Podcast

#24: Sven Deichfuss

Episode 24 - Sven Deichfuss - Paving the Way for European Startup Success in the States

Key Points:

  • Neuland Alliance was a result of a failed attempt to splash into the US market, like many other Europeans who thought it was easy

  • Moving your European business to the US is not as simple as just showing up

  • The US market is large and has great potential, but the risks also remain high

  • Raising funds in the US is not that much different than in Europe, though valuations in the US are much higher

  • It’s easy for a startup to become overwhelmed with the bureaucratic weight of launching in the US, it’s also a distraction from your business focus so you need experts

  • Neuland offers services that address human resources, accounting, and legal issues

  • The US model of HR, accounting and legal will be vastly different from Europe and finding EU-based resource experts has been problematic & very costly

  • Neuland Alliance is focused on making the US market more accessible to make market entry easier

Many European startups try unsuccessfully to launch in the US and end up with very expensive headaches, due to the high cost of making mistakes with the process of entering the market. Often, many of these expensive problems are bureaucratic, an area that falls far outside of the startups’ normal scope. The bureaucratic weight of setting up your European startup in the US often turns out to be a lot more work than ever imagined, because it’s something completely new and outside of the core focus of your startup.  

When you are listening to your European legal or accounting or HR experts, that may conflict with what US experts in those fields, which then only adds to the confusion. Just as many American legal experts often fail to understand the legal consequences in Europe, European experts can be wrong about the US because it’s not their speciality.

After seeing many failures and frustrated startup founders arrive in the US only to turn around and go home a few months later, the team at Neuland Alliance wanted to address the biggest problems they saw - HR, legal and accounting - so that startups could do what they do best and leave the infrastructure work to experts who know the field and have extensive experience.

For any startup founders planning an expansion to the US market, this is a very helpful discussion. The US is of course a great place to be, with over 300 million people and customers who love new technology. The potential is there but there’s a lot more than just New York and Silicon Valley, despite what many still believe.  

Where you open an office will depend upon your market sector and prospect base, and the kind of company you create will also depend on many factors. Making the wrong decisions can be a costly problem, and can also be incredibly demoralizing to the team. To learn more about Neuland Alliance and their services, you can find Sven on Twitter here or via the Neuland Alliance website here.


 

#23: Adrien Mennillo

Episode 23 - Adrien Mennillo - uTip, They Benefit

Key Points:

  • This is Adrien’s second round as a startup founder, learned from previous venture

  • Learned to code, to build initial PoC, later partnered with CTO to build out

  • Experience working with banks as a consultant helped form the idea

  • Noticed the growth of creators, but poor revenue options for them

  • Google & Facebook have monopolized ads and keep most of the money, even with limited views

  • Wanted to find an easier way to support creators, concluded advertising was the best method of achieving this

  • Online advertising has applied old TV model, not working well due to poor results and limited views

  • Advertisers spend a lot for limited views, so uTip provides dedicated viewers in return for money to creators. Everybody wins and gives back control.

  • Challenge has been to disrupt the advertising agencies, who know their model isn’t working but are slow to change.

  • uTip is busy trying to create a sense of urgency within the advertising business, which is failing to deliver results and is nearing the end of the current model

  • uTip is providing a new model that provides better access to the market

For anyone who has tried generating revenue from online advertising, you already know that what exists today is a mess.  Google and Facebook own that market and show no sign of giving it up anytime soon.  Like any market monopoly this means they dictate the rules.  Thirty second video ads that show for 3 seconds get counted as a view by Facebook so with environments like that, it’s no wonder online ad prices keep dropping.

For brands this means you’re spending a lot of money to reach out to people who probably aren’t even watching your ads, though you’re still spending money to run them.  The old TV days where viewers were glue to their set simply doesn’t translate to the online market, where viewers hop around and watch what they want to watch, or don’t.

For creators who thought they could run ads on their sites to generate revenue have it even worse.  Their followings hardly translate into money because the the system requires massive numbers to generate any meaningful impact and even then, the pay is so low.  The owners of the online advertising market - mostly Facebook and Google - take the money throw small change to creators.

