SEPTEMBER 1991. Paul Van de Velde and Xavier Kegels were expecting a visit from their main banker, Mr. Meuleman. Paul and Xavier had founded Kipling, a casual bag company, five years earlier, together with a third partner, Vincent Haverbeke, who provided the seed money for the venture. Shortly after lunch, the banker finally arrived. Because he had the habit of visiting Kipling about twice a year to briefly go through the financials, his visit did not seem in any way extraordinary. Unfortunately, this time around the meeting turned out very different. Mr. Meuleman had stopped by to announce that his bank would stop providing short-term lines of credit to Kipling. The Gulf War had made the banks jittery, in particular with respect to fast-growing companies requiring extensive bank loans. Kipling belonged to that not-so-exclusive-anymore club. Although the company was steadily heading towards €11 million in revenues, the bank had decided not to renew its €1.1 million revolving credit line. Kipling had three months to look for new sources of funds. Was this the end of the story or the welcome “kick in the pants” that would force the young firm to professionalize and address the issue of sustainability? Was this the kiss of death or the kiss of life? It was still a bit early to tell, but the wake up call was nasty. Maybe it was time to step back from the mystique and get their feet back on the ground. Kipling as a successful, fast-growing company had needs very different from Kipling, the startup. Maybe it was finally time to wake up to that fact and give the firm the tools it needed to be really successful. Would they be able to make that transition?
• Building a brand
• Globalizing a startup company
• Professionalizing a creative startup
• Modes of internationalization
• Financing growth
• Managing growth
• Startup teams
• Private equity
1991 to 1999
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