Fabien Pinckaers (Odoo): « Happiness is independence from money »

15 years on the verge of bankruptcy to be now… a multi-billionaire! At the very beginning, Fabien Pinckaers, CEO & cofounder of Odoo, just wanted to create an ERP to help his entourage. Today, he is building one of the biggest IT empires in the world. Discover the unusual personality of an assertive and humorous entrepreneur!

Can you share with us a piece of advice you have been given that has been very useful in your life?

It’s not advice I was given. It’s something I noticed myself: there’s one thing that has always struck me, and that’s the relationship one can have with money.

There was one person at the time who was very well paid in our company, who had a salary of several tens of thousands of euros per month. However, he was the person who, for me, had the most financial problems, i.e. he had a standard of living which meant that he had children abroad, who were studying in private schools, etc. So he needed a lot of money, and that put him in enormous difficulties in his life : he had to work in other countries because he had to look for higher salaries. He had a lot of difficulties and I said to myself that in fact, it’s not the level of money you have, it’s the dependence on money that makes you happy or not happy.

On the other hand, I have a CTO who is a bit like me, so he is quite rich. But he doesn’t spend anything at all. He’s got a crappy car, but I think he’s happy because he’s not dependent. I think that being detached from all that is what counts. It’s not so much about having money, it’s about how much you need it and how much you don’t need it.

Is there an app in your phone that you would recommend everyone to have?

Odoo! And I’m not saying that to sell. If I’d had Odoo at the very beginning of the business, it would have saved me years. For example, I hated administration, I was late with my invoice reminders, I was losing money because I didn’t follow up with my customers. I was forgetting timesheets and expense accounts that were not invoiced. I lost a lot of money in periods when I actually had no money at all, so it was almost a matter of life and death. If I had had a good software like Odoo, I might have saved a year in developing the company.

At Odoo, we also use Discord, which is a great way to communicate.

Can you tell me something about yourself that people would be surprised to learn?

I play ping pong. I don’t have a TV at home, no computers to watch TV, nothing like that ; I just have computers to work on.

Do you have speakers to listen to music?

I never listen to music, but I read books and I like board games a lot.

Is there a habit you are trying to start or stop at the moment?

I need to lose weight, that would be nice. But I’m having a hard time because when I feel like eating, I eat.

If you had to give one piece of advice to someone who wants to follow your path, what would it be?

Just do it.

There are so many people who are wondering about starting up, getting started, et cetera. And in fact, what counts is just to move forward. My idea wasn’t incredible. What made it work was just that I worked, worked, worked, worked, we became so much better that we became better than the others. It’s all about getting started, getting going and not letting go.

What is your favourite book?

It’s a book that was written by the FBI in 1945 at the end of the war, when in fact the Allies started to see tensions between the Americans and the French on French territory. And so the American government wrote a little book for the soldiers on the ground to explain the behavior of the French. It’s called Nos amis les français, and it’s really very effective in terms of communication. It’s 112 facts about the French, which completely demystify our image compared to the preconceived notions that the Americans had. It’s still valid today, it’s quite funny. There are very historical values. I have one in mind for example: why the French stink. And in the book they explain that the French stink because the Germans took away their soap, so they’re only allowed 0.3 grams a week, and so they can wash less. They took all the criticisms that the Americans had and the book factualises them, and I found that in terms of quality of communication, it’s incredible.