It’s an ongoing problem even for larger media outlets - pick your favorite newspaper or magazine or whoever - who also are struggling to generate any revenue online.  Their bold plans to trust Facebook with promoting their media outlets has blown up in their faces and they have almost nothing to show for it.

More recently there have been newer options for content creators but even there, while the results have been fantastic for a few, most creators have struggled to earn money.  By combining this issue for creators with the rapidly evolving dynamics of online advertising, uTip is addressing these markets with a creative offering.

Join us as Adrien explains more about this complex issue that is forcing the market to evolve, while providing benefits for creators.  He shares his biggest challenges and how he’s addressing them, as well as future direction.

#22: Tim Mevel

Episode 22 - Tim Mevel - HelloZack, Hello Convenience

Key Points

  • HelloZack noticed the difficulties of selling used products, sought to make it easier

  • Started initial pilot in California, buying up anything and selling on consignment

  • In the beginning, nothing was automated but they have gradually introduced tech tools to help streamline processes

  • Seeking a better customer experience than current models

  • Pivoted in 2016 to focus exclusively on Apple products

  • Payment for Apple products, anytime, anywhere

  • Specially trained team rather than outsourced

  • Raised capital from private investors & also bank loans, to help cover payment terms

Tim Mevel of HelloZack was raised with a background of entrepreneurship, so diving into the startup world wasn’t a surprise move. During his studies, he and his co-founders set up the first version of the company in Berkeley, where they picked up anything people wanted to get rid of, and sold it for them online. The convenience was a big hit; just avoiding the flood of spam and scams won over a good following.

Over time though, the team realized that selling anything and everything required a lot more time and storage space than they’d imagined. While popular, the V1 model wasn’t scalable so in 2016, they pivoted. The team stepped back and looked at their most popular items, and what was the least taxing in terms of time to resell, as well as storage space. Apple products were the clear winner, as they remained highly popular but also took up less space than many other items. Tim and his team have accepted that mistakes are bound to happen, but more importantly, they’ve made a real effort to learn from those mistakes.

HelloZack’s founders knew it didn’t make sense to invest a lot of money into something that hadn’t been tested; it’s easy to spend a lot of money and time, only to learn that the market isn’t interested. As the company presses forward, they’re now investing more into the technology behind the scenes to make it all work better for everyone.

Moving forward, HelloZack is eager to become profitable, which will happen soon, so they’re working with banks to help carry them through the 20-30 day payment terms. This helps their cash flow and prepares them for the next phase of the business, which is international growth.

#21 (fr): Thomas Ollivier

Episode 21 - Thomas Ollivier - Comprendre l'avenir en y participant

Points clés :

  • - Responsable d'une équipe qui explore des pratiques émergentes comme la nouvelle économie collaborative.
  • - Une grande entreprise d'assurance née comme une startup en 1934 et qui continue d'innover.
  • - Une grande entreprise qui investit dans 25 startups, avec deux sorties.
  • - Inclure des partenaires externes dans les frontières de l'entreprise fait que celle-ci peut étendre rapidement sa compréhension des nouveaux usages (échange de maisons, accès privilégié à des dépanneurs, etc.) et fournir à ses employés des perspectives nouvelles.
  • - Des partenaires même hors de l'assurance, avec toujours pour but de délivrer de la valeur dans des échanges gagnant-gagnant (MAIF, partenaire, employés et sociétaires).
  • - Une focalisation sur l'action, par des projets concrets livrés en quelques mois.

En français.

#21: Thomas Ollivier

Episode 21 - Thomas Ollivier - Exemplary Leadership in Corporate-Startup Partnerships

Key points:

  • Responsible for MAIF’s partnerships with startups
  • Company board decided to create this team to address market changes and build for the future
  • The team focuses on engagement with startups, as well as sharing best practices and market information
  • MAIF created the Beta Factory, a mini startup studio
  • Recently created Startup Club in Paris to build community
  • In the peer-to-peer market, insurance is part of building trust

There’s a lot of talk about corporate innovation in the startup world. A startup’s goal is often to connect with corporate teams who are prepared to work with them. Increasingly, large corporates are creating innovation teams, the quality and seriousness of which vary greatly.

