Moving forward, or in English “forward”. This is both the ambition and the new name of the French specialist in business intelligence who used to be called Avisa Partners and therefore renamed itself Forward. To look to the future, and get rid of a thorn in the side, the group founded by Matthieu Creux in 2010 sells its digital influence activity to its former partner Arnaud Dier, for around 5 million euros. The latter, who sold all his shares in the company – for around 20 million euros – and no longer has any connection with it, in the process recovers the Avisa Partners brand.
This division, whose practices have drawn recurring criticism in the media for several years, represented less than 5% of the group’s turnover, but a more substantial proportion of its troubles. “Even if this had no impact on our customers, our turnover having grown by 52% last year, it was wasting our time and disrupting the clarity of our activities”, emphasizes Matthieu Creux. “Today, I am trying to remove all the grains of sand, with the objective of building a French unicorn of “secure tech”” he continues. In other words, risk technologies.
Profitable, with an EBITDA margin of around 20%, and growing strongly, Forward, which today generates 80 million euros in revenue in around ten countries, aims to reach 500 million in turnover and to exceed the billion in value by 2030, to create a European unicorn capable of competing with american giants such as FTI Consulting or Kroll. To do this, the services and technology group specializing in risk management wants to expand its three areas of expertise: the cyber risk, economic risk (fight against fraud, counterfeiting, etc.) and “informational” risk (media relations, public affairs, etc.).
To support its expansion, the president of Forward, Matthieu Creux, is betting on organic growth for a third. The company with 330 employees – engineers, analysts and consultants – will thus invest its money in order to recruit 80 to 100 employees by the end of the year. The magistrate Guillaume Didier, former spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, notably recently joined the ranks of the company, of which he was appointed president of the French subsidiary.
But Forward relies above all on external growth. Last year, the group absorbed 6 companies – including the public relations specialist DGM Consulting – for an investment of approximately 50 million euros in total in external growth. Forward today announced that it has acquired a minority stake – between 40 and 50% – in the French nugget Uncovery, whose solution makes it possible to detect corporate digital ets exposed online. A few other files are under discussion.
“We expect to make between 20 and 100 million euros per year in acquisitions over the next five years,” says Mathieu Creux. To finance its growth and continue its internationalization, the group, supported in particular by the Raise investment fund, which holds 23% of the capital, could refinance its debt by the end of the year.