As a real engineer, he never promised anything that could not happen. Born in Bordeaux, Eric globe-trotted Europe, Asia and the Silicon Valley, before settling in Sofia, to manage operations for a NASDAQ-listed tech company. Great timing for Vayant and NEVEQ. In 2011, the team at Vayant, a pre-revenue airfare search business, needed someone of his calibre, based in Sofia, with a multicultural perspective and ability to execute against strong headwinds. Eric and the principal investor of Vayant found a common liking for tough missions.
Vayant had a rough start. Two pivots at inception stage: a shift from B2C to B2B and a new target market segment; investors had fallen out with some co-founders; a succession of product misfits to actual customer needs; a risk of forthcoming stalling, without access to expensive and hard to access data. Other independent flight search rivals had crashed “mid-flight”, squeezed by an oligopolistic market structure, dominated by 3 multibillion dollar players. And to top it off, Google entered the online fare search party in 2010, with its ITA $700m acquisition, which turned into Google Flights, just as Vayant started doing sales.
Enter Eric. He never worked in the fare search space or the online travel business. If he had, he would have probably refused to join. He did not care the team was in doubt their mission was actually possible. He knew execution, he was resilient and considerate. As NEVEQ was facing an increasing pressure from its own investors, Eric steered the wheel and three years later landed Lufthansa as a client, helped by Bobby, the ultimate product manager, Ivan and George, now respectively an AWS guy and a former MSFT guy. They managed to convince the largest airline airline in the world by revenues to write a check as an investor. It was Lufthansa’s first investment in a software company. The clients bought this team’s drive to results as well as their engineering ingenuity. Eric inspired trust with a non-political mentality and engineer’s aptitude for precision over selling. Later, Eric led discussions with no less than two dozens of potential Series B investors, none of which was in the mood to open up their pockets to a company, based in Eastern Europe, post Europe’s worst credit crunch and in competion with Google. Five years later, helped by a small M&A boutique and the Vayant board, composed of brilliant industry professionals, Eric led the team and clients to the sale to PROS, a NYSE company. Kudos to him and everyone involved. We will look for their passion in another flight mission. As the CFO of PROS says, they built a business which is “an attractive roster of global customers and an impressive suite of solutions… an attractive fit for PROS, with recurring revenue making up greater than 90% of total revenue”.