Episode 24 - Sven Deichfuss - Paving the Way for European Startup Success in the States
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.
Episode 23 - Adrien Mennillo - uTip, They Benefit
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.
Episode 22 - Tim Mevel - HelloZack, Hello Convenience
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.
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.
Episode 21 - Thomas Ollivier - Exemplary Leadership in Corporate-Startup Partnerships
- 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.
Episode 20 - Thomas Perret - Revolutionizing Personal Investment
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.
Episode 19 - Kurt Muehmel - Selling Dataiku
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.
Episode 18 - Florian Bercault - Estimating Equity
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.
Episode 17 - Marion Chapsal and Ken Homer - Collaborative conversations to build the office we all want
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?
Episode 16 - Ethan Pierse - Entrepreneur is not a dirty word
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!
Episode 15 - Eva Peris - Once Upon a Dating App...
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.
Episode 14 - Jean-Francois Morizur - CAILabs: Bending light for better network bandwidth
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.
Episode 13 - Damien Courbon - Swapcard: Bringing efficiency & engagement to events
The event market was ripe for disruption & innovation
If you wait until you arrive at an event to organize, it’s already too late
Attendees seek more efficiency, so planning ahead makes more sense
Events are very expensive and there’s a lot of competition, so organizers need to show better metrics to win business
Swapcard sends team members to events to listen and learn, so they can improve
Seeking to build an international team, so hiring more foreigners
Focused on team happiness and engagement
Moving forward, exploring predictive analysis & more international expansion
f you have ever attended a trade show, you’re familiar with the challenges: You want to go to important sessions but it’s also a great time to meet in person with others in your business.
If you’re a vendor, you spend countless weeks trying to figure out who will be there for networking, since your company has invested a significant amount of money to be there. If you’re an attendee, your company has sent you there at great cost as well. And if you’re an event organizer, you need to show metrics of success to keep and grow your user base.
Swapcard saw the inefficiencies of the market and built an app that brings more value for vendors, attendees, and organizers alike. You can plan your event in advance, including important networking meetings, without scrambling during the event to find people who you need to meet. Swapcard lets you plan and prepare for the event, including scheduling your meetings. The end result is a much more productive event and metrics that show the benefits of attending.
Damien and Swapcard are focused on satisfaction and improving the overall experience. To do this, they make sure their app is easy and quick to use so that their users actually use it! As obvious as that sounds, it’s astonishing how many businesses seem to forget about this.
In this episode, Damien explains how the company is growing, including hiring more people from abroad and expanding their market reach. The tricky balance moving forward is maintaining the company culture during this growth, so they’ve been focused on finding new team members who will be able to come in, work hard and keep the same team spirit.
Because Swapcard has plans to grow internationally, the culturally diverse team will be its strength for building into new markets as well as new ideas. This diversity is a positive trend we’re seeing increasingly these days in French startups, and we expect to see a lot more of it moving forward.
Episode 12 - Anne Ravanona - Opportunity Loss: Closing the $300 billion global funding gap between men and women
Anne is on a mission to get more women entrepreneurs funded
Need to close the $300 billion funding gap between men and women
Help women understand the funding system, including the language, the biases and how to navigate the system
Change the funding system to provide fair and equal access to funding
After a successful business career, when Anne hit 40 she asked herself what she wanted to do with her life. The answer was a resounding “help female entrepreneurs.” This is when Anne created Global Invest Her.
We’ve all read the stories about low funding for women but Anne is stepping up to build a network of women to help other women entrepreneurs. The funding gap between men and women is a whopping $300 billion, which is enormous. Anne’s mission is to close that gap and teach women how to navigate this complex system: one with ever-changing players and rules.
Successful female entrepreneurs help other women who are seeking funding by explaining their own journeys and how they were successful in the process. Change is coming, but only slowly: we’re still a long way off from equal funding, despite women being 51% of the global population.
Anne walks us through some of the brutal statistics and why most of the investment world is missing out on so many great ideas. The “opportunity loss” numbers are not easy to quantify but it seems hard to believe that businesses are fully realizing their potential when so few female startup founders receive funding and even when they do, the amounts are generally lower.
While there are a few positive examples of existing investment funds, what’s really exciting today is the number of new funds created by women that focus on funding and assisting women.
As depressing as the current statistics can be, there’s good reason to be hopeful for something better moving forward. As Anne tells us in the episode, anyone wanting to team up to address this issue needs to talk with her so they can collaborate and create that better environment that we’re all demanding.
Episode 11 - Robin Lepercq - The evolving click-and-mortar model
Key take-away points
Created after leaving an IT services company, noticed the inefficiencies of the market
Freelancing was small compared to other countries but growing rapidly
Pivoted from a broad offering to a very narrow market
Strong focus on the market and focus on delivering high quality so very selective
Building a community for high end, technical freelancers
Opting for organic growth rather than raising funds
After working for years in IT services, Robin was let go. A situation like that is rarely welcomed or ideal when you’re raising a family, but thanks to the incredible French system, Robin was able to transition from this tough situation into launching a successful startup - FreelanceRepublik - that has an abundance of assignments. Not a bad place to be for a young startup.
