Clubee is riding a wave of success. 6 years after its foundation in 2014 and 5 years after its participation in Fit4Start, this virtual assistant for clubs and volunteer organisations is branching out to multiple markets. Joining the Fit4Start initiative has enabled this company, started by friends Gilles Mangen and Tim Wiltgen, to get off the launch pad.
Their idea was simple, yet revolutionary: what if clubs had a platform on which they could organise their members and communication, manage events, keep track of financial matters, do public relations and much more?
Luxembourg.lu: How difficult was it to evolve from an idea to a concrete project?
Gilles Mangen: In my opinion, it was a case of, we were young and we just decided to go for it. [laughs]
I won’t say that we were naive, but we simply went for it – we put our heads through the wall, so to speak. That helped a lot. At the same time, the first steps were rather simple to take, but we noticed rather quickly that popularity accelerates growth. And that’s where we spotted our biggest challenges: building a team, expanding to foreign countries, making the project bigger and more professional – we expanded from a 2 men team to 13 people. All of these are challenges that you have to meet on a daily basis.
Gilles Mangen is one of the two founders of Clubee. Born in 1989, he studied economy and management in Luxembourg and Montpellier (F). He's also a dedicated ice hockey player who used to play for Luxembourg's national team.
Tim Wiltgen is the second member of the founding team.. Born in 1990 and a long time amateur soccer player, he studied economy and entrepreneurship in Montpellier (F) and Innsbruck (A).
So, what convinced you to join Fit4Start then?
GM: Fit4Start was a hugely positive experience for us. Before we participated in Fit4Start, we tried to get off the ground on our own, and this worked well for a while. However, we quickly saw that problems and challenges were rolling in, so that we eventually realised that getting yourself coached and mentored by people who can open your eyes and help you avoid certain pitfalls is a big advantage.
Eventually, we would have been able to master those challenges on our own I suppose, but that would maybe have been the ruin of the company. In that respect, the Fit4Start programme was super interesting. We were well coached and helped, which enabled us to evolve faster and reduce the number of mistakes in the process.
For 3 months, we were in an intensive programme, where we were surrounded by their business coaches and judges, who helped us tackle certain challenges, fix certain tracks along which we were going to evolve and helped us reflect on our own plans.
Did this affect your own view of your project?
GM: We were being challenged; our business model was being challenged. We were faced with all sorts of self-critical and productive questions. How fast did we want to enter which markets? And why? That’s just some of the topics that were broached. And I am quite sure that we avoided a whole series of pitfalls because they managed to raise our awareness through their input.
What enticed investors to support you?
GM: I think that everybody bought into the vision we had for our product. We solve a problem that cannot be ignored – there is a market that desperately needs our product. And finally, growth potential – the market is of significant size, there are over 5 million clubs worldwide who all face similar problems.
We want to help each of those clubs save over 250 hours of work annually. We do this by partially replacing human workforce with a virtual assistant. It’s not about replacing people, but about giving them the opportunity to concentrate their efforts on their club’s core business, instead of getting lost in administrative work, i.e. sending invoices. We want them to focus on creating value for their club and their members, instead of doing stupid, repetitive tasks. There is much potential for automation.
Clubee is basically a virtual assistant which takes over repetitive administrative work. The managers or volunteers take decisions, the assistant executes. The club continues doing what it does – Clubee just takes over some of the work.
You are about to go global – you have just opened an office in Berlin and are about to open an office in Paris. What are the next steps in your evolution?
GM: We want to get established on the markets where we already are present. Further down the road, we want to establish ourselves on the European and global markets. Our goal is to become a global company, not limited to Luxembourg or Europe.
What would you advise for other entrepreneurs who have not yet decided on how to proceed with their ideas?
GM: Good question. I guess, the fastest way to get off the ground is to simply get going and learn on the fly. And the other thing is more classical ‘Wien näischt mécht, deen näischt brécht’.
Just get going and try, and you’ll get some validation rather soon of whether your idea amounts to something, or not. It’s no use pondering whether or not to start something for years and years.