“There’s no giant that if you’re a small business you can’t appeal to.”

Putting together for a group gift complicated? Not with Kadonation. Through this online platform you can simply arrange everything digitally, from raising money to selecting a gift for a family member or friend. Or for your colleague, because Kadonation appears to be very popular in the workplace. After their successful third capital round, which raised 1 million euros, founders Fabrice Guillermin and Jelle Van Roosbroeck are now focusing their strategic sights on the business market.

The idea for Kadonation came about when Fabrice wanted to buy an iPod Touch for a friend. He tried to get the right amount together with a group of friends. After sending out countless reminders, he got no further than a meagre envelope. Its content was nowhere near enough for the music player and frustrations ran high: “There must be an easier way to do that, right?”

From left to right: Jelle Van Roosbroeck and Fabrice Guillermin in the Kadonation office.

With his technical background (he studied Electronics – ICT) he threw himself into the platform that had to make communicating easier. He joined the then incubator of Artevelde Hogeschool, where Jelle was coordinator. It soon became apparent that they were the perfect complementary duo to get Kadonation off the ground. Jelle: “Fabrice is CEO and focuses more on the technical aspect. As CFO, I focus more on the financial, HR and all external relationships.”

David vs. Goliath

Through Kadonation collaborators can buy a group gift at Zalando, Bol.com, Coolblue or one of the other 75 partners. Not the least names. “Beginning entrepreneurs often think they have to start with smaller potential customers, only to make the move to the corporates. I don’t see why,” says Fabrice. “If you have something of value to them and you can convey that, you’ll get in. There’s no giant that if you’re a small business you can’t appeal to.

Fabrice and Jelle developed an attractive partner offer for consumers. But the popularity of putting things together via Kadonation was also growing enormously in the workplace. “About 60% of group gift users are in the professional environment,” outlines Jelle. “But it is still the consumers, the colleagues among themselves in this case, who collect money for a gift for a wedding, retirement or birth.”

Corporate market

This trend got the co-founders thinking. Jelle: “During our time at Birdhouse we were asked by Belfius to provide a gift for secretary’s day. They didn’t want a group gift, because they wanted to let their secretaries choose their own gift. That’s how the Kadonation gift card was born, a kind of choice card, similar to the Dutch VVV voucher.”

With the gift card Kadonation focuses mainly on B2B. “That’s a very conscious choice,” Fabrice explains. “In fact, we have a lot of corporate clients who place weekly orders with us via email for staff and corporate gifts. To make it more user-friendly, we are launching a business dashboard where different people within an organisation can easily order gifts. In this way, we are a one-stop shop, where in addition to personalised gift vouchers, popular gifts such as flowers, chocolates and champagne can be purchased.”

Cross-pollination

Kadonation participated in the very first cohort of the Birdhouse accelerator. What struck them then was the synergy between all the participating start-ups. Kadonation, for example, worked a lot with Stampix. Fabrice: “They were looking for brands to sell their product to, and those brands were often linked to retailers. We were just looking for those retailers to expand our partner segment. That resulted in cross-pollination. If I had gotten in somewhere I would drop their name, and vice versa.”

Fabrice is pitching during the first cohort of Birdhouse Accelerator.

At Birdhouse, the start-up was still in the pre-revenue phase and was diligently seeking capital. Fabrice and Jelle benefited greatly from the advice of Birdhouse founder Jan-Willem Callebaut. “He showed us that raising capital mainly involves a lot of networking and convincing people. Moreover, he has a huge network, of which he opened up a lot for us“, Jelle says.

Search for capital

This is how they found their first capital, among others with Harry Demey (then mentor at Birdhouse) and Luc Van Mol. But in order to get the full amount of that capital round, they were dependent on several investors: “We had about six of them. Everyone had already signed but one. One day before Christmas, that one called us and said he’d had a huge fight with his wife. If he invested, she would leave him.”

Thus, almost half of the capital that was needed suddenly fell away. And not only that, because although the choice of this investor was not based on strategic insights, another investor took it as a negative signal. And so he, too, began to have doubts. “We had to go to a lot of trouble to convince him that everything was still the same. And we also found an alternative for the fallen investor within two weeks. Nobody expected that in such a short time. But it worked out anyway!”

Kadonation recently raised 1 million euro in their third capital round. How did that come about? “In this round, working out our strategy was very important,” explains Fabrice. “In fact, we want to triple our turnover and double the staff. That is a gigantic task. The shareholders therefore want to know in detail how we are going to achieve that.”

“Somehow it’s encouraging that people don’t believe you can do it. Then you can prove them wrong.”

So after three successful capital rounds, business is booming and new partnerships are also being sought. The recent integration with the Payconic by Bancontact app is a good example. Not everyone was immediately convinced that this would happen. Fabrice: “My parents-in-law didn’t want me to continue with Kadonation after my studies. They thought there wouldn’t be enough money from it. And that was true! We had no capital and few users. All we had were monthly fees. That was a huge risk.”

Friends also sometimes had little faith in Kadonation. How did they deal with this pressure? Fabrice: “Ignore! Somehow it’s encouraging that people don’t believe you can do it. Then you can prove them wrong. Wanting to prove myself has played a big part in who I am today.” Jelle joins him: “We did always have a lot of support from our wives. That was very important.”

Now Kadonation is busy further scaling the business. In this way, the team is expanded considerably. In order to steer this in the right direction, Sven De Langhe has been appointed chief operating officer. The company is also looking abroad. “We want to focus on the French-speaking part of Belgium first, then the Netherlands,” said Fabrice. “We have also already received many inquiries from Zalando, one of our partners. They see a huge opportunity in Germany for our solution for coalescence and want to pull the cart with us. That’s definitely a track too.”

“Contributing to a better world, that’s in our DNA.”

The start-up is also concerned with sustainability. Kadonation has teamed up with WeForest to plant trees in Zambia. Jelle: “The reason why we work together with WeForest is because we believe it is one of the best initiatives to contribute to a better climate. At the same time, it also offers economic benefits to the local regions, as it creates employment. And contributing to a better world, that’s in our DNA. You can also see that in other initiatives, such as our boxes that are 100% FSC approved.”

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