The idea came about after collaborating with businesses and seeing how the process worked with developing projects and applications. The traditional model was struggling due to high costs and very long cycles for hiring IT teams. He could see that the future was definitely in empowering top freelancers who wanted interesting jobs where they could learn and grow.
One of the great things about the French safety net is that the system provides a strong layer of support for people who lose their jobs. Robin used this structure to help get FreelanceRepublik off the ground. It provided him with the help he needed during that period so he could try one model, before pivoting to what exists today.
What he learned during this process was that having a razor-sharp focus helped the company offer the best possible service both to companies and to freelancers. By staying narrow, he got to know his market and his market got to know him. Robin makes sure that FreelanceRepublik keeps a strict quality standard, so he’s been able to easily find missions for talented freelance developers and project managers.
Moving forward, he wants to evolve to have more click and less mortar in his click-and-mortar startup, though there will always be a need for a least a little mortar in the business of high-end recruitment.
Episode 10 - Tamara Brisk - How to successfully break into the French market
Key take-away points:
Tamara was experienced in consulting, real estate & startup cultures
WiredScore was created in NY to highlight high end internet readiness for office space
French market is largest in EU, third largest in world
To succeed, it’s critical to study & adapt before jumping in
Commercial office space is highly centralized in France & well organized
Challenges remain: slow hiring process which might hinder growth
Global clients helped open the market, French clients adopted quickly
After working in France for years, Tamara Brisk was frustrated with her career options in France. So, she moved back to the US to join a cool new startup in San Francisco. Equipped with an MBA from a top-tier US program and a high-end consulting background, she wasn’t afraid of the risks associated with joining a startup the way she had seen in France. Tamara is North American, so shifting gears comes relatively easily to her.
But as exciting and fun as it was living and working in California, there was still a special draw for her to Paris. When the opportunity popped up to lead a hot new startup into the French market, Tamara jumped on it. The new company that would bring her back to Paris was only a few years old, but it fit with her previous experience in the real estate business, only with a tech angle.
The New York based startup, WiredScore, originated from a program started under Mayor Bloomberg, who was looking for something that would be a selling point for businesses in New York City. The point of the project was to provide a ratings certification system for high-end fiber networks in office buildings. A strong rating would make an office more attractive to global businesses who were looking for office space.
For any company operating in the office space market, France is critical: it’s the largest market in Europe and the third largest in the world. Despite its reputation for being a challenging market for startups, Tamara explains why France is extremely well suited to a company such as WiredScore, and why Paris in particular is so full of opportunity.
Like any smart business person, Tamara thoroughly studied the local market first before launching WiredScore here in Paris. The conditions in France are ripe for adopting this innovative tool, and WiredScore could not have found a better fit for building out the business.
Episode 9 - Timothée Rebours - Seald: Not your father’s encryption product
Formed team with complementary skills during UC Berkeley program
No interest in working for a large company
Always loved encryption, sought an easy answer to a serious problem
More secure for large organizations, consultants, going to the cloud
Paris makes good business sense thanks to lower costs, BPI & ecosystem
French businesses are more engaged with startups
Focused on building base in France, then take abroad
Ten years ago, students often dreamed of hopping into the corporate world following graduation. It was safe, it was comfortable and that’s just what one did in France. While it can still make sense for many, more young graduates want to dive straight into the startup world. Sure it’s tough and there’s not the security blanket of a big company and a big team, but for people like Timothée and his co-founders at Seald.io, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The idea behind the encryption product was one that started years ago for Timothée. He always had a strong interest in security and encryption so when he needed to create something for his graduate studies program at UC Berkeley, he thought back to his childhood idea of encrypting his dad’s email messages and the ongoing problem of sensitive data being encrypted.
Another continuous challenge is making it easy. As a kid, Timothée would explain to his dad the dozens of steps he could take to secure his emails. His father was already interested in the concept, but Timothée knew that all those steps would make it impossible to implement in the corporate world.
To bring all this together, Timothée joined up with Mehdi Kouhen and Maxime Huber to form the initial team. Each brought something to the table and together they delivered a really nice, easy-to-use encryption solution that protects sensitive data on email and beyond. It’s hard to underestimate the importance of ease-of-use, whether it’s one or even zero-click functionality. It’s a core focus of the team.
The end result for users is a product that makes it easy to properly encrypt sensitive information that’s being distributed via email, Dropbox, or other tools. For companies moving sensitive data into the cloud, they too now have a solution to sleep well at night.
Seald.io has enjoyed market success with early-mover accounts in France, where they’re close to customers and have received helpful impact. Timothée asserted that large French companies are changing and are engaging with startups better than in the past. This is indeed a welcome sign and we’re thrilled to hear it.