We were thrilled to speak with Thomas Ollivier of MAIF, a leader in corporate innovation. Thomas and his team show dedication and commitment to their engagement with startups. Support starts at the board level and instead of demanding immediate results, the company views this as a long term goal that requires investment today for results tomorrow.

In this episode, Thomas tells us about his team, their agenda, their goals, and their plans for moving forward. They’re very community-oriented and are launching the MAIF Startup Club in Paris to help share experiences and build out the connections between their company and the startup world. The French startup community will see a lot of benefits as this grows and also as other corporates adopt similar strategies for startup engagement.
 

#20: Thomas Perret

Episode 20 - Thomas Perret - Revolutionizing Personal Investment

Key points:

  • During school, worked two different internships that helped provides ideas and inspiration for Mon Petit Placement

  • Saw the need for diversity of investments but also need to educate younger people

  • Gamifying investing using technology could have better results for young investors

  • Target audience wants more transparency, less black box approach

  • Biggest obstacle so far has been engaging with large corporates, who are still learning how to work with startups. It’s a learning process!

  • Moving forward, eyeing green and water investments, which are of great interest

  • EU MiFid II laws will help to unify banking regulation across countries

Thomas comes from a financial and statistics background. The banking world gave him insight into the world of investing and why it made a lot more sense than letting money sit in a simple savings account, where it wouldn’t earn much interest.

Thomas also worked for a startup that was doing interesting things but failed, which taught him other lessons. The idea was good but you need more than just a good idea to be successful.  Also, failure is not the end of the world provided you take a step back and look at what happened. There’s a lot of value in learning from mistakes.

In addition, many of Thomas’s friends and family heard him talk about his work in finance, but they really didn’t know that much about the specifics. They viewed the world of investment as risky - which it can be - but after talking about the risk/reward and educating them, he saw the potential in creating a fintech solution.

His goal was to help educate young investors so they could diversify their holdings and do better than the sub-inflation returns of traditional savings accounts. By democratizing the system, where higher returns were more likely, he could entice young investors and also bring benefits to old fashioned banks.


His biggest challenge so far will be a familiar story for many startups: as we’ve heard from others, including Ethan Pierse, today’s big corporates need to take innovation and engagement with startups very seriously if they want to be as influential tomorrow.

#19: Kurt Muehmel

Episode 19 - Kurt Muehmel - Selling Dataiku

Key points:

  • Kurt joined Dataiku in 2015 following a varied career, including a stint in consulting

  • Wanted to move into tech; started as sales for North America, based in Paris

  • Now manages EMEA team outside of France and the UK

  • Dataiku had cultural hiccups along the way, but quickly addressed them

  • The company’s founders, data scientists by training, built their team in a way that reflected how they wanted companies to treat them as clients

  • Successful without engaging in end of quarter/year discount pressure. New sales members trained not to follow the common discount schedule

  • Very customer-oriented, and focused on building value for clients

  • For Dataiku, raising funds is not the end game, but rather a necessary step along the way

To get a great sales job at a fast-moving, cool startup requires a traditional sales background with lots of experience in a particular sector, plus a massive Rolodex of contacts in that market-- Right? Not at Dataiku. American transplant Kurt Muehmel didn’t have that cookie-cutter background, and Dataiku’s founders considered him a better candidate for it.

For all of startups’ talk about an “outside the box” approach to problem-solving, the reality in many cases is very, very traditional and risk averse. Not so with the founders of Dataiku, who are more interested in building out a team with the right kind of culture. Kurt appreciated this, as he sought a tech startup job that would value his own non-traditional background.

