He just refused accepting 30M€.
A company for which he has just turned down increadible fundraising offers against a backdrop of organised media coverage.
If you spend time on LinkedIn or are in a modern selling approach, you probably know or have seen a post where his handsome face explained the success of his company Lemlist. A company, an empire. On LinkedIn you saw him, then less, then you saw him again. Not easy to follow, but it’s time to take stock of his past, his troubles with LinkedIn, his recent crazy news. And the future. At the beginning of our podcast adventure, we talked about it with Greg Gambatto, and we thought it was absolutely necessary to give him the floor again. We have Guillaume Moubèche, a rather unusual FrenchTech entrepreneur who I am very happy to give the floor to.
You’re not a tech profile but you’re drowned in tech, innovation, technological innovation or innovation in terms of communication. Before delving deeper, I’d like to know a little bit about you. What brought you to this entrepreneurial stage? And, about your world before Lemlist, what was in your head before you started?
Yes, of course. For those who don’t know me, my name is Guillaume Moubèche. I am 29 years old. I started by studying science before becoming a chemical engineer. Nothing to do with what I do today. I did a bit of research in labs to develop new drugs. I was doing that in Scotland and after that, I became an engineer and started working for Procter & Gamble in Belgium. Then I worked for Hermès, so luxury handbags, where I was doing quality control. It was in my last year that I started to do an entrepreneurial option. I’ve always wanted to start my own business since I was a kid. As I come from a family in which my parents grew up on the farm and they didn’t really study, it was very important for them that I did a scientific baccalaureate, that I was a scientist because they thought that was the way to succeed. For them, business was not a profession and therefore it was not something you could study.
Since I was little, I was always trying to launch things, to sell things to make a bit of money on the side. It was in engineering school in my last year that I did this entrepreneurial course. Afterwards, we launched a project with friends from my year. We had investors who wanted to put money into it but in the end, I left for a year on a trip around the world with my best friend. We had a project, which was to stay for free in the homes of locals for a year, using only social networks to find a place to stay. We travelled to 20 countries over a year and we used a lot of stuff like Couchsurfing, Facebook, Instagram, Tinder sometimes to manage to stay for free in people’s homes and it was really very enriching, full of exchanges and after that, I entered HEC in marketing.
I don’t necessarily talk about it often, but I’ve done a lot of different things. I started with college actually, because in high school I had very good grades, but I was a bit of a restless student, so I almost got expelled a few times. Going to prep school was clearly not an option with the various conduct warnings I’d had. Afterwards, engineering school as a gateway and into HEC. I got in because I had my engineering diploma, so it was easier. After that, I started a T-shirt business with my father, who was a graphic designer. When I went to HEC, I became the official businessman of the family. So for my father, it was so cool. He thought it was the moment when we could potentially do something together and for me, it was cool because it was also the moment to give back a little to my parents who had sacrificed a lot so that I could study.
It was cool, except that, I put a lot of pressure on my father. I didn’t know anything about purchasing and I was convinced that when we put the site online, there would be lots of orders and everything, and that it would be almost unbearable. But it was a big failure: zero orders. We had a few, but it didn’t work out too well and as a result, the relationship with my father deteriorated a bit, I felt awful about it. I stopped the project and at that moment, I promised myself to become a machine in acquisition and to never let down people who are important to me. Actually, I launched an acquisition agency with another guy from HEC who had done a lot of B2B before. We were prospecting for our clients and that’s where, in several months, I helped my clients generate millions in sales all over the world. After using all the tools in the market, I thought, « okay, this is cool: our clients are making a lot of cash from the prospecting we do and the meetings we book for them ». So I thought, this was the time to start a new project. Since I had met Vianney and François at Station F, we said, let’s go and we launched Lemlist at the beginning of 2018.
When you were at Station F at the time, you hadn’t launched Lemlist yet, it was born on your previous company.
Yes, I was at Station F. We joined the HEC incubator in July 2017. I’ve always spent time advising entrepreneurst. Vianney and François, who were the former CTO and Lead Dev Defenders, had been working for two or three years on a project they had coded. They were techies, but business-wise they weren’t very good. I spent an afternoon redoing the whole acquisition strategy because I thought they were nice and I thought it was cool to also help other entrepreneurs who are in the same space as you. After that, we started working on small side projects and I thought « damn, there are too many things that frustrate me in the tools we use. The guys are geniuses in tech but their product just doesn’t take off, they can’t afford it, it doesn’t work. I want to change because I don’t want to be in the agency anymore. I’ve been around a bit » and I say to myself that it’s time. And so, at the beginning of January, after having worked on a few small projects, we worked together on small projects for the community at Station F, to help people meet each other a little more. There, we said to ourselves: we can work well together. They wanted to do a new project because they were a bit relieved to have worked for three years on something that wasn’t taking off. So we said let’s go, let’s go and test it and see how it goes.
You start from a weak point and end up being the expert on the subject.
Yeah, that’s it. In fact, I think that for all those who have set up businesses with their family, when things go wrong, it’s really hard. During maybe two or three years, it was difficult with my father, we had a rather tense relationship. It was the only moment I could have potentially given him back everything he had sacrificed for me but in the end, I kind of let it go. Afterwards, you feel a bit bad and maybe he was blaming me for things too.
It creates a bit of a strained relationship and it’s not easy. It takes time to digest and move on. I think it then creates a big motivation for the future.
Hats off to you for the rebound, because it was quite a pivotal moment. Tell me about the start of Lemlist, did you have a vision of what you were going to achieve or did you build it up on the fly? Tell me about the details: the garage mode, the first revenues, the key steps of this business that led you to success…
You always have the entrepreneurs who will tell you, « Oh yeah, I had a big vision of changing the world from day one ». Not at all. The objective at the beginning of Lemlist was quite simple. We want to try and make a product that can pay all three of us a decent wage, help people and bring value and at the same time, we want to do things that we love. At the very beginning, Vianney and François had a profile that was clearly more sexy than mine. Because I was a young entrepreneur who just graduated from HEC. I was a bit resourceful, but technically, I hadn’t done anything before. Meanwhile, they had worked at eFounders and all that, so they thought that it was cool that the young guy had a bit of energy and all that: « we’re going to give him a beta in three weeks that’s a bit disgusting and we’re going to tell him to sell it ». It’s really challengingt, you see, and they really have the dev side in the sense that they are very cash. They don’t take the time to tell you things. At the beginning, it was quite tense, quite intense and very quickly I went and got people in cold emails. That’s what I was good at.