The benefit for Seald.io and the rest of the French tech startup world is that it’s easy to build our your initial product offering with local customers and then take it on the road to other markets. It’s an enormous expense for startups to have to travel to another country - this means train or plane tickets, hotels, etc - when getting started, money that could be better spent on building out the product and the team.
On the subject of future growth, Timothée gave high marks to BPI and the rapid help they provided. It’s hard to underestimate the positive impact BPI has had for the startup world. As for launching in Paris, when San Francisco or London could have been an option in the past, he sees the benefits of setting up in Paris over the rest. Timothée says that the cost in France is lower for developers and the overall support structures for startups has improved dramatically.
Once the team is comfortable with its initial product, they will explore market expansion, but only after they’ve properly studied and understood those other markets. An unwise decision of jumping in headfirst could be a fatal move, so besides a smart product, the Seald.io team is also making some smart business decisions.
Delivering an easy-to-use encryption product that can protect sensitive data has been a market challenge for years but Seald.io is building a tool that will finally make this a problem of the past.
Episode 8 - Olga Egorsheva - Social media content that looks like you
While working for a major brand covering Asia, the Middle East, and Russia, Olga came to the realization that the image databases available simply did not provide what she was looking for. Most of the available stock photos were Western European or US-centric; fine for those markets but not very relatable for people outside of those areas.
Those stock photos failed to connect with customers, which inspired Olga to find a solution that would use real photos from real people, living all over the world. Her goal was to build something more authentic and more diverse, so brands could better connect with their markets. Clients demanded high quality, easily searchable and ready to license content, so Lobster implemented a machine learning-driven solution.
A recurring theme throughout our discussion is the focus on highlighting ease while delivering high quality content. Lobster focuses on ease when it comes to their users’ experience, as well as their choice to headquarter their company in London, as opposed to Paris, Berlin, or other startup-centric cities.
Olga takes us through how Lobster built up their business by balancing the influx of investor money while growing the team. Adding new employees who fit well can be a challenge, but Lobster has had a lot of success with interns who have grown into full-time positions as the company has expanded. Theirs is a multi-cultural team spread across an impressive three countries, and they’re looking for more growth going into 2018.
It’s especially interesting to hear Olga’s thoughts on why Lobster chose to take investor money versus growing organically. She also discusses how and why her go-to sources for advice have evolved over time. There are definitely lessons to be learned throughout our discussion, including some of the challenges that Paris faces with startups who are fatigued with the bureaucracy. This is an opportunity to hear why a cool new startup - that has French connections - chose to locate and build in London rather than Paris.
Startups everywhere can learn from Olga, as she builds out a company that is innovative, exciting, diverse, and international. In addition, there’s something to learn here for countries and cities focused on building up their startup communities.
Episode 7 - Edouard Alligand - Techies are terrible listeners, and other fake news
In 2008, Edouard Alligand decided to make a career change, which is normal for most people at some point in their lives. The problem? He moved into the banking sector...in 2008. Ouch. That’s a tough market to break into in the best of times and in the worst of times, the transition was difficult.
It was during that time that Edouard noticed that stocks were especially volatile and big money was made and lost because of that volatility. Through talks with customers in the banking market, he noticed that the systems being used could not keep up; so he applied his background in math and system programming to address the issue.
While working with one particular client, he built a new database that was able to run computations on thousands of CPUs. Making this work would be the difference between financial traders making or losing money, and the stakes were even higher in the wake of the financial crisis.
Out of this chaos, QuasarDB was born. It helped that the initial product was built based on the needs of a client, but Edouard realized that this tool would be useful beyond just that single client, so he raised money, product-ized it and built an early model to sell to others.
Edouard’s story is smart and enjoyable as he walks us through how he leveraged assistance from Business France and IMPACT USA to build out QuasarDB and enter the US market. While Edouard is a very serious person, he also has fun along the way. Launching a startup comes with enough stressful days, so it’s essential to learn how to laugh through them.
Another key point to note is Edouard’s assertion that yes, France has a deep talent base for developing tech products for global customers. That said, the business market in France is lagging behind other countries. It’s an important point and one that we hear from many startups focused on selling to big accounts. French business is too slow moving, they want to build rather than buy and negotiations can be painfully long, if they even work.
For a startup, having prospects who spin their wheels only to not buy anything is a progress-killer. If your early stage startup is trying to build a local market before going elsewhere, it’s a very big risk trying in France compared to engaging with prospects in other markets such as the UK, Scandinavia, or the US. Imagine the possibilities if more local companies here invested in startup technology!
In the case of QuasarDB, they did find local customers but they also learned that prospects elsewhere were more open to new technology companies and engaged with them as a serious partner. Deciding to focus on markets outside of France became an easy decision to make for Edouard.
There are plenty of lessons to be learned here on so many subjects - product creation, listening to customers, obsession with quality, moving to the business to the US, working with an accelerator and more - so you’ll probably want to listen a few times to soak it all in. Edouard has the industry experience as well as proven success, so he’s a wealth of information for all.