Employees of French startup Devialet just learned this morning that they would get a new CEO. Co-founder and (former) CEO Quentin Sannié is going to focus on the long-term vision, while Franck Lebouchard is joining the company to become CEO.
While the board of the company elected Lebouchard as CEO on Friday, this change has been in the works for months. Lebouchard has worked at McKinsey, Castorama, and he’s been CEO of Cinémas Gaumont Pathé and Demos Group more recently.
“The reason why there’s a new CEO is because the company has become a lot more complex and we now have two major challenges that we need to tackle simultaneously — the future of our product roadmap with our licensing partnerships and our operational excellence” co-founder Sannié told me. “I decided to focus on the product aspect and licensing.”
Devialet has been around for more than ten years. The company first developed some groundbreaking amplification chips and technologies. The company then packed all its patents into a very expensive speaker that is also very good — the Devialet Phantom.
“We’ve been doubling our revenue every year since 2010,” Sannié told me. That’s why the company also raised over $160 million over the years, including an impressive €100 million ($106 million) round in 2016. With that much funding, it’s time to a way to make the company grow exponentially, not just linearly.
More recently, the company announced some new partnerships with third-party companies. Sky announced a surround sound TV speaker with Devialet technologies, and Renault said it was working on integrating Devialet speakers into its cars at some point in the future.
Devialet wants to bring the same jaw-dropping audio experience to mass market products. But Sannié himself says that this licensing business is frustratingly slow.
“This market is particular because we don’t control our announcements,” he told me. “We’ve signed other deals but I can’t talk about those today.” You should expect multiple Devialet-powered products in 2018 though.
According to a source, Devialet couldn’t meet revenue forecasts for the licensing business. It doesn’t mean that Devialet is heading in the wrong direction. It’s just taking more time than expected.
“It’s really difficult, and sometimes even schizophrenic, to be focused on day-to-day operations and product partnerships that are going to get released in one, two or three years,” Sannié told me.
And that’s why the company is bringing an operations expert.
“[Franck Lebouchard] isn’t someone from the audio industry, he isn’t an engineer ,” Sannié told me. “He’s really someone who is going to be obsessed so that the company runs and delivers like an outstanding watchmaking company.”
And the company has to move quickly because smart speakers are completely changing the landscape of the speaker industry. Amazon, Google and Apple now all have connected speakers on the market.
“It’s a major shift that create a lot of opportunities for us,” Sannié said. “We also have to make some decisions and build some partnerships.”