I used Lemlist to go out and prospect, to go and find our clients. As soon as I found myself in a meeting with people who told me « I’m not sure that cold emailing works », I told them « today we’re in a meeting together because I sent you a cold email ». They thought I was right, so that was the advantage. When you have a product that helps you make your acquisition, things work much better. What I did too, which worked well was to go to Facebook groups and show them all the results of my campaigns. I would say to them, « OK, we launched a tool that allowed me to book 25 meetings in a fortnight, do so many things, so many opening rates, so many response rates and everything. If you’re interested, comment me ». So there must have been at least ten people commenting on « me, me, me ». And once there are ten people who have commented, it creates a viral buzz and then you end up with potentially 150, 200 contacts who are ready for your beta. We also had a big launch on Product Hunt, very quickly, because in fact, when we started to launch in the communities, there was an Indian copycat who wanted to add our techno. They wanted to take our personal image bricks, image customisation bricks and launch on Product Hunt before us. That was not possible, even if the project wasn’t very advanced we decided to launch, and now we’re first on Product Hunt. That’s hundreds of sign up’s in one go. Except that the product was a shitty one to begin with.
We said to ourselves « there’s not much choice. We have to find a way of retaining it ». We had great companies that signed up but they didn’t stay and I coudn’t get back to them. It was very hard, so I told Vianney and François: « well, we’re on a red ocean, so there’s a lot of competition. People still have a fairly high standard for the product. Now I’ve shown you that I can close the gap with clients even on this terrain. We have to give it our all » and they really gave their all. Then I was contacted by Appsumo, a platform in the United States which has a community of one million entrepreneurs. And in fact, instead of selling the software platform as a subscription, they sell it as a one shot. So you sell a lifetime subscription to your software, and in fact you assume that people will never use it for life. That gives you a strong initial community to test, to give you feedback, and at the same time, you take cash. The first lines of code were ready in January, in March we launched them and we had thousands of customers. In a fortnight we made €170,000 or $170,000 in sales. Appsumo takes 70% of tha, obviously, because they do ads for acquisition and so on, but in short they take a large share. But in a fortnight, it’s still 160k cash, which is pretty cool for a launch. From there, we decided to start to launch and we launch the payment system right after. And in mid-April 2018, our first real customer who will pay on a recurring basis arrived, and then we created a community to try to grow the product and after that, if we fast forward three years later, we have more than 10,000 customers all over the world.
One of the elements that makes you stand out is the personalisation of images. Is this something that is unique to you today, or have your competitors adopted this idea too?
We have competitors who have tried to copy, but who couldn’t necessarily maintain a high enough level of quality. When it comes to inserting images in your emails, there are plenty who do it in a rather disgusting way as an attachment, but it doesn’t work well and the effect is null. And so, there are things where we are well ahead of the competition. Our competitor have acces to tools that allow you to integrate some of the things we do. As a result, there have been a few small competitors but it doesn’t work too well and they haven’t managed to crack the thing like we have for the moment.
Hot, because it seems quite simple, almost obvious, when we see the idea, but in fact, it still leaves you a few years ahead of the others. Personally, what gave you the most trouble in the last three years?
Personally, if you have to look at the most difficult thing, I think it was the relationship with Vianney and François. That’s something we don’t talk about much. We often talk about the problems in business, that’s all, but in reality, your business, at least at the beginning, it’s you and your partners. We started off from home, which means we were never in the same offices. Vianney was in Saclay, I was in Station F and François was in Lille. So we rarely saw each other. They didn’t like to have meetings or brainstorm on the business aspect at all, whereas just before, the business I had set up was with another guy from HEC. So really, we talked all the time. I’d call him at 11pm and say, « Hang on, I thought of this. We could test this on the landing page ». Then Vianney would say, « Listen, you never send me messages on WhatsApp or Messenger. WhatsApp is for chicks, Messenger is for family. Texting nobody texts, you’re on Slack, that’s the job. Inside I was bubbling because I had all my ideas, all the stuff I wanted to brainstorm. Then I realised it wasn’t a relationship I was going to find with them. At least, at first. So I did it a bit on my own by meeting a lot of other people in other companies and so on. I managed to create my own universe where I could challenge my ideas left and right.
There were clearly things and times when we were not at all aligned, we had difficulty communicating. The biggest learning for me during these first two years, in which there were difficult moments, it was to put in place non-violent communication, something I thought I would never put in place. Talking about your feelings to explain, how you feel rather than criticise what a person has done. I come from a background where I played basketball for ten years in the Goutte d’Or team, between Barbès, Porte de la Chapelle. These are neighbourhoods where there’s an atmosphere, you could say. I was used to being insulted by my coaches. I had this habit where when there’s something to say, you don’t beat about the bush. You don’t talk about your emotions or anything. I don’t really know what it’s going to be like and in fact it’s great because you appeal to people’s empathy. And it’s true that when someone told me, « I feel really pressured because you know, this, that and that », it felt like they were coming at me. Also with my family situation at the moment, there’s all that which has come into play and in the end, it really helps to understand the other person’s point of view. You can defuse a lot of problems and then potentially have a much healthier communication and move forward on the problems. Frankly, once you put that in place, your mindset changes to: how do we solve problems together? Right now, it’s going well. I think it’s been a year and a half that it’s been verycool.
Two years of not necessarily being hyper-aligned is a long time, especially in the middle of a scaling phase, when you have to speed up and be at your best. You don’t have the time to tell the other person everything, they have to understand your goal without necessarily being told. Would you do something differently in your company if you started again?
Yeah, I think before I started, I would have contacted a billion other people around me in many other companies. Something I learned with Lemlist is that, I knew that you could contact anyone on earth. But I was doing it in a prospecting sense, that is, I wanted to have an appointment for a potential demo for my client or a meeting for something else. But actually, what I started doing a lot with Lemlist was contacting people for networking. So you’re seeing people who are in companies that you think are super hot marketers, Head of Growth, Head of Sales, just contact them and ask them how things are going at home. Don’t be afraid to talk to other people who are two or three years above you and who have potentially experienced what you have experienced because that will really help you. All the people I’ve met over the last three years and that I’ve reached though a cold email to network with, have opened a billion doors for me, and on top of that, it’s super enriching. It really opens you up to a much more global vision of a market.
We have the impression that things went very fast, that the doors are open and that you have connected with many people. But do you think you could have accelerated even more any of these processes?
I think I could have done that long before I started Lemlist, when I had my agency as well, doing content, starting that, a podcast, an interview or something like that. People don’t think enough about doing that even if it’s accessible. Today, we’re not live, we’re not just next door, we do it remotely, and it works very well. And yet it’s stuff that many people see as insurmountable. That’s something I think brings a lot of value from a personal point of view, but also from a point of view for later on, to get started and have a real network when you start.
Now about management, as someone with an engineering profile, you may be able to deal a litte with technological problems and at the same time, doing chemistry, you’re a bit far from online acquisition. How do you manage a company which challenges you in the tech field? Have you become a geek or are you still dividing up the roles with your partners?
Everything that is produced, on the real code, I don’t touch it at all, I’ve never touched it, and Vianney and François, I trust them 100% on that. On the roadmap part, what feature we’re going to do, in what order, it’s really a team effort. I spend a lot of time with our customers, so I often do interviews for understanding their new challenges. Do fast-growing teams have different challenges to established teams? I really try to understand the whole market and see where we are most useful to our clients. From that, I see what’s missing, I see what we could add and then we put together our roadmap to prioritise a bit. What we do is define all the features that we have to do and then we put notes, so a marketing note with the letter M which can be between M1 and M5. M1 means that it’s very important in marketing. For example, something that we can tell our users about that is very much on demand, nobody else in the market is doing it. An example: none of the competitors we had were making a tool to help you boost your deliverability or warm up your emails. When you launch your campaigns, and you buy a new domain name, it takes some time before your email address is hot. And for that, what people used to do was to send emails by hand for a month or two and try to increase more and more. But it’s a not at all interesting job that can be automated, and yet nobody had done it.
As we had a huge community, we said « OK, we’ll launch it, we’ll automate it ». From a marketing point of view, we know that it has a huge business impact because we can talk about it. We can become the experts in deliverability. From a technical point of view, we also note how difficult it is. We grade between marketing and technical, so technical is the same from 1 to 5. Then we try to look at the whole list we have, what is the easiest to do technically and what has the best integrated marketing impact. We mix that with tasks that are very hard technically, but with a very high business impact and this allows us to align all the information and to have a roadmap that unfolds.
I imagine that depending on the complexity, you have more or less time in the delivery. Could you give me some figures on your company in terms of employees and turnover?
We have been billing customers for less than three years. At the end of 2020, we were at 4 million ARRs. At the end of Q1, we will be at 6 million ARR . In 2020, we were making 1 million in profit. Today, there are 35 of us in the company. We have over 10,000 customers and are based in over 85 countries, the majority of them in the US.
Where does this US share of your market come from?
I’ve always loved the American market. In fact, when my mate and I had the agency, it was quite funny because we had tried to launch some kind of product, so we had a developer. I’d actually been selected at Collision. It was the same team that organises Web Summit, but in the US, where it’s called Collision. So I went to Collision in New Orleans. They paid me everything I needed to go there and pitch the project we were doing, you know. And basically, the idea was just to pitch the vision. And for me, it was already amazing. I’d never been to New Orleans as a pus. I go down there and start meeting a lot of people, so I’m giving out cards and stuff. And actually, as they saw that we had an agency, there were a lot of people who were potentially hot for us to acquire. In fact, we had basically closed a lot of French clients. I realised that, in the United States, generally speaking, people paid directly. There wasn’t that problem. They are keen to test and they test but they pay. Whereas in France we had guys who were like, « Yes, you have an agency, but there’s no free trial, » and I was like, « Well, no, because you see, we’re still working. It’s a bit weird. » And they said « Yeah, but I’m not sure » and all that. Whereas in the US, they paid two or three times as much and it worked. In fact, as I was doing a lot of prospecting for the agency, I tested a lot of markets, including the US market, and I got a lot of feedback. So at that point, I said to myself, « Look, I’m going to focus on the US market. And when we launched Lemlist, I had already created a little bit of a network, with former clients that I had, but also in the groups, because I was in a lot of Facebook groups where I was talking to a lot of guys based in the US. And actually, I thought « that’s cool, during the day I’ll do (because I wanted to do everything in English) Europe, and in the evening I’ll do all my demos in the US and it would close much faster in the US. At one point, I said to myself, « it’s good, you know, we’ll see later on the French market ». In the meantime, over there, I find them much more innovative. They love to test everything new and if it works, they stay. I said to myself, « this is good, it works, we have great results, so let’s go. Why stop there? ».
It’s a sick opportunity. Some people dream of developing the U.S. and you did it from the start. Today we’re talking about Lemlist monoproduct, we haven’t mentioned the Lempod part at all. Can you give us a word about this project which is no longer in the Lemlist fold since you sold it?
We had this ambition to do a lot of projects. A year after launching Lemlist, in 2019, we launched a project called Lempod. We went on a team building trip with my two partners and at the end, I liked to ask them a question: « If you could recreate a product from scratch, what would it be today? They had ideas for video games and things like that. But I had an idea in my head: « guys, honestly, I see marketers, companies, and all that, who as soon as they post on LinkedIn, they put the link in Slack to their LinkedIn post and they ask all their companies to go and hire, go and put a like on it ». I used to be part of these kind of groups, engagement groups or pods, and people would click, go and see, go to the post and put a like or a comment. In my head, I was thinking it’s crazy that no one had automated this time consuming thing. I talked to Vianney and François about it. I said to myself that, frankly, it shouldn’t be too complicated. They agreed, « we’ll see, we’ll see ».
At the beginning of 2019, they go to a tech conference and then they send me something after two days, I don’t understand and it’s an old package to download on Chrome and everything. I’m like « guys, what is this? I don’t understand » because in order to push on the Chrome Store, you have to validate something, but when you have the developer version, you have to download something so you can install your own extensions. I tell them it’s weird, but I trust them, I do it. I look at the thing and I see that they coded Lempod. It was just crazy, I told them « we’re doing a test, I see that it works, I’m here, but go ahead, put it on the Chrome Store if you can ». They pushed it and in four days, we already had 150 users.
