From start-up to scale-up: how do you make the transition?

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Simon Ribola
Development and Partnerships Manager - Paris

For many young innovative companies that are experiencing their first successes and strong growth, the question of to evolve the structure of the start-up structure. Adaptability, the ability to invent and innovate, and dynamism are the usual assets of a start-up. The challenge here is to preserve these assets while ensuring the proper development of the young company to successfully reach scale-up status.

Frédéric Mazzella, co-founder of BlaBlaCarreveals the three strategic points to take into account and to watch out for in order to succeed in this delicate transition.

What is a scale-up?

As a start-up evolves, the question of what structure to build arises, and scale-up is imagined as the model to reach and the appropriate response. The term scale-up redefines the notion of the French SME, which overturns the laws of a market and would represent the ideal company of tomorrow.

The term "scale-up " refers to the "post-start-up" structure. The definition is neither clearly established nor fixed. But it is commonly accepted that the scale-up corresponds to a start-up which has grown considerably, in a continuous way, internally and externally, and which would continue its strong progression by having met long-term prospects ensuring a relative solidity... Unlike the start-up which, it, represents the young company starting from a good idea and with an innovative business plan, but whose activity is not yet perennial. That is to say that the start-up, unlike the scale-up, still needs to establish itself in stability.

When one thinks of a start-up, one imagines open offices and a relaxed atmosphere, which does not prevent employees from working on innovative activities with a revolutionary point of view. We imagine employees with a low average age or even just graduated, who are characterized by their great adaptability, their dynamism and their taste for risk. It is this atypical construction that is difficult to maintain when the company grows and the need for structuring, organization and optimization arises.

France currently has more than 500 scale-ups, including the famous carpooling website BlaBlaCar. Present in 22 countries, this company is currently valued at $1.66 billion, thanks to a €97 million fundraising in April 2021. It has 700 employees and more than 100 million members worldwide, and occupies a dominant position in its market. However, it is hard to imagine its beginnings, when four idealistic students spent their weekends and evenings locked up at their parents' house to imagine the guidelines of what will become this amazing success story.

BlaBlaCar is now an absolute reference for entrepreneurial structures built on the same model. Frédéric Mazzella, co-founder, reveals the three strategic pillars that allowed him to perpetuate BlablaCar when the company was only in the start-up phase. During the "Start-up Summit" organized by the magazine Challenges, the famous company director focused on these three key points, which he believes are essential for any start-up aspiring to growth.

The three strategic points to reach scale-up successfully


You have to be careful to preserve the DNA of your company, i.e. its culture, its values, its codes, the closeness of the employees to each other and to the customers and the company's network. This means protecting informal initiatives and making sure you don't impose this or that measure by force without respecting the identity of your start-up.


The growth strategy must be built and consistent. On the one hand, this means that the start-up must be able to continually find ways to ensure its internal and external development, by setting up abroad, hiring highly qualified employees, obtaining financing, etc. On the other hand, it means that the start-up must be able to find ways to ensure its internal and external development, by setting up abroad, hiring highly qualified employees, obtaining financing, etc.


The entrepreneurial mindset is necessary to perpetuate the value of one's products, while having the desire to improve them and to grow. The entrepreneurial spirit translates into the ability to reinvent oneself, to launch ambitious projects and to question oneself, aspects characteristic of today's start-up.

Finally, according to the co-director of BlaBlaCar, knowing how to communicate, not only to improve your image and that of your offer, but also to convince and unite the players around you (employees, but also investors, customers, etc.) is essential. A good scale-up is also a structure that has managed to keep its start-up spirit, that knows how to organize itself in spite of the load of ideas and projects, while keeping in mind the priorities.

To go further

The Dynergie team helps SMEs, Young Innovative Companies and start-ups find secure sources of financing, thanks to the expertise of our professionals.

Simon Ribola

Development and Partnerships Manager - Paris

I accompany innovative companies of all sizes in their search for and obtaining of public funding (BPI France, CIR/CII, ...). Equipped with a technical and financial background and a passion for new technologies, I am able to offer both technical and strategic support to projects.

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