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Meet the entrepreneurs behind startup success Holded

Javi Fondevila and Bernat Ripoll met through Facebook with a business idea and a joint interest in snowboarding. We had a chat with them to hear more about their key to success and learn what running a successful business and action sports have in common.

Holded founders Javi Fondevila and Bernat Ripoll (left to right)
Holded founders Javi Fondevela and Bernat Ripoll (left to right)

Founded in 2016, Holded has quickly become one of Spain’s leading cloud ERP solutions in less than four years. Considered one of Europe’s most popular startups, Holded became part of the Visma group in June 2021.

How it all started

The story behind Holded began in 2016 when Javi was running his own retail business for surf and sportswear. Starting his business while studying law, Javi had successfully grown his company from zero to 14 stores, employing over 100 people. But he was growing frustrated over the lack of good business solutions in the market.

“The way I thought a business software should look was very different to what the market was offering. That’s when I started thinking about the concept of Holded.”

Javi Fondevila

“I got super-frustrated with the software available for running my business. The way I thought a business software should look was very different to what the market was offering. That’s when I started thinking about the concept of Holded,” says Fondevila.

Bernat Ripoll started coding when he was just seven years old. In 2016, he was a successful developer with a few startups while travelling the world and nurturing his interest in action sports.

During two weeks with bad weather in Austria, preventing him from going out snowboarding, he built the first version of what was to become one of Spain’s leading ERP and accounting software.

At this stage, Bernat and Javi were friends on Facebook through their joint interest in action sports. But the pair had never met in real life. By chance, Javi came across Bernat’s invoicing solution in his Facebook feed.

“Javi was this big-shot from Barcelona,” Bernat recounts. “He got in touch and said he liked my solution, and we agreed to meet up. We hit it off immediately and decided to give it a try. So I quit snowboarding and Javi closed his business, and that’s five years ago now.”

The key to their success

Back in 2016, there were no other cloud ERP solutions on the market in Spain. The duo knew that they had to build a solution in the cloud. They also wanted to transform business software into something more appealing to the user. And when we ask them what their key to success is, this is what they emphasise.

“We took something that was considered boring and made it sexy so that people would want to use it.”

Bernat Ripoll

“Most of the companies out there are focused on making their product and features work. But we wanted to build something that not only works but also looks beautiful and that people really want to use,” says Javi.

“When we started, the competitors were from the older generation, developing really traditional ERP systems. No young entrepreneurs were trying to create something new because it was not an interesting space,” adds Bernat.

“Our vision is that people should love their ERP, which is something you never really hear. But we wanted to create that experience. We took something that was considered boring and made it sexy so that people would want to use it,” he continues.

Becoming number one

Fast forward to June 2021, and news breaks that Holded will become part of the Visma Group. The story gets a lot of coverage in Spanish news and international media.

For Javi and Bernat, joining Visma simply means that they get more time to focus on what they love doing, which is developing their business.

“With Visma, we have the freedom to keep doing what we do best instead of changing things around. If it is working, then why change it? It is great to get support for what we need to do to have success in our home market,” says Javi.

But the road to success has not always been easy for the pair. When they started Holded, raising money was a big concern for them.

“We were seen as two young, crazy guys who wanted to build a huge ERP system with many features, and we did not have much capital. It was difficult to get people to invest in our idea,” says Bernat. “We wanted to focus 100 per cent of the business instead of having to think about raising money. Now we can focus all our energy on what is best for the business.”

Going forward, Holded will focus on their home market in Spain. The cloud is still small in Spain, and they plan to keep growing to scale the cloud into a significant proportion of the market.

“We want to be number one in the market, not just the cloud market but the total ERP market. That means scaling the cloud into 50-60 or maybe 70 per cent of the market,” says Javi.

The similarity between work and sports

“I think the sports we were doing and work are very similar. What is addictive about sports is that you are learning something new all day. With work it is very similar, somehow we just changed our hobby of going to the snow parks to going to the office. The adrenaline and the addiction are the same, and going from one stage to the next one is what keeps you engaged,” explains Javi.

“When I was snowboarding, it was more of a distraction than anything else. I never felt like I was forced to quit; snowboarding is fun, and so is work. We are both workaholics, and we still work 15 hours a day even after selling the majority of our business. We never did this for money. We just really love what we’re doing,” says Bernat.

“Somehow we just changed our hobby of going to the snow parks to going to the office. The adrenaline and the addiction are the same.”

Javi Fondevila

Advice to budding entrepreneurs

When we ask what advice to give budding young entrepreneurs with big ideas out there, both Javi and Bernat have some solid recommendations.

“It’s all about the execution and not the idea. If you work hard, you are passionate and like what you do. Then at some point, if you have a little bit of luck, it works,” says Fondevila.

“There are a lot of people who can do great things. The only difference is whether you do it or not.”

Bernat Ripoll

“There are a lot of people who can do great things,” says Bernat. “The only difference is whether you do it or not. If you want to do something, then just do it. Stop thinking, stop debating, stop talking, just go out and do it.”

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