The company’s founders have quite a unique attitude: forget about the rah-rah! bells and yelling in the office after a sale, or the high-pressure “always be closing” nonsense. The founders were once on the client side, and have insisted that their team treat prospects the way they would have liked to be treated.

The consistent theme is a focus on delivering value to customers and helping them to tackle their data issues.  The traditional (and generally miserable) habit of ramping up pressure on both the sales team and prospects to offer end-of-quarter or end-of-year discounts is not part of the formula at Dataiku. The industry is used to it and many people in sales and purchasing have been trained to have this approach, despite the often negative effect of making everyone miserable and leaving money on the table.

Equally interesting is the Dataiku founders’ attitude toward their fundraising success. When people talked about having a party after closing their latest round, the founders of the company made it clear that while fundraising is an important and often critical part of success for many startups, it’s not the final objective. Building customer value is, and always should be, the goal.

There are a lot more great stories in this episode, which give you a glimpse into what it’s like to really work with an “out of the box” mentality. Just because some high-profile experts identify a way that things are  “supposed to be done”, this doesn’t mean that there’s only one way. It’s refreshing to hear a startup steadfastly pursuing their own path and using a model that works for them and their customers, which is what being a startupper is all about.

 

#18: Florian Bercault

Episode 18 - Florian Bercault - Estimating Equity

Key Points

  • Developed an interest in new kinds of investments while in school

  • Started in crowdfunding world, saw a need to help identify new businesses for investment & startups needed help raising money

  • Estimeo is a platform that brings together investors and startups

  • Data is collected in six areas, then analyzed using machine learning and AI, which provides a score out of 100

  • Credibility is one of the major challenges today, so Estimeo continuously works on the algorithm and building the brand

  • Starting first in France but building a global platform to help change investor biases

  • The world of finance has not always been known as a bastion of modernity, but just as startups have disrupted other industries, the world of finance is seeing rapid change thanks to progressive startups such as Estimeo. Many fintech startups are located in London, but for many reasons, including Brexit and increased demand, France is seeing high growth in this sector.

Coming from the world of crowdfunding, co-founder Florian Bercault saw a need from both investors and startups for a better system. Private investors often struggled to have good data on potential startups, and startups who offered innovative ideas struggled to connect with the right investors. Estimeo saw the market need, zipped past the old-fashioned options, and instead created a modern, digital platform that could be used by startups and investors.

As Florian explains, the model of investing in France was behind other markets and this poor structure created many challenges for all parties involved.  By collecting information based on six data points, Estimeo can score startups and help investors assess risk. Rather than choosing startups based on the school the founders attended, this model is based in data, so investors can evaluate startups on a more reasonable and fair basis.

Startups can also engage with Estimeo to get scored so they can see which parts of their business are strong and which areas need improvement. This puts startups in a better position for raising funds, while also providing investors with a holistic image of the startup.

It’s not an easy process, and Estimeo will continue to fine tune their model through data analysis, but this is a really interesting solution to the complicated process of fundraising. If you are building a startup, having at least a discussion with Estimeo is an important step to take. Florian and his team can explain more how they can help with your specific situation, but having more knowledge about your possibilities and options is always a good position to be in.

#17: Marion Chapsal and Ken Homer

Episode 17 - Marion Chapsal and Ken Homer - Collaborative conversations to build the office we all want

Key Points:

  • Instead of blame, bring everyone to the table and involve all of the stakeholders

  • Men and women need to work together to rebuild the community and to create a different culture

  • Training should focus on identifying agents of change within organizations, then creating allies

  • Before starting to address gender inequality, it’s important to listen and understand the issues

  • Programs need to work on both the individual level as well as the collective

  • To start addressing gender equality, we need to ask everyone how they would like their environment to be

The startup world has not been immune to some of the negative revelations that have come from the #MeToo movement. Stories implicating startup founders, teams, and investors have abounded. The startup world likes to think of itself as a modern, forward-thinking group of people but as we’re seeing, that is not always the case.