After a month, we had more than 1000. This project grew in size, almost on its ownand in twelve months, we invoiced it. We went from zero to $600,000 in ARR, and we sold it to a group of Australian entrepreneurs. After that, you see one real thing that happened was that the two projects were growing so fast that it was very difficult for us to manage both of them in parallel, at least since we were very involved with Lemlist which was our baby and Lempod which was also smaller. Lemlist was getting too big, and growing too fast every month for us to have the technical team on both projects, it was too complicated. So we decided to sell it. At the time of the resale, LinkedIn contacted us to say « you have one week to stop what you’re doing », except that it had already been resold and so, following that, they blocked my LinkedIn account.
And when was that?
In fact, we sold this summer, well last summer, so June, July 2020. And that’s when they blocked my LinkedIn profile, because basically I told them « guys, the sale was made » and basically they told me « no, we have no proof that there’s a sale. As far as we’re concerned, you’re in charge and we’re going to block you if the extension isn’t shut down ». What happened was that we signed an NDA in the sale that forbids us to mention who the buyer is, so I couldn’t give them the name. So, LinkedIn kept bugging me, saying « we think it’s still you, we saw that on this extension, there was still a video of you. So it’s obvious that you’re the CEO » but we sold the project with all the assets. Of course, we’ were not going to remove the onboarding videos and articles. That’s what brings in traffic and SEO, so it was quite complicated. I’m still in contact with them because I still haven’t got my real profile back.
Would that still be possible?
I’m looking into it. You see honestly, what happened is that I put them in touch with a broker because in fact we didn’t do the sale directly by buyers, but through an intermediate. The broker, to put it simply, is a person who has a database of SaaS software buyers. The advantage is that they have maybe 10,000 people in their address book, they look at your product, they have access to all your financial data, they make the projections, the financial valuation, they will determine how much you could sell your project for, and then they will tell you. We contact the buyers, I take the hottest ones. We try to get them to make a little competition and they take 10% of the sale. After that it’s degressive depending on the plateaus and your valuation. And so I put them in touch with him so that he could write a real document saying that I was no longer involved in the sale of something, and he did so, and then he came up with something like « Yeah, but maybe you sold it to a company, but we can’t be 100% sure that you’re no longer involved. So, we absolutely have to have contact with the owners. So you see, these are things that I put off, because it makes me nervous to answer. I’ve already answered ten times and it’s tiring.
Tell me about the day you see your account closed, because for you it was a huge part of your comm, and comm is important to you. The followers, your whole network, your whole history. Tell me how you feel on that day.
At the time I was getting over a million views every month, I had around 25,000 followers and I was posting regularly. It was dozens of leads coming in with each post. so when I saw my profile was dead, frankly, it was really hard. I said to myself that it’s not going to last and I was super optimistic. I was disgusted, but I said to myself « that’s fine ». I think they’ll release it as soon as I give them the papers or explain that we’ve sold the thing. There was an article published in SaaS magazine which explained that Guillaume, a young entrepreneur making his first succes with a SaaS, I thought itt was cool, they’d see that and they’ll trust me. But they didn’t give up. What they want in the end, they never say it in black and white, but it’s the name of the buyer and that the buyer closes the site.
There were a lot of people in the US who liked to follow my content. I was providing a lot of value in terms of sales and stuff, and they contacted some very high ranking people at LinkedIn. In fact, they told them « the only way for Guillaume to come back on LinkedIn is with another profile and potentially with another name. So not Guillaume Moubèche but something else ». And in this case now it’s G.
So how did you come up with that name?
None of the Americans can say Guillaume, so they’ve been calling me G for three years. So now my profile with the url is G with dash on both sides.
What happened was that I recreated one, which was called Guillaume Moubèche. I made several attempts. So I recreated one when they blocked it and I was trying to get it back. They blocked it for me instantly. I thought « a bit of a hassle » and then we had recreated it with another operation. It was the Free Guillaume Moubèche operation, that was the yellow tide on LinkedIn. So there were hundreds of people who had posted that with very big influences, especially in the US so I recreated a profile. Everyone was posting with the hashtag Free Guillaume Moubèche. People were linking my new profile and in one day, I had it taken. I think I almost had 15,000 requests for LinkedIn connections, and LinkedIn blocked it.
Anyway, my profile blew up and I thought, « okay, I’ve got to find a smarter way to recreate a profile ». I recreated a profile without using my real name. I was a bit pissed off about not having my real name, but now, what is gone and is gone. I’ve been on it for a little over a month, I’m posting regularly, it’s going well, in four weeks, I must have had 4,000 connections, it’s fine.
Do you think you’re out of the woods with this account and with them?
It’s a good question. I hope so. After that, I wouldn’t be surprised if one day they decided to blow it up. In the meantime, people can contact me. I’ve tried to find alternatives too. At the same time, what’s amazing is that you’re still a symbol of LinkedIn’s success. And you’re doing them good. You enhance their network, you boost it, it’s also thanks to people like you that they exist, what’s crazy, and I’ve tried to contact them several times.
There’s Microsoft who posted on their official page about me because I did a podcast with a guy from Microsoft, so they had featured me and I had sent that as a screenshot. I also sent them a screenshot where actually LinkedIn had contacted me in 2020. They had sent me an email to thank me because I was one of their top content creators on the market and they wanted to contact me because of that. They had selected me for the Top Voice thing. I didn’t reply at the time because I was a bit too busy. We were in the middle of the resale and then boom, I get this message and I was there, it didn’t make sense. On the one hand, you tell me that you’re too happy and on the other hand, there you go.
What would be your advice to prevent this from happening?
To be transparent we were basically a direct competitor of LinkedIn Ads with Lempod. Basically, as you play on the algorithm and you make sure that your posts are seen when normally they are not seen, that is exactly what LinkedIn is trying to sell with its ads. Except that we cost a lot less and it was the engagement of the people on the platform. Afterwards, there were a lot of drifts and I’m not so proud of that. For me, it was really a task that can be automated, we automated it because there was no added value in clicking on a link and liking a post. There is zero added value for people. So I thought that automating it was cool, but in fact, what happened was that we ended up with big spammers who were writing really crappy content and who were our best customers on Lempod, addicted to likes and therefore paid super expensive subscriptions. We banned a lot of them. Lempod was 5$ per group per month and they were paying maybe 400 to 500 euros. So they were really big customers for us. But some of them were banned because they were commenting « check out my latest online bet. ». All the stuff you get that I hate in spam. We were banning guys who were talking about religion on LinkedIn.
