Eléonore Crespo’s journey as a founder began during the three months she spent recovering from surgery to repair a back injury.

In this pause she remembered that life is short. She reasoned that there’s no good time to start a company, so this moment of her life was perfect. She didn’t know what she would start, yet. Nor did she know with whom. She just knew that it was happening.

If you see her now — a flash of energy, vivacious, propulsive — you wouldn’t guess this to be the humble origin story for her ascendant FP&A software company Pigment.

“I took this surgery,” she says, “as a step to actually move.” From the first time we met Eleonore in 2019, we were blown away by her incredible determination to take on the giants and couldn’t be prouder to be part of Pigment’s ride from day one. 

Optimism feeds persistence

The move paid off. Pigment has broken through in a tough space, signing such clients as Deliveroo, Klarna, Carta, Evenflo, Miro, Airtable, Figma, Brex, Webhelp, Gong, Poshmark, Eventbrite, and Mozilla. In the summer of 2023 the company closed a Series C round that put their total fundraise at $248 million in less than three years.

An insight she now offers other founders: Sign quality customers. “Convince them to spend the next ten years with you,” Eléonore says. It feels impossible as you’re starting out, and your own future is so uncertain — “It was like climbing Everest without oxygen,” she says. “It was a very, very hard process.”

But climb that mountain, and those top-flight clients bring their networks along with them. They inspire confidence in others. They advocate for you. So make your list and take your shot.

Eléonore applied similar patience and optimism to finding a co-founder. She knew since childhood that she would build a company, and when she made up her mind to do so, she knew she’d have just one chance to find the perfect fit. She has a reputation for going after whatever she wants as fast as she can — no matter how slow the process. When she envisioned her ideal co-founder, she targeted Romain Niccoli, the co-founder and CTO of the $1.4 billion media platform Criteo, where Eléonore had served on the board.

“Do not hesitate to go for the people you want to work with,” she says now, “because the chemistry can be there. No one is unreachable.” So write your letter to Santa. She identified her number one target and wasted no time … spending nine months to seal the deal with Romain.

Making spreadsheets obsolete

Together Eléonore and Romain agreed to tackle only the most ambitious problems. They settled on a plan to replace spreadsheets — in effect, to liberate 1 billion users from the tyranny of Excel. 

Spreadsheets are our friends, sure, yes, fine. We all have a favorite spreadsheet somewhere. But admit it: When someone says they want to eradicate spreadsheets, you feel a twinge of intrigue.

And you’re not alone. Years ago, as a financial analyst at Google, Eléonore watched as that company devised internal solutions for virtually every business obstacle. Yet even there — at Google! — spreadsheets were unkillable. Once she joined Index Ventures in 2017, she saw the same problem in company after company: scattered data, siloed, manual, error-riddled, unmergeable, unscalable.

No one can see the future through that fog. Pigment compiles data into shared forecasts, models, and workflows, so that data can feed insights. “What we sell first,” Eléonore says, “is confidence.”

Energy > time

For a patient person, strikingly, Eléonore doesn’t see the world in terms of time. Rather, when she rolls out of bed each day, she looks for where to put her energy. “Everyday when you wake up as a founder,” she says, “you should ask yourself what I’m going to do today that is really going to change the course of my business.”

That does not include taking anything personally, or getting bogged down in losses. Rather, she sees herself as running a 20-year marathon with the goal of building a category leader where the most talented people and the most successful clients converge. “When you build a business, you always need to think of it as a game,” Eléonore says. “You need to understand that you are in this power game.” The secret to winning a marathon is recognizing that it is also a sprint. And even as she appears patient, Eléonore is in constant motion. If you find yourself pulled into her orbit, look around: You may be among rare talent. Because game always recognizes game.