Soon after the start of public discussion about the #MeToo movement, we invited Marion Chapsal of Ideas on Stage and Women on Stage to join us in the studio to speak about gender equality, or as we have today, inequality. As a woman and as a coach, she’s witnessed this for years, so the emergence of #MeToo came as no surprise. Marion believes that as bad as the stories have been, the moment highlights an important issue and gets it out in the open, so at least now everyone can talk about it.

Marion recently teamed up with Ken Homer of Collaborative Conversations while working with a particular client. The idea behind their co-training sessions is that in order to seriously address gender inequality in organizations, they had to include everyone in the discussions. Both genders need to listen and be heard. They wanted to start a dialogue rather than continue a blame game.

This episode is a bit different and it’s not about a startup, though it’s a subject that is important to address. We can all do better and we all need to figure out what we want our future to look like, whether we’re in big companies or small startups.  

The #MeToo movement isn’t going away anytime soon and we believe this episode provides everyone with something to think about. If you’re a startup founder, do you want to be ahead of the curve and build a team that truly represents your market and is forward-thinking? Or do you want to be part of the old way of thinking that startups are supposedly disrupting?

#16: Ethan Pierse

Episode 16 - Ethan Pierse - Entrepreneur is not a dirty word

Key Points

  • Founder of Borderless Ventures, partner in new Silicon Valley fund targeting deep tech

  • Engineering education, career started doing digital marketing & corporate training

  • Business activity between France, Southeast Asia and the US

  • Sees confluence of positive events in France coming together today

  • Being an entrepreneur is now cool, which helps build ecosystem

  • What is Ethan looking for with startups? Idea needs to be great but the team has to be great to build real value and full potential

  • Team is critical to success of startup!

  • New book coming out on corporate innovation - Chief Startup Officer

  • Why France is a hotbed for deep tech

Ethan Pierse spent years working in the US as a successful digital marketer before moving to France, where he initially did similar work until four years ago when he started helping French startups gain access to US investment capital as well as business development. This effort then led to working with Singapore and Hong Kong, where French expats make up a significant community.

Today, Ethan’s splits his time between Borderless Ventures, which helps startups, investors and corporates access opportunities between the US, France and Southeast Asia - as well as a new Silicon Valley venture fund that is investing in AI and Industry 4.0 deep tech.  This new fund is based in the US but investing in Eastern and Western Europe, as well as in Israel and Southeast Asia.

In this episode, we discussed why France and why now, and Ethan clearly explains the confluence of events over recent years that has positioned France as the place to be. The French government has been promoting entrepreneurship and improving the visibility of French startups outside of France. They’re pushing hard to drive this change and the results are starting to show.

One big change Ethan comments on is that younger students today really want to be entrepreneurs, which is a radical departure from years ago when so many wanted to work for big organizations or the government. Today, it’s cool to be an entrepreneur-- which, as he mentions, can cut both ways. Ultimately, it’s still a business and as fun as some of the perks of that business can be, they’re just that: perks.

Listen as Ethan explains in very clear terms what investors are looking for when they are considering a startup. We also discuss how startups interact with corporates, including the positives and the negatives on both sides. Yes it can work out well, but startups can easily waste valuable time and collapse if they chase the wrong corporate partnerships. If big corporates want to be part of the future, they urgently need to be serious about engaging with startups. For more on that subject, keep an eye out for Ethan’s new book, Chief Startup Officer, coming out soon. Our podcast discussion with Ethan wraps up as he discusses why France is well positioned for the Deep Tech wave of startups that will be disrupting organizations around the world in the coming years.


Ethan is very active on social media, putting out a ton of great content, so follow him on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook,  He’s also a regular on BFM Business and once you start following him, you will quickly see why!

#15: Eva Peris

Episode 15 - Eva Peris - Once Upon a Dating App...

