Few startups can claim to have succeeded in having a concrete impact on an industry, especially in such a short time. Launched in January 2017, the startup Yuka promises to scan the barcode of products (food or cosmetics) to find a rating on a scale between Bad, Mediocre, Good and Excellent. It didn’t take a year to see the first brands ringing the doorbell with the desire to improve their score on the app.
By dint of responding to companies who asked them if their score would turn green if they removed such and such an additive, Yuka has developed a platform so that brands can carry out simulations on the evolution of their rating if they change their list of ingredients. Only a year after its launch, the application passed the bar of the first million users in January 2018. March 2019 therefore marks the start of the internationalization of the startup which will first seek the French-speaking countries of Belgium , Switzerland and Luxembourg.
That year, the application exceeded ten million users before reaching thirty million in June 2022.
The launch in the United States
Although Yuka has been available in the United States since 2020, the team had done little promotion, thinking that it was not in the midst of a pandemic that consumers were going to want to spend time in stores scanning products. They were therefore preparing to let the application live its life: “We said to ourselves that the United States was not yet ready for this type of project or that it was not a subject that interested consumers”comments Julie Chapon, co-founder and general manager of Yuka.
However, an event would change this perception, as well as the startup’s plans for the future.
January 2022, the US user acquisition curve is panicking. Yuka gains 500,000 US users within a month. It takes them a brief moment to realize that a video posted on TikTok has generated several million views, leading other users on the network to post a video.
Faced with the constant influx of new American users, Yuka had to react, especially since this news had impacts at all levels. Indeed, where the gains brought by the premium version of the application did not exceed 50% of Yuka’s turnover in 2020, they are now more than 90% under the influence of the American market.
“In France and in Europe, people are not used to paying for mobile applications. It’s not in our culture at all. In the US it is completely different. It’s in their mentality: when you use a service, you will pay for the premium version, because they understand that there are people behind it, there is a project”.
As a result of this unexpected growth, the three co-founders of Yuka are about to uproot themselves to move to New York for a year. In the coming months, their main mission will be to amplify the growth they are experiencing on this continent, in particular by going out to meet the media. If they manage to boost this natural growth, Julie, François and Benoît will recruit a team on the spot before having to return to France at the end of the year acquired by their visa.
Transparency pegged to the body
While there seems to be a groundswell towards more transparency, it will be hard to find a more transparent company than Yuka. On its website, a dedicated tab displays the breakdown of the startup’s turnover according to its various activities, but also a link to download its complete tax return. A choice that comes in response to the suspicion of users who still had doubts about the independence of the product.
“I totally understand that they are suspiciouslaunches Julie Chapon. With comparison engines, consumers have always realized that there are interests in recommending this or that offer, which is not necessarily the most interesting. So it was no use repeating that we were independent, it was not enough. We therefore wondered what would make it possible to prove it once and for all”.
They therefore began to share their balance sheet on a case-by-case basis, when a person came to challenge them by email on their independence. Until the day when they understood that it would be easier to just make it available to everyone. Julie Chapon therefore has no hesitation in sharing her company’s figures and commenting on them during the interview she gave to Maddyness.
In November, their new balance sheet will be posted on their website with an increase in turnover, but, unlike the previous year, a negative net result. She explains this negative result by the 400,000 euros in defense costs and the 95,000 euros in damages and interest requested by the FICT (the French Federation of industrial butchers and caterers) in response to a petition that Yuka had launched with Foodwatch and the League against the Cancer, to call for a ban on nitrites.
Yuka intends to appeal this conviction decided by the Commercial Court. “The experience of the Commercial Court is very specialshe explains. Its purpose is not to preserve the health of consumers, but to promote trade. Our appeal will no longer be made before this tribunal, but before professional magistrates. I have good hope that justice will realize the aberration that our condemnation represents. »
Beyond the financial dimension, the FICT succeeded in obtaining the prohibition for Yuka to mention the opinion of the WHO on nitrites. “We are not going to let go, confirms Julie. We know that we are in our right and that new reports, and in particular from the French National Health Security Agency, confirm the link between the consumption of nitrites and colorectal cancer”.
A lift on their terms
Yuka’s teams do not seem to have a culture of compromise. They want to do things their way. This is also reflected in their fundraising of 800,000 euros carried out in 2019 with Investir Et Plus, Founders Future, Kima Ventures and business angels.
A fundraiser that the founders would have preferred not to have to do, but which is dictated by excessive growth which forces them to enter a recruitment phase. At the time, the workforce consisted of only three co-founders with an intern and they wanted to structure a team of ten people. They are aware of the loss of independence that can result from fundraising and therefore decide to set their conditions: “When we met potential investors, we explained to them right away that there would be no board, that they could not give their opinion on any decision, and we also skipped a clause which is almost in all the shareholders’ pacts and which stipulate that your investors can ask you to leave the box after five years. We told them: if you come with us, it’s because you really believe in this project and in the impact that we can have… and not because you want to recover your investment tenfold in five years. If that’s your goal, honestly, we’re not the right people and go see another club.
A very strong posture which, if it allowed skimming a large number of actors, has the advantage of allowing them to bring together only people who came for the right reasons. “We could have not done fundraisingexplains Julie Chapon. We had the possibility of launching the cosmetic version by paying and we would have succeeded in financing ourselves like that. But putting cosmetics on payment meant reducing our impact on this sector since we would only have had 1% of people who were going to pay. We chose impact. And, again and again, Yuka chooses impact. It is the number one priority that guides their decisions.
“That’s my criterion of success, clearly. I want to get up in the morning telling myself that I am helping to change even a very small part of the world in which we live”.