We’ve had all kinds of drifts. I must admit that this was one of the things that got me a bit feed up and I lost a lot of pride in the product because at the beginning, I thought it was great.There was also the really, really cool side to it. Little by little, I realised that we needed someone full time to do only moderation. We didn’t want to invest and recruit people for this product. We preferred to focus on Lemlist. So I said to myself, there’s a MRO that’s growing very quickly. We have a very good community on it. It’s a product that’s growing on its own. It’s the perfect time to sell it. It allows us to take some cash as founders and do what we want to do while keeping a project that is ultra profitable. So let’s go ! And then we move on, and this will be our first success. I could finally put successful SaaS founder. The little pride *laughs*.
The moral of the story is that you have to pay attention to the messages from LinkedIn even when everything is going well, you have to respond. Congratulations for getting out of the tunnel in that respect.
For a long time you were recognised for being able to set up a company, generate 4 million ARR without investors, by bootstrapping. I thought that was ancient history because you announced a project a few weeks ago to publicize a fundraising project in total transparency mode, « I’ll give you my email box, I’ll show you all my exchanges, I’ll film all my exchanges with investors around the world ». In the end, you were aiming for 20 million and you got 30, which you turned down. Not everyone can afford it, where do you get an idea like that? Was it serious or not?
What happened was that a few months ago, I was interviewing Nathan Latka, who had interviewed me several times on his podcast The Top Entrepreneurs, which is a big podcast in the US. They were actually talking to me about this: bootstrapping versus fundraising. He was saying that with a profitable business that’s growing super fast like mine, there’s no reason to raise money. Jokingly, I told him « the only thing that would motivate me to raise funds is to have my article in TechCrunch« . And he said, « but to get an article in TechCrunch, you pay a VC 5,000 quid, you tell him to send you a term sheet and then you contact a journalist, you send him the term sheet, you tell him we got a term sheet, he’ll not say no. » In fact, he put an idea in my head and I said to myself, that in the press, everyone only talks about raising funds. When you look at the success you want to convey to people who read the press and the size of the fundraising equals the success of a startup.
However, we know that you have lots of start-ups that raise funds which by definition are not going to be profitable, so they are not going to be profitable, and potentially, after a year after raising funds, they are going to explode, it is not going to work at all. For most people who look at this, is this really success? I said to myself, « we’ll show that there are other definitions of success ». Making a profitable company is also a success and it’s not because you don’t raise funds that you can’t make a profitable company that’s in hyper growth. The thing is that if we had done that just as a strong message to explain under a blog post, everyone would have said as usual and I can understand, because there are already people who did that, in the mode « I’m pro bootstrap », « I explain why bootstrapping is good », « why not raising funds is good » etc. People was told that it was a good thing and what they generally say to these articles is « yeah, but you see, they’re doing daddy’s companies, they’re companies that don’t grow very fast, so yes, it’s good and it’s profitable. OK, they make a bit of cash for the founders, it’s very good ». There’s this side that’s a bit disdainful and there’s this side, they talk about because they’ve never been able to raise money. I was interested in raising funds and I still think it’s cool.
I like to be challenged so I decided to launch a series on fundraising where I would interview founders who will give me advice on how to raise. Then I’d interview VCs who will also give me advice on how to raise. And then I’d challenge myself to raise 20 million in a fortnight and I’ll show everything as you said. And in fact, we had this with the idea in mind that if we got a term sheet, we would say no publicly to create this debate. Does success have to be linked to raising money? And can a company be in hyper growth without having to raise funds? Isn’t that what we should be talking about? Today we have a lot of things like the Gallion Project. To get in, you have to have raised a minimum of 1 million. And I look at the Gallion companies that are there, and frankly I don’t want to be too angry, but we’re growing much faster. We have metrics that are much more sexy and profitable. We bring a lot more to the French economy but they would never say « yeah, potentially Lemlist could be in our thing » because we don’t fit the criteria. Same thing with the French tech 120.
I said to myself, « we’re going to bring a new movement and we’re going to try to inspire a lot of entrepreneurs to start up and launch profitable businesses » because there was this problem that I also had when I help a lot of entrepreneurs, and that is that most of them tell me that they have to raise funds when they’ve been working on their business for a month. I was like that at the beginning, you know, I said to myself that I had to raise funds to succeed because I had this vision. I was stuck in this thing with blinders on, telling myself that to succeed and to accelerate, you have to raise funds. For me today, that’s not true. And so I wanted to launch this debate. Also, there was a point that was important, when you look at who is raising funds today, whether in France or in the US, it’s only people who went to business or engineering schools. In the US, it’s more Ivy League, so Harvard, MIT, and similar. How do you want to inspire a generation of entrepreneurs who don’t see themselves as having gone to business school or who even stopped their studies early, when you give the general public a vision of success by saying that it’s the companies that raise the funds? Because for me, you have entrepreneurs who are today among the biggest leaders who didn’t go to school, and it’s working well and everything. But we don’t talk about it much anymore and that’s what I wanted to say to myself « let’s try to open the debate on all this and see if we can bring something back ». What was quite crazy was the last offer we received, because announcing it in public created FOMO, Fear of missing out, in the mode « Oh fuck, all the Lemlist metrics are public. It’s crazy ». I received dozens and dozens of messages, I received calls, cold calls, messages on Messenger, WhatsApp. This is a private equity fund, so I didn’t know anything about it at first. It was for the big companies and it was the funds that were giving money to the VCs to potentially manage some of their money with a higher risk capital. In fact here the guys contacted us and said « we’re actually giving you 30 million, but it’s not just any deal. There’s 15 million going into the company, and 15 million in cash out for the founders », which meant that Vianney, François and I could each take 5 million in our pocket. And there, you feel a little unsettled.
When that happens you think that you have your shot, a term sheet from a VC. There was no cash out, it was only cash for the company because they wanted to accelerate, so they had to spend it all. Then you have guys who say « no, but in fact what we’re proposing is 15 million to invest for the year’s growth and 15 million for you guys ». That means that everyone leaves with 5 million and you stay in the box with control, you have everythin, it can change a lot of things. Vianney with his children, clearly, it changes things. François too. Me too, with my family. I must admit that this is the moment when you sweat, your nights become a bit shorter. I think about it a lot, we’ve always been very transparent, we’ve always been straight in our boots. We sat down and asked ouselves « what really motivates us in entrepreneurship? » All three of us, I think we are driven by the same thing. We quickly realised that it wasn’t the money. I’m not saying that it was always the case because when I started out, I always had this vision that I wanted to pay myself a good salary. It was still important to have cash and to be able to live well, but there was a moment when we started to pay ourselves well, then very well. In fact, I realised that my tastes were not evolving. I still like going for kebabs with my mates. I still like to buy my black T-shirts at Uniqlo for 5 €. I don’t have expensive tastes, I don’t want to spend 800,000 dollars on restaurants, when I go on holiday I like to do local things. So I thought money was the only thing that would help me. I said to myself, yes, money can change your life, but in fact that’s not my vision of entrepreneurship. There’s no vision of sharing, exchanging, inspiring other people, helping other people to create value for others, so we said to ourselves « this may hurt, but it also shows that our company has a lot of value ».
