Is there any advice that you received that has been useful in your life?
If I go back very early in my school path, which was not a gift for me, I think it would be to stop wanting perfection, to stop always wanting the pixel perfect, because then, you’ll get stuck behind. It was a bit like the story of my life at school, I always wanted to go much too far and much further. And as a result, I never had time to finish my exams. So I was only doing 20% of the assignments.
Now, in my entrepreneurial projects, I try to do the opposite and to accept imperfection, for example when we produce something that is ugly. That’s fine.
Especially since I have a great appetite for design. I love looking at SaaS and website designs all day long. Well, it’s a bit weird, but for example my Instagram discovery is filled with SaaS. I love to look at the way something is made aesthetically pleasing while in the background it’s numbers and data visualization. So I’m passionate about it and I could put a lot of energy into it.
But I’m trying to work on myself and to define limits, by deciding that we’ll see the design of a product later in a V4, V5, V8. We have to focus on the functional, and I try to really respect that and be rigorous on that so as not to waste time on things that are too trivial. However, it can go very far. It can be a social network post, it can be a white paper cover. It can be anything. Really, I need to have total control over all the visual aspects and what people see of Greenly.
For example, yesterday I logged on to Instagram. I saw that the photo we posted was a bit pixelated, but slightly. But it really frustrated me. I did an extra hour to delete the photo, repost it and I said to myself we have to be very demanding at all levels. And in fact, it’s a bit like the devil is in the detail. But the more rigorous we are on each detail, the more employees pay attention to that.
So in fact, I think you have to find the right balance. You don’t have to go completely crazy either, but you have to show and impose yourself this rigor. But it’s not a simple mix, between speed of execution, a sense of detail and a fussy side. It often doesn’t mix well. You just have to manage to put the cursor in the right place.
Is there a music at the moment that you could listen to on repeat?
If I take the one I’m listening to a lot at the moment… Mauvais ordre by Lomepal, on his latest album.
And if I’m a bit of a purist… Where you been by Kraak & Smaak on Soundcloud. It’s a bit of electro house, it’s very nice.
Can you tell us something about yourself that people would be surprised to learn?
I saved someone from drowning. Once, a person was drowning in the Seine near Mantes-la-Jolie where my grandparents had a house. And so I heard screams when I was in the garden of the house that were quite muffled. And just before I went into the house, I thought I’d have a look anyway because it sounded suspicious.
Indeed, when I got to a neighbor’s pontoon, there was a person who had managed to stick their head out in front of me, who was quite a long way from the edge. And I see this head disappearing again, and it’s very disturbing. It was even very traumatic. Because there really was this person who gave their last breath, who came to the surface and then disappeared again.
And at that moment, I dived straight in, and I said to myself that obviously I wasn’t going to let someone drown, especially in front of my eyes, and I try to go as fast as possible. I’m not a great swimmer, far from it, but I gave everything I could to get there, and I went to get the person at the bottom. I myself had no apnea skills at all, but I managed to grab the person, or rather it was the person who grabbed me and in fact, I learned something thanks to the firemen.
In these cases, you have to knock the person out. You have to put a very, very big slap on their temple, so the person is no longer a danger for you. And it’s true that it could have become very dangerous. Fortunately, the person was a woman who was very light, like 45 or 50 kilos. If it had been a man of my weight or who was heavier, I could have sunk with the person, and even more so if the person was in survival mode and prevented me from making any movements by grabbing me as best they could. In this case, you become a stone, and you sink because you can’t get back up.
Fortunately, it didn’t turn out badly. And I managed to pull the woman up and to save her. I learned later that it was a suicide attempt, so I hope that the person who lives a few houses away has not re-offended and will not re-offend. But it’s true that it was a bit upsetting and traumatic. But I was happy that I was able to save her life, and I hope that she will regain that taste for life.
Is there a habit you’re trying to develop or stop at the moment?
I’m trying to set aside time to do sport. That’s the thing that bothers me the most these days, because when all you do is work from 9 a.m. to midnight every day, you never disconnect, including on the weekend. It takes over your nights, too.
I find myself more and more in meetings at night or projecting myself onto productions, meetings, discussions, anything and everything. That’s why I’m really trying to do sport again, because it clears my head and puts my energy in a different place.
So I’d like to do either a half-marathon or a marathon. I’ve already done a half-marathon, but a marathon is another story. But for that, you have to train, and I haven’t managed to find the time yet.
Can you give me a book that has particularly marked you?
I’ve just ordered one that I haven’t read yet, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It had a big impact on me, because it was a gift from an adviser at Matignon who said to me when I left, « I only ask you to read this book ». She had signed a very kind note to me about the role of politics, about the vocation it was, a message that really gave a very positive view of the time spent there.
And otherwise, I really like Thinking, Fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner in behavioral sciences. It’s a huge international bestseller.
There’s also Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, Nobel Prize winners in economics, and the book is absolutely crazy. That’s when you really realize that in everyday life, we are matrixed, sometimes in the right way, sometimes in the wrong way. Social networks are the perfect example of the bad way of attracting people to spend as much time as possible on the screen.
But there are also positive nudges that make you aware of your water consumption, of the light you didn’t turn off, of donation to facilitate organ or blood donation. There are a lot of interesting things: by changing one little detail, you can facilitate a change of action. And I think that on all environmental issues, there is a lot to learn from.
If you had to give one piece of advice to someone who wants to follow the same path as you, what would it be?
I don’t know if I can give advice to people, but I would say… It would be very basic, but to be super persistent and to believe in what you are doing and not to need anyone’s support to know if it’s a good or bad idea. I’ve always said to myself the best answer is success or failure.
So when I launched a Twitter account with the goal of entering the top 30 most influential people in France (which I was in the end because I was 28th), this project only lived it in my head, the others saying « you put your energy on very futile things: you tweet, it takes you 4 hours a day, after your classes or after your internships ». I even recruited interns. And people were raving about it.
They said « you’re not even paid for that, you don’t even earn money, you’re not even known, what is your motivation? » And in fact, the motivation was just to do something that I had fun with and that I thought success would be the best answer to. And success didn’t materialize in wealth or direct popularity, but typically, I was able to do an internship at Matignon to rub shoulders with ministers thanks to this project. I also learned to manage someone who was on an internship.
I had a lot of micro successes through this account, for example being able to exchange with the cofounder of Twitter. I really found my successes and rewards directly in these projects: I didn’t need any support and just went into it intensely. And if it works, great, and if it doesn’t, too bad. And whatever I get will be a great success in itself.
If you want to know more about Arnaud and Greenly, listen to the full Innovation Leaders episode: