June 11, 2020

Could Meero’s founder be the next Emmanuel Macron?

Meero’s flamboyant founder Thomas Rebaud has been thinking a lot about employees, doing deals — and politics.

Meero founder and chief executive Thomas Rebaud.

First entrepreneurship, then a career in politics? “Why not,” says Thomas Rebaud.

At 32 years old, he’s the flamboyant founder of French unicorn Meero, a platform for businesses to have professional photos taken of everything from food on Deliveroo to apartments on Airbnb.

For Rebaud, the coronavirus crisis has meant spending more time reassuring employees, dealing with investors and initiating takeover talks with rivals.

But it’s also given the chief executive time to reflect on the state of the world, and brought on a taste for politics.


“I don’t know if Covid will change the world in the long run, but I’m worried about the next few years,” Rebaud says. “About Europe, populism and the economic implications of the crisis for the younger generation.”

It’s the kind of sweeping statement you might find coming out the lips of another business person turned politician: French president Emmanuel Macron, who was a Rothschild banker before running for the nation’s highest office in 2017.

In the future, might the banker-to-politician path be replaced by the startup founder-to-politician?

When he was a university student in Lyon, near the French Alps, Rebaud was president of the Junior World Entrepreneurship Forum, promoting entrepreneurship as a way to create jobs and economic growth around the world.

He says he’d see himself building on that experience to maybe return to politics down the line, with the same preoccupation: massive unemployment and how it affects people.

“Spilling theory”

Rebaud isn’t your typical chief executive — at least not by European standards. Before Meero, he was working as a barman in a nightclub to set money aside to launch the company. He’ll talk candidly about investors (they’re a lot nicer when they’re courting you than in board meetings), firings (“it’ll depend how business evolves over the summer”) and taking over rivals (Meero has got cash and others don’t).

He’ll show genuine concern about the economic consequences of Covid-19 one minute, and the next he’ll talk about playing video game Call of Duty during evenings stuck at home in lockdown.

He has also done a remarkable thing, which is common in the US but unusual for a French entrepreneur: creating in just four years a billion-dollar tech company. He has done so with a vision of creating a giant global marketplace matching clients to photographers.

There’s zero tolerance from consumers for ugly photos online.

To explain Meero’s business opportunity, and why it has won such a high valuation, Rebaud again turns philosophical. He cites French economist Alfred Sauvy’s “spilling theory” to demonstrate why there will be more demand for professional photography in the age of iPhones.

The theory basically says that technical progress doesn’t destroy jobs, they just “spill over”. In short, new jobs and new demand from consumers emerge as a result.


So, though everyone’s using their smartphones to take photos, paradoxically that’s increased demand for professional photography.

“There’s zero tolerance from consumers for ugly photos online,” Rebaud says. “You want to see what you’re going to eat, the apartment you’re renting, the bag you’re buying — and you want gorgeous photos for each. That’s the market Meero is tapping.”