Perhaps it’s just a matter of time?
Maybe it’s just a postponement. I decided that it was the oento say, let’s go!, you see, our message is stronger. I think that there is a way to do a lot of things with the media. That’s when we started to prepare the whole press relations part. We had the thing on the media, one of the most mainstream media in France, Konbini, where we launched a video on Konbini techno. It’s a sub-branch of Konbini where the videos get between 5,000 and 10,000, maybe even 100,000 views. The videos that do very well are relayed afterwards on their main Konbini channel. We launched the video on Konbini techno and we saw the thing explode, Konbini took it up a few days later. Then the video passes the million views mark in a week.
Then there’s BFM, an article in Le Figaro. France Inter mentioned us, Les Echos will do an article, we’re starting to get lots and lots of contacts. I’m also going to be on Radio Catholique, which will make my parents laugh, I think. There’s a lot of stuff opening up and it’s really fun. I think it’s cool because, actually, what really motivated me was to see all the messages we got afterwards. I’ve got lots of entrepreneurs, either young who are starting out and who didn’t necessarily go to top schools, or people I’d already contacted or coached a bit, or people who aren’t in my network at all and who said « It’s good, it’s a breath of fresh air. I was convinced that I had to focus on raising money, but in reality you’re right. The best fundraising is money from customers, it’s totally changed » and so it’s cool to see that with a message like that, on my scale, obviously, I’m not going to think I’m the guy who changes the lives of millions of people, our objective is really that. We want to change and help 1 million entrepreneurs to launch a profitable business. I feel that we’re starting to get into something where there’s debate. There are people who don’t agree at all, who are angry and I love that.
it’s impressive because it’s true that some people reproach you for it. How do you see these reproaches?
There are quite legitimate reproaches. To give a little more background for those who will watch or who have watched the Konbini video: you are interviewed for an hour and the video that comes out is three minutes long. This means that Konbini also cuts very short. They do the editing and you don’t see the video until it’s published. Then there’s the thing about me never having done media training, so obviously it was my first thing and in fact they ask questions with an angle, the same question with a different angle. As you’re asked the same question all the time, as you’re human, you have the impression that you’ve given the wrong answer and so, you answer a little differently. As a consequence, there are things that you see that happened and that I said, but there were some things that were a bit taken out of context. In particular, I talked a bit about the fact that the start-ups that were raising money were not profitable, they didn’t pay corporate taxes and consequently, as the investors were putting in money that was largely tax-exempt, you had the BPI, the public investment bank, so the State puts a layer on each investment. You find yourself in a system where, as you have this race to raise money, you end up with a lot of money which is going to be invested in companies and in companies that are going to burn cash very quickly, sometimes exploding in flight since you have eight out of ten which fail, roughly. I was thinking, from an economic point of view, do we really create as much value as that or is it not potentially the taxpayers who pay a lot of this? This generates a lot of failures which could perhaps be avoided with a slightly different vision of entrepreneurship and, notably of profitability.
For me it’s a real subject which deserves to be debated for hours with an economic point of view, because it’s true that from a technical point of view, you also pay taxes on your employees’ expenses, but afterwards, when they stay one year in your company you have to fire them because you have the pressure of investors or the pressure of the market. Does that mean that you also generate more unemployment, so that they don’t have to pay unemployment, and so on? It’s a real debate I think we should have, and unfortunately it’s been taken out of context, a bit cut off, so the people who were angry, I try to answer in a very, very calm way at all times. There was one person who said that it made her puke that I refused 5 million smiling because there are students who are starving, and all that. So you see, you always have people who go into things a bit like UFOs, in the sense that already talking about money in France is ultra necessary. It’s totally opaque. We don’t know how much people earn, we don’t know what people spend. We don’t know how many people pay taxes. I find that the more opacity you have, the more jealousy there is, the more inequalities there are, the more complicated it is. You can look at all northern countries. Transparency of salaries, the whole policy, we know what they spend, we know where the money goes, but because they are straightforward, and when they’re not they leave and resign directly. In France, if we start doing that…
At the beginning, you were rather aligned with these remarks, this criticism of easy cash and investments that don’t really make sense, sometimes on brands, on companies that don’t create value, at least not as much as the money they have swallowed.
How do you feel about the period we are in at the moment? I was with Libeo last week, a fintech that has launched and in fact, they are called by VCs who offer them, without having looked for fundraising, to invest in them. How do you feel about this time when raising money is finally part of the business?
The thing is that I think that in many cases, fundraising is very useful, but then I think that today, when you put yourself in the shoes of an investor, they say to themselves that it’s simple: companies, SaaS, software, is the sector that is growing ultra fast at the moment and it works well in general, so you have possibilities of recovering an investment that is just colossal. You can make the next unicorn, you can have your investment well multiplied by ten on return. They’re only concerned about their return and they’re thinking, « okay, all the SaaS that are doing well, boom, we’re going to put in tickets, we want to be everywhere and we’re going to put in lots of cash. » Whereas for me, it’s businesses that don’t necessarily need to raise so much all the time. There is also this side where I would prefer that investments go to companies that have real innovation, such as in Medtech. In France, for a very long time we were the kings of medicine, we were ultra hot. Today, with Covid… we are supposed to be a nation that shines internationally and everything, but frankly, I’m ashamed of France at the Covid crisis. We’re the only ones who haven’t found a vaccine, the Pasteur Institute has totally given up. There have been things that have happened that we have no visibility on, but we made fools of ourselves: at the time of the masks, we had our masks stolen by other people on the tarmac.
