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SoFive: Bringing Le Foot to America!

19 Apr 2016

Two HEC alumni entrepreneurs pioneer 5-a-side soccer centers in New York


Jean-Damien Ladeuil and Charles Lagayette are energetic soccer fans who graduated from the Master in Management Grande Ecole in 2010. After leaving HEC Paris, Charles went on to gain international experience in finance working for JP Morgan in London, while Jean-Damien perfected his business knowledge at BCG in Paris as well as in Sydney, Australia and Singapore, but they were already dreaming of a new venture.

Helped by a formidable support network

In 2013 they decided to follow their passion for soccer, leaving their corporate jobs and joining
the HEC Incubator to begin an amazing journey with the support of the alumni network…
Here, thanks to Professor Jean-Pierre Detrie’s introduction, they met successful American real-estate investor and fellow HEC graduate, Alain Lebleu.

With Alain, an avid sports fan, as their guide to being entrepreneurs in New York, the intrepid duo took on the challenge of bringing European soccer passion to America in the form of 5-a-side soccer. They successfully negotiated the hurdle of raising seed money, by showing their personal commitment and by making a successful case to a group of supportive French and American
Angel Investors.

Diligent alumni with considerable market knowledge

In addition to their conviction, energy and work ethic, the pair quickly proved they had a real understanding of the market. They correctly identified the dynamics behind the shift in the US from an exclusive focus on traditional sports such as American football, with its highly publicized injuries to players, baseball or basketball to include a rising interest in soccer. This is a shift that is supported by large immigrant populations with a love of the sport and some immensely popular video games, such as the Electronic Arts’ FIFA game. And finally, Charles and Jean-Damien tapped into the enthusiasm Americans have for sport and entertainment, promoting interest in their offer through online media channels.

Only the beginning for the pair

The result? The professional team, the New York Red Bulls, has chosen the SoFive venue to the West of New York City for practice sessions and local Soccer Moms are happy to bring their protégés to play here while sipping their lattés. More importantly for these young businessmen, the company witnessed its first success after a little over six months. Fuelled by this achievement, the team has already started work on extending their offer along the East Coast.