Key Points:

  • Dating market has been around for a while, first online and then apps, but market has been evolving

  • Met Once founders soon after product developed

  • Once’s concept was based on addressing dating app inefficiencies, including wasted time wading through countless profiles & embarrassment of everyone seeing their profile

  • Once’s founders are French but launched in UK

  • Post-Brexit & following Macron’s victory, Paris became a more interesting place to relocate

  • Breaking into a crowded market requires something solid & a new idea

  • European markets more skeptical of the new and different, compared to US consumers

Breaking into a crowded market can initially sound like the worst idea in the world.  You have to be crazy to even think such a thing, right? After all, there’s often a reason that a market isn’t crowded. A crowded market can actually mean that there’s a lot of attention and potentially money in addressing that particular market’s problems. Look at what our previous guest Edouard Aligand has managed to achieve with QuasarDB.

Eva Peris had already worked for happn, another dating app, so she had some experience in the market. While many of the online sites were past their prime and Tinder was the market leader, users were looking for something different. Swiping through so many profiles wasn’t for everyone and for many, the thought of exposing your profile to thousands of people didn’t sound like a great idea either.

The big question then was how to succeed in such a crowded market, where the competition has both market share as well as very deep pockets. Eva was hired as the Deputy CMO at Once to build out their marketing plan, and they’ve enjoyed considerable success both with building a customer base as well as raising multiple rounds of funds. In this episode, she explains how Once differentiated themselves from the competition and why they’re enjoying so much success.

What’s also interesting is Eva’s experience working in London both pre and post-Brexit, and Emmanuel Macron’s successful bid for the French presidency. London was once the undisputed leader in Europe for startup talent thanks to its international community, but the tide appears to be shifting and Paris is looking better than ever moving forward.


One of the perks of Paris’s fast-changing startup scene is that after three and a half years with a market-changing startup like Once, Eva was recently hired by Ironhack as the VP of Marketing.  In her new role she will be overseeing the global marketing for the top coding bootcamp. This says a lot about the dynamics of the fast-changing Paris startup scene, where opportunities for internationally experienced professionals are increasing by the month.

#14: Jean-Francois Morizur

Episode 14 - Jean-Francois Morizur - CAILabs: Bending light for better network bandwidth

Key Points:

  • Born in a research lab at Laboratoire Kastler Brossel, created partnership with the university for license

  • Found new application for shaping light - can expand fiber capacity by 400%+

  • Working with SAFRAN, who also led the latest round of financing

  • No longer need to rewire older fiber, saving time, money, and complexity

  • Sell via integration partners, expanding globally

  • Currently hiring for many positions in engineering, commercial & internships

The initial research lab tests were hoping to find uses for manipulating light for the field of microscopy, though the joint research teams from France and Australia ultimately concluded that no, it was not going to work. Thanks to one of the professors at the Laboratoire Kastler Brossel, Jean-François had kept in contact with the team and was convinced that despite the results of the initial study, something interesting could come out of that research.

It may not have yielded results for microscopy but instead, that research provided the backbone for what became CAILabs, a startup that works to shape light, which can provide enormous time and money savings for existing fiber networks and beyond.  

The business case for CAILabs is immediate and obvious: instead of replacing existing, older fiber LAN networks in factories, hospitals, etc - a process that can be painfully long, requiring significant paperwork and an often challenging process - customers can instead implement the CAILabs product, which can reduce bottlenecks for local networks.

Jean-François Morizur is yet another example of a startup founder in a very technical market who has an amazing ability to explain his solution in easy to understand terms for mere mortals.  (Edouard Alligand, CEO of QuasarDB who joined us in Episode 7 was another.)  He is of course a very deep technical person - he has a PhD in quantum optics, after all - but he’s also a smart business leader who is highly engaging.

During our discussion he explains their target audience and their plans for global expansion, including the age-old question of whether to put the US office on the east coast or the west coast. It’s a topic worth spending time exploring, rather than rushing into a choice to move out west just to be in the Valley.

Moving forward, CAILabs is seeking to hire new members for their team, both in engineering and the business side of the company now that they’ve secured a new round of funding.  They’re also getting a lot of customer traction, so there is a lot of opportunity here for people interested in working on a very innovative solution with smart people.