At one point, you say to yourself, the French economy, the money from all these missiles, it could be injected elsewhere than in boxes which in the end could grow on their own. In the end you’re going to be on minorities of people who don’t need this money to develop in real life, because you have plenty of other ways to develop without money where you can be more creative. Afterwards, there are cases where it is obviously useful, but it’s true that when you see all the money there is, I think that the focus is not necessarily on the companies that need it the most. And why is that? Because the companies that need it the most are riskier in fact. Because you see biotech, medtech companies where there is a strong industrial investment, the costs can be very, very high at the beginning, when you have no cash coming in, no visibility on what will happen or not. When you have a recurring business model with subscriptions, exponential growth, and market valuations that are very high, and I understand the investors, it’s easy. You want to put money on the horse that will run the fastest. But afterwards, for me, it’s more a question of philosophy, a philosophical debate: what do we want to do with this money which is, first, largely tax-free and, second, it’s State money, since when the BPI puts almost the same level as the investment funds on each thing, it’s also the State which pays. So what do we want? Do we just want to bet on companies that we’re almost certain will be big exits or potentially unicorns? Or do we say to ourselves: no, we have a more philosophical and big picture vision where we decide we want to revive biotech ormedtech, we want to make sure that we are ultra-innovative in the sciences that will lead us to a better standard of living, a better energy transition, a social impact. I’m more like that, you see, but then it’s a debate.
Shouldn’t we say to ourselves that in the X billion of French Tech there should not necessarily be a percentage that is defined in a perhaps more generous way, towards companies that have this type of impact?
If we come back to Lemlist, because knowing you, it’s not because you’re not raising funds that you’re not going to develop, you’re planning to develop on your own funds or with non fundraised means. What can we expect from your future evolution and future developments?
There are a lot of things happening now. We’ve already launched a new multi-channel version, so we can prospect everywhere. It’s working very well and the results are just crazy. Aircall with calls, you can do social selling, potentially actions on Twitter as well… So really, all this works really well, the results we get for us and for our clients are just crazy. It’s been there for one or two weeks now, which is pretty crazy.
After that, we also have lots of little side projects to help entrepreneurs develop better. One thing that I consider is missing today is a place where you have all the right resources and tools and know which tools work together. I’ve had my team working for months on aggregating the best content, the best guides that we’re going to rate, and tools that work well together, with guides and explanatory videos. It will really be for you, to develop your start-up and it will be something that we will give for free. It’s an online platform that we’re developing where you put your filters according to what you want to do by acquisition channel. And you have everything that comes with it, the tools, the guides and all that has been validated by a lot of external communities, but also our team to make sure that there are no guys trying to break the system by asking their friends to « recommend this or that ».
With specificities in relation to the industries you are in or not? I was talking about this with Greg Gambatto not long ago, and he too is struggling with this notion of metrics to be respected in relation to a specific tool industry.
Yes, that’s right, we’re trying to keep the AARRR funnel with acquisition, activation, retention, revenue and so on. I may have squeezed one, but basically all of these are projects like that, we’re going to do it on several verticals with the start-up aspect, then a more growth aspect, so more marketing, a more sales aspect, the best sales resources, where to train, what to find, the art of closing, the art of prospecting… To really have sites that are dedicated with dedicated platforms for each vertical. That will be free. I’m transparent, it’s free, it means that the person is the product, but basically, we’re going to start collecting emails and we, depending on the emails, can make potential leads. It’s the technique that says that you bring a lot of value, people ask who you are and when they see who you are, they look at what you do. That’s really a big long term vision and I think that makes me love all these projects, because they are projects where I know that it’s 100% of the value that we give. It’s really only about providing value, that’s cool.
A word about trends in modern selling, what are the trends? Are there any innovations to come or market trends that we can have in the world of modern selling in the short or medium term?
Clearly, I think the way we sell is going to change and is changing. I was talking to Aaron Ross who wrote Predictable Revenue, it’s the reference and actually, for me, it’s a bit of a backwards step so we were debating that a lot. Basically he wrote the book because he worked at Sales Force. He was the one who took Sales Force from 1 to 100 million. He actually created the outbouund machine where you have an SDR billiard.
First you have the data researchers, those who will find the data on which you have to prospect the marketing search. Then you have the SDR, who will do the outreach, i.e. contact people, and then book appointments for the KAM. You have three profiles. The researcher, the one who does the outreach and the one who closes. Today you look at all the companies and they are structuring themselves like that, except that what I see and what I’m in the process of implementing at our company, but also in some of the companies I advise and so on, is to talk about a new type of Sales Rep, so it’s the full stack. We use the same thing as Full Stack Developers. The idea is that I start from the principle that sales is a question of relationship and that when you do your research on your prospect, you get to know them and it’s important that you contact them, and it’s important that you close them. Why is that? Because that’s how you build relationships. You have to accompany them in the success of the performance that you are going to bring them, with the tool or the solution that you are going to bring them. And I find that you have much better closing rates and much better transformation rates.
The advantage of doing this is that you force all your sales reps to become experts in their field. Today, you can automate a lot of things. All those tasks that the SDRs were doing, many of them can be automated, but what will never be automated is the sales person’s domain knowledge. When you’re selling ultra-technical stuff, the sales people who are there know their products, know what they are selling, they are good, but for them it becomes almost commonplace. Their knowledge is trivialised, whereas in reality, what we see today, and I do this quite a lot with my team but also with other teams in many industries, is that when the sales person positions himself as someone who has a lot of knowledge, particularly by posting on LinkedIn, by writing articles, they are really a full stack who does other things than selling. The relationships are much simpler.
I saw it with myself: when I launched Lemlist, I had a simple strategy which was to bring value to prospecting, so I gave advice on prospecting. The people who liked and commented on my posts, I scraped all that. I would take all the profiles, add them, contact them, and then do meetings, and close them. Actually, I was testing two approaches, the approach where I was going to get people directly, and the approach where I was getting people who were looking at my posts, engaging, liking what I was saying, and then I was looking at the closing rate. In reality, you have differences of two or three times, because when you post interesting content, you become an expert in an industry, it really works for everything! I mean, if you’re in the food industry, and you’re a salesperson in a solution that’s aimed at the food industry or even a service, add people on LinkedIn who are in the food industry, and position yourself as the person who’s a leader in the sector and knows what you’re talking about, because in real life, salespeople know what they’re talking about.
