If you think the ringtone business is for kids, then Fabrice Grinda has a $130 million lesson to teach you. After starting the eBays of Europe and Latin America, Fabrice brought the ringtone business concept to America by starting Zingy. We caught up with Fabrice, now 31 and a millionaire several times over, just a couple of hours before he finished his last day at the helm of Zingy. While his possessions were in boxes, he put all of his cards on the table by telling us his net worth at every stage of the game. He’s risked all of his resources in the past for his ventures, but will he do it again? Listen to hear his plans.
Update (4/16/08): Fabrice announced on the Venture Voice blog that he’s launched a new online classified business called OLX that’s been dubbed a Facebook killer. OLX recently raised $13.5 million in venture funding.
1:15 Becoming an entrepreneur
- Born in Paris, grew up in Nice.
- Attended Princeton.
- Made several hundred thousand dollars by arbitraging computers between the US and France.
6:30 Types of entrepreneurs
- “I’m not very creative.”
- “On paper I look more like a businessman than an entrepreneur, just so happens that I’d rather not work for anyone else, and that’s why I’m an entrepreneur.”
7:15 Out of college
- Worked at McKinsey & Company.
- “After two years at McKinsey I realized that my goal in life was not to write a perfect PowerPoint presentation.”
9:30 Selection criteria for business
- Fabrice lists his criteria in this blog post.
- “It’s incredible how unsavvy a lot of the French entrepreneurs were with regards to PR.”
- “I feel that it’s often better to make the wrong decision, and maybe fix it over time as you realize you made the wrong decision, then making no decision at all.”
22:30 Doing business in France
23:45 Investor follies
- Aucland was funded by Bernard Arnault, France’s richest individual.
- “The guy’s worth $18 billion, he doesn’t really care about making another $100 or $200 million.”
27:00 Picking the next venture
- “I had to become an entrepreneur again.”
- Found Jamba! was doing well selling ringtones in Germany, but no one was doing it in the U.S.
- Got the idea for Zingy.
- “I invested every last penny I had in [Zingy]. I didn’t mean to.”
32:30 Missing payroll
- “I kept making silly excuses to employees… they had heard it before.”
33:30 Seeds of success
- “It wasn’t really working because charging people by credit card is not a great model, especially when your consumers are teenagers and don’t have credit cards.”
- “I bought a deal with Microsoft.”
- “Finally, on August 15th, 2003, the check from Sprint arrives. And the first check from Sprint is like half-a-million dollars.”
39:30 When to cash out
- “I still have no money in my bank account.”
- “Then I’m like: ‘You know what, stop this, we’re not fund raising, we’re just growing the company.’”
- “The investment bank can be the bad guy.”
- Sold company for $80 million to a Japanese company.
- “So I sell the company and blow out all the numbers that we ever expected to blow.”
- Acquired Vindigo.
46:30 Quitting Zingy, moving on
- Traveling around the world.
- “I’m keeping my eyes open for the next big idea.”
- “The objective at the end of the day is to have fun and build a great business.”
- “Most people that build businesses to make money end up loosing because they’re not willing to sacrifice it all.”
- “We’re at the very beginning of the Internet revolution.”