#StartupPlaybook 00: My learnings (so far)

My learnings (so far) as a current founder, exited founder of a bootstrapped Startup and former executive in VC-backed B2B SaaS Startups ($1M-$10M and $10M-$100M ARR).


This new post series will focus on my learnings so far working in and building startups.

A quick background:

I started my career in Sales, in traditional companies, almost 20 years ago. French electronics manufacturers, both with an engineer culture. One had less than 50 employees (Analog Way - spent 2 years) the other close to 3,000 (SAGEM - 4 years).

I was fortunate to be successful at each role, though I wanted something else. I wanted more.

It was good to experience work at traditional companies though, one small, one big.

So I left Paris in 2008 to live in London. And as luck would have it, started working in Sales for a San Francisco-based startup providing streaming services - ON24. My role was to drive up Sales in Europe while the company was mostly operated out of the West Coast.

I moved up the ladder from Sales roles, to Director, VP Sales and Managing Director, hiring and leading a team of 30+. And experienced growth within a startup at $10M on its way to $100M. As well as pivoting the company from a service provider to a SaaS solution with recurring revenue.

ON24 became the global leader with its marketing-based webinar platform.

7 years on, I left and joined an Australian startup - Maestrano - as Managing Director for Europe, charged with opening the region - back to square one - with the goal to float on the LSE (it IPOed in 2018. I experienced growth within a startup at $1M on its way to $10M.

After 18 months, an opportunity arose for me to co-found my own startup: a Groupon for companies operating private jets. It was the brainchild of my co-founder (my wife - but that's a story for another day! 😁) who had expertise of and network in the industry, thanks to her experience leading M&A for one of the industry's market leaders.

And so Convolus was born. And I experienced growth within a startup, starting at $0.

We bootstrapped the business, using mostly grit, freelancers and automations πŸ€“.

As we were about to raise a seed round, we received an offer from our American competitor. And ended up accepting it, thus selling 2 years after the company's inception.

After selling last year, I decided to start anew, this time as a solo founder, with OfficeBots.io. The idea was to focus on automating back-office tasks with bots, which I loved doing while at Convolus.
I envisioned that bots could become task-based digital assistants, with whom (which?) users can interact via email - the most pervasive communication method. This could help lower the barrier to entry for small and medium businesses to automate tasks and processes, without the need for internal resources.
Basically "Automation-as-a-Service" where I'd build and maintain the bots (on a custom-built platform) for the users, thus no software for them to learn.

Starting with "what I want to do" rather than "here is a specific pain businesses have", is not a great recipe. I knew it - it's the opposite of the advice I give when mentoring πŸ™ƒ.

Though with a bit of time on my hands to try out things, I decided to build the MVP as a generic platform, and go after the famous "product-market fit" - when your solution hits the sweet spot in the market and flies off the digital shelf - by trials and tribulations.

Well, that's still work in progress πŸ˜….

I shared openly about it here: "OFFICEBOTS: (HALF) YEAR REVIEW"

So while I will be sharing my learnings from those last 12 years in this post series, believe me when I say that I keep learning every day - thus will have more to share 😁

I love startups.

The intellectual challenge.

The excitement of building something (from nothing, when you are a founder).

The ever-changing scope and skills required to be successful, as you move up the ladder, or start from scratch and build everything up.

The constant learning.

The hiring of team members - or even freelancers - who go through this journey with you.

At times, I do wish I would be the type to enjoy a 9-5 job with very clear delimitations. It sounds comfortable and appealing in a sense.

But I am driven by learning and experiencing new things, and am an optimist at heart, who thinks challenges exist to be overcome.

It's also exciting to think about what could be, and build it.

"The future cannot be predicted, but futures can be invented"
Dennis Gabor, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1963

It's aligned with the way I think:

#CareerPlaybook 010: The present is our future’s past

And outside of one’s comfort zone is where growth happens.

One of my motto?

"Easy is boring."

Gotta love a challenge πŸ˜…

I hope this post series can help some of you living the highs and lows of building startups.

Comment below or connect with me if you have questions, or feedback.