Most of them get it, they do the needs assessment, so they know very well the needs that people have and they can talk about that. They can dig into their subject. There’s this saying, « if you want to master a subject, teach it. » It’s the same thing: if you want to master a subject, write about it, and you’ll see that the ideas of the sales people are much clearer, they know what they’re talking about, they’re more confident when they come to an interview. You create a real relationship, because people want to talk to you, because as you’ve provided value for free, and you’re positioned as an expert, your closing rate is inevitably twice as high, three times as high. That’s something that nobody talks about, we’ve cracked it a bit here. We don’t have a huge team of sales people, there are six of them today, but the six of them do close. They generate inbound leads themselves. There is no longer any competition between Sales and Market, because Marketing also helps them with the writing of posts. Everyone is working towards the same goal. The same goes for the structure, we stop giving bonuses to Sales, we give them a better salary and basically we give a percentage at the end of the year of our margin and we give a percentage to the whole team, to everyone, and everyone will share 20% of our margin.
That’s exciting because I’m about to discuss it with Charles Gorintin from Alan in a little while, because you know they have Sales that don’t have a premium too, I thought they were a bit unique. Obviously, it’s something that’s spreading. I agree with you on the old school aspect of Predictable revenues. In fact, I reread the book not long ago and it made me laugh to see that it talked about BlackBerry.
This sequencing, and you, for that matter, are going in the complete opposite direction to what he recommends because they’re more into Taylorism where you’re into the full stack, and that completely removes the intuitu personae. In the end your sale isn’t linked to a person, but to a mastered process: the person can still make the difference. There are people who buy because they also get on well with a person. It is clearly fascinating.
We could talk for hours about the process, sales and innovation. I knew that there were some interesting subjects for you to talk about. Before we leave, there are still a few quick questions that I wanted to discuss with you. First of all, on the entrepreneurial part, what advice would give to an entrepreneur who wants to start out?
When you start out, what makes the difference between the companies is really the execution. So from the moment you start, you must not be afraid. You have to post on LinkedIn, even if you only get one like at the beginning, you have to contact this person, even if you get a door slammed in your face, even if a guy hangs up on you, you have to do it. You have to try again, you mustn’t give up. That is something too often people say « yeah, the CEO must be the captain of the ship, they must look at it, have the vision ». At the beginning, it’s not like that at all: the CEO has to do everything for themselves, they have to do the marketing, they have to know how to write articles, how to close contracts. There are too many CEOs who are here today who are saying « Don’t worry, we’re developing an amazing product. Afterwards, I’ll recruit a growth hacker and he’ll make us grow ». There is no such thing, you have to do it.
Today for me it’s simple, I’ve been doing the dirty work for a very long time so when I arrivede, no one could bullshit me, no one would tell me « no but the objectives are a bit too much ». No, I know, I did it and while I was doing it, I was also doing fifteen articles every month. When you do it afterwards, the goal is to recruit people who are much better than you. At least, when you know how it works and you know how to do it, it’s a crazy personal enrichment. You have to get over this hurdle of telling yourself that when you can’t do it, it’s not that you can’t do it, it’s that you can’t do it yet. So do it again, do it again, do it again, and you’ll be fine.
Speaking of your role as CEO, you’ve been mostly your own boss all along. Where do you find your inspiration in terms of management, in terms of being a CEO?
For me it’s the exchange with other people. As I said earlier, it’s contacting lots of people, not being afraid, asking for advice and so on. We are too afraid to disturb people. I think that in France this is still well established. Even if people think, with the videos and all that I’m someone who is extroverted, in reality I’m quite introverted, I’m very shy. I find it hard to approach people I don’t know. Once the discussion happens, I have no problem, but at the beginning it’s difficult for me. When I started doing outreach, I really had to push myself to go, you shouldn’t hesitate to do it because in fact, you realize that when your message it’s very precise and you have a specific reason to contact a CEO, you have to research before contacting them to understand who they are, and why you want to contact them, why them and why you. By doing this sometimes, you realise that you have doors that open, people who spend 30 minutes with you. There are a lot of blog articles everywhere that can help you, whether it’s to structure your management, structure your one to one, structure your teams, your recruitment. The same goes for recruitment. There are too many books on recruitment that are really interesting. That’s the same, you see, you can take it, you can put things in place and you have to test, you test and you adjust according to your needs, your feeling and normally it makes a good recipe.
I could ask you what your sources of information are, but they are so multiple. Between US news, European news, news in all the fields in which you intervene… Is there a newsletter or a media that you consult regularly? Who inspires you?
There are newsletters that I like but that are more from a personal point of view. For example, Yoann Lopez‘s newsletter, Snowball, which talks a bit about personal finances and everything, that’s very interesting. It’s a very long newsletters that explains a lot of things. I also really like the GrowthLetter, it’s not bad, in French. It gives you some articles, it does some curation and the articles in general are quite nice. You don’t have to go looking for the articles yourself. I spend some time on growthhackers.com to look at the trending articles as well. They have a cool slack, it’s called Demand Curve, so it’s the same thing, they’re very, very good growth guys and they have a newsletter that actually lists the topics that have been discussed or the questions, and they also link them to articles, sso that’s really good.
Is there a book that has marked you, pro or not?
A book that I really liked, and it’s an easy read, very quick, it was by Rand Fishkin, it’s called Lost and Founder, so it’s the whole history of Moz. So Moz was one of the leading SEO tools before Ahrefs wiped out everything, and in fact he created his company, he took an investment in the VC, he could have been bought by Hubspot, but the VC put his block. He had a vote to block it, so he didn’t do it and in fact afterwards he lost a lot of money, he was almost bankrupt! It was really a rollercoaster story. In fact, it really inspired me because honestly, I like it when entrepreneurs talk about the times when it was hot, when it was shit, because you live them, and you think when you’re in there « Fuck, but I’m the only one who has all this shit » when in reality you’re not the only one. There’s also Ben Horowitz, with The Hard Thing about Hard Things, very cool. Another book that’s good if you want to structure your sales team and stuff, The Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge. How you want to encourage your sales people, well now I don’t agree with that anymore, but at least the recruitment is covered. Everything he says is really true and it works really well. How do you test your sales? How do you match the values of your company with the way you recruit your sales? Super important.
One of the learnings of the day for me is that you are shy, that’s the discovery. You’re really good at communication, are there any people or companies that inspire you today in terms of communication?
That’s a good question. The communication we do is quite different from what we see in B2B. Apple, obviously, is a source of inspiration in terms of branding. What they do, even if we have a very