How Tibo Went From Bankruptcy to an Eight-Figure Exit

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How Tibo Went from Bankruptcy to an Eight Figure Exit

Most successful entrepreneurs take several attempts to reach their big breakthrough. For Thibault (Tibo) Louis-Lucas, the results were mixed before Pony Express took off like a rocket.

Tibo met Thomas Jacquesson while working toward his MBA, and the pair co-founded Pistache, an app that motivated kids to do daily chores. Although they achieved moderate success with the business, after two years, they realized it would be difficult to scale, so they sold Pistache and moved on.

Following Pistache, Tibo started Dreamz, a game that taught coding in a fun way. The startup showed promise as Tibo raised funds and grew a team, but the business eventually failed and went bankrupt.

In 2021, Tibo and Thomas re-joined forces to launch Pony Express. They didn’t want to waste time and effort on ideas that wouldn’t succeed, so they decided to build several products as quickly as possible and see which ones generated interest.

Tibo and Thomas challenged themselves to build a new product each week to validate ideas before attempting to scale.

After creating and launching ten products, none stood out. The best one generated $400 monthly recurring revenue (MRR), but most others brought in next to nothing.

The 11th product was called Tweet Hunter. It began as a simple tool for finding viral tweets on specific topics. Initially, they built Tweet Hunter primarily for their own use. Twitter was their most effective platform for promoting their products, and they wanted to find ways to grow their following and influence on the platform.

Tweet Hunter

Tweet Hunter used AI to provide a helpful selection of viral tweets for inspiration and real-world examples of what works with specific audiences.

Tibo and Thomas initially priced Tweet Hunter at $9 per month, and, of course, they tweeted about it from their own profiles. Within a few weeks, Tweet Hunter reached $1,000 MRR, and they knew they’d found a successful product.

Looking back, Tibo emphasizes the importance of creating a minimum viable product (MVP) to validate an idea before building a business. “If you don’t actively try to validate business ideas,” he said, “you don’t know if it will work. And the result is that you spend years working on an idea that may not be worth your time.”

Explosive Growth

Unlike the previous ten products Tibo and Thomas created, Tweet Hunter generated sales even when they weren’t actively promoting it on social media. Tibo remarked, “That’s an insanely good feeling that you’ve created something actually useful to people.”

Once Tibo and Thomas gained the initial momentum with Tweet Hunter, they knew the market was interested. They got feedback from early users and used those insights to improve and expand the product.

When it came to growing the business, Tibo and Thomas turned to influencers. They reached out to a handful of Twitter influencers to see if they’d be willing to promote Tweet Hunter, and they were caught off guard by one of the responses.

One of those influencers, JK Molina, asked Tibo and Thomas about becoming a partner with equity in the business rather than a sponsorship arrangement. Tibo and Thomas agreed, and the trio started planning an official launch. The launch propelled Tweet Hunter to $20,000 in MRR, and they continued promoting after the launch.

Based on their success partnering with a Twitter influencer, Tibo and Thomas decided to try the same approach with LinkedIn. They created Taplio, a similar tool for helping LinkedIn content creators.


Eventually, Tibo and Thomas formed a “Creative Investor” board of 17 influencers, who each got 0.1% ownership of the business. Many influencers joined because there were no responsibilities for being on the board. The influencers were incentivized to share Tweet Hunter and Taplio, which created viral exposure and growth. Tibo says the Creative Investor board was “one of the best things we ever did.”

Tibo and Thomas also used another creative approach to grow the business. They created several small tools that were offered for free. Most of the tools are based on a single feature or functionality of Tweet Hunter and Taplio.

The free tools were promoted on social media and through Product Hunt launches (Tibo was Product Hunt’s “Maker of the Year” in 2022). Of course, the free tools funneled users to Tweet Hunter and Taplio. Tibo shares more details about this approach and the results in his newsletter.

The Eight-Figure Exit

After growing ARR to $1 million in just 12 months, Tibo and Thomas decided to sell Pony Express (ARR eventually grew to $3.5 million in two years before closing the sale). They felt their skill sets were better suited for building and launching new products rather than scaling. As Tibo said, “Growing the product up to a certain point requires skills that we felt we didn’t have.”

Additionally, the co-founders realized their business depended highly on other companies and decisions beyond their control. “Cashing out seemed very wise at the time,” Tibo said. “And history showed that it was the right move, as Twitter API bumped their pricing from $0 to $42k per month and even cut off our access for a few days at one point.”

In early 2022, Tibo and Thomas hired a broker who generated a few leads, but nothing panned out. Then, Tibo told a few people about their interest in selling, and Guillaume Moubeche of lempire was immediately interested. Interestingly, Tibo and Guillaume attended middle school together and reconnected years later.

Later in 2022, lempire acquired Pony Express for $2 million in cash upfront, plus an earnout based on revenue from the two years following the acquisition. Tibo expects that total (including the earnout) to be in the $10 – $15 million range.

Tibo and Thomas agreed to a deal with a smaller amount of cash upfront and a (potentially) large earnout because of the natural fit with lempire, and because they recognized Tweet Hunter and Taplio’s dependency on Twitter and LinkedIn policies.

Staying On After the Acquisition

Tibo and Thomas agreed to stay on board for two years as part of the acquisition. While the co-founders felt their skill sets may not be well suited for scaling a business, it turns out they may have underestimated themselves. “Honestly,” Tibo said, “now that I look into what we’ve done since we sold, I don’t know if this was a good reason as we’ve 4x’d while still fully operating it.”

Tibo and Thomas’s journey shows the importance of validating a business idea and moving quickly to capitalize on the momentum. They also demonstrated the power of collaborating with influencers.

While their first startup may not have been a massive success, their experience with Tweet Hunter and Taplio proved life-changing.