Johnny Boufarhat was fed up. A rare allergic reaction in 2015 left him with a poor immune system, causing him to crave face-to-face contact while staying indoors to avoid further health flare-ups.
“It was so bad I could barely go out for years,” said Boufarhat, 27, in a June 2020 blog post. “I wanted to go to events. I wanted to meet people.”
That frustration led him to write code in the kitchen of his London apartment in early 2019 for an online event platform that became Hopin Ltd. This month, the startup raised $450 million from investors including Brad Gerstner’s Altimeter Capital Management at a valuation of $7.8 billion. At that level, Boufarhat’s stake is now worth about $3.2 billion, making him one of the world’s youngest self-made billionaires according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
A Hopin spokesperson declined to comment on Boufarhat’s net worth.
Technology and the ease with which venture capital can be raised has led to a much greater number of new billionaires than ever before and at an ever younger age. Boufarhat’s fortune highlights Hopin’s surging growth in the fallout from the pandemic, making it a big winner in the global shift to online meetings after governments ordered lockdowns to be held and workers told to stay at home.
Hopin had six employees at the beginning of 2020 and now has more than 800. The company accelerated its growth this year through acquisitions of video technology companies StreamYard, Streamable and Jamm, among others. In June, the London-based company announced the purchase of Boomset, a personal and hybrid event management platform, and the following month said it had acquired event marketing company Attendify.
Boufarha’s vision for Hopin was clear to his early backers.
He has “an incredible passion” for his business, said Tom Wilson, a partner at London-based venture capital firm Seedcamp, which led Hopin’s 2019 pre-seed investment round.
“We were very quick to bond in the room, which we don’t always do,” Wilson said, recalling his and his colleagues’ reaction to Boufarhat’s pitch. “We all turned to each other and said, ‘Wow, this is pretty amazing.'”
boufarhatHopins chief executive officer was born in Australia to parents from Lebanon and Armenia, but moved to the UK as a teenager. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and management from the University of Manchester, where he developed an app that helped students find discounts.
In late 2019, the self-taught programmer released an early version of Hopin, which allows users to attend breakout sessions at events and network with attendees through automated one-on-one video meetings. Boufarhat initially planned to launch the event platform in September 2020, but the pandemic forced him to speed up the schedule by six months.
“Johnny had it figured out long before the pandemic,” said Par-Jorgen Parson, general partner at London-based venture capital firm Northzone, a serial investor in Hopin’s fundraising rounds. “Then all arguments and market pointed firmly to what he had already thought through.”
Boufarhat is the latest millennial to become a self-made billionaire as the boom in technology, finance and SPACs creates huge fortunes at breakneck speed. The Collison brothers Patrick, 32, and John, 31 are each worth $11.4 billion through online payment company Stripe, according to Bloomberg’s wealth index. Nikolay Storonsky, 37, founder of Revolut, is sitting on a stake worth about $6.7 billion, while Austin Russell, 26, the Stanford University dropout, became a billionaire last year after his self-driving car company Luminar Technologies Inc. went to the stock market. According to the index, 19 people under 40 are now among the 500 richest in the world.
Boufarhat, who lives in Spain, sold shares worth about £130 million ($180 million) from July 2020 to March 2021, leaving him with a roughly 40% stake in Hopin, according to data collected by Bloomberg.
Although Hopin is registered in London, it has no head office. Boufarhat said in a blog post on the occasion of the latest fundraising round that he is looking for a fully external workforce. He also bets that the world will not return to how it was before the pandemic.
“Our future will be one where people can participate in the experiences that matter to them — wherever they are,” he said. “In other words, it’s a future aligned with Hopin’s original vision.”
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and has been published from a syndicated feed.)