000 students are immediately accessible through the courses they’re partnered with. They expect to officially launch by the end of 2021.
Don’t raise money until you know how to sell your product to the consumer
When you start a business, don’t start with the product. Start with who it will serve and learn what they need first!
You can connect with Pierre-Antoine on LinkedIn.
Pierre-Antoine may have set out to become a banker, but it wasn’t his father’s success running a wealth management company that put him in the position he is today. He’s worked hard to have successful companies, and today has achieved that goal. Next is to grow them further. His performance marketing agency, Amplifyr, is headquartered in Sydney.
P-A was a lot of fun to talk to. You can feel his energy even over video, and he has an incredibly discerning mind. He was quick to offer advice for me, and given his experience in not only marketing but also podcasting through his wife, Doone Roisin, who hosts Female Startup Club. I get the feeling just chatting with him that these businesses he has now are just getting started.
Want to connect with him for a consult? Check this out.
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