Serge Alleyne

I invest in passionate and pragmatic entrepreneurs, those with that magic touch for focusing on quality and results to really go big

Back in the day – I had the chance to be raised with lots of confidence thanks to the love and trust of my hard-working mum. I was lucky enough to become independent very early when she helped me move in a studio apartment in Paris when I was 15 years old, back in 1995. I started coding almost at the same time. I loved learning and trying to be the best in what I did, whatever the topic, the sport or the challenge: no limits. I was passionate about almost everything and fell in love with magic, a solitary and secret process of deep learning that requires perfection to succeed and amaze your audience. I also used to draw quite a bit at school, making my friends laugh with funny sketches at the end of each class.
Back in the day, magic and design became my core elements for creating new things, getting out of the box and staying different.

Back in the code – Everything started after coding my first website in 1999. I felt amazingly free to mix design and coding in order to build anything from the ground up. This is how I created my web agency in 2000 while also getting my computer science degree and working at Logix, the #1 IBM reseller in France (which was also where I met my mentor). Developing my company and trying to succeed at school and at work in the same time was crazy, but crazy enough to learn faster. I was really fortunate to have one of the best mentors, getting trained on Oracle & DB2 DBA certification and coding Java on IBM's mainframe servers, all while my schoolmates were learning their first algorithms.
I became a hacker, which went from crossing the line by cracking security breaches to earning easy money by coding innovative applications. Code was power and it still is.

Back in Geneva – I moved to Switzerland in 2004 and founded a mobile content platform selling ringtones and logos all over the world. It was fun. The business was amazing and rocking through SEO but it needed some cash since the telcos were only paying us every 90 days. I never thought that venture would be that hard, from clashing with my partners to major lawsuits claiming up to €5M. I was young and all of this was unexpected. I actually felt so bad on a personal level that I had to find a new purpose for living through such a hell and keep moving forward. I found strength in thinking that it was all just a game, where failure wasn’t a big deal as long as I could still breathe, run and do magic. That thought changed me forever. Ever since, building new businesses became all about accepting the rules of the game, period. That’s why I became obsessed with getting cash however possible, to settle all of my business issues and fight the lawsuits as hard as I could. And indeed, after 18 months, five of the leading players of the industry came to us about aquiring the company. I finally sold the business to David Marcus (ex-President of Paypal and VP of Messaging Products at Facebook) and took shares of his group based in Geneva, before selling everything to eBay and getting my first 7-digit check.
Passion, obsession and obstinacy helped me unlock that crazy trip. I learned so much about not giving up and believing I could succeed. No pain, no gain.

Back in Paris – I moved back to France in 2007 and founded Nomao with some good friends: a service to help you find the best places to go out. After going to the US and seeing how big one of our competitors was, we decided to pivot and become a local search engine. It was the big time - lots of R&D, lots of machine learning, lots of crawling and NLP/semantic stuff, with up to 150M daily aggregated pages and accurately displays to the end-user. Content was so accurate that Google loved us, and pushed up to 6M monthly visits. Despite that amazing SEO traffic, getting money out of it was hard. Since I had good experiences with monetizing the telcos, I came up with the idea of charging every visitor who wanted to call any of the places we displayed, from the local post office to the fancy restaurant downtown. Once the new monetization was released, the results were just unbelievable. People were calling charged IVR phone numbers even though the same content was free with the Yellow Pages. The business became so successful that we ended up with €1.5M EBIT practically without doing anything else. It then became a monetization standard for every address listing websites, until the authorities stepped in with regulations to stop abuses.
We sold the company to Teads, the #1 video advertising marketplace (yes, more than Facebook and Google), and became a shareholder as well as joining the board.
Helping Teads grow was a fantastic experience from a business and operational perspective. This is where I actually learned the meaning of the "Go Big or Go Home" motto. It really was fun to go big.

Back in London – In early 2012 I quit Teads to move on a new venture, founding Tok Tok Tok, an on-demand delivery platform enabling anything to get delivered from any local merchant. We were the first to do this in Europe and so we had to invent almost everything. Developing Tok Tok Tok was complex because of the on-demand logistics constraints, the three marketplace dimensions to manage (Runners, Merchants & Customers), the underlying legal environment and the technological challenges involved in disrupting the user experience.
We had amazing momentum in 2014 before failing to close a €20-30M round with a leading industrial player. That’s when we started a long struggle to survive among competitors with up to 100 times more cash than us in only two years. We got super lean, I moved to London, and we focused on our core DNA: technology. After finding €4M through an on-going seed round, I finally sold our state-of-the-art platform to Just Eat, the leading player of the industry.
I learned the hard way how to survive and fight against giants, challenging myself everyday to not fail. I knew the rules of the game and that saved me.

So here is my investment thesis

Entrepreneurship requires serious commitment and I love to invest in passionate people that focus their energy on cracking the rules of the game, challenging and adapting themselves to go big and ultimately make something that is as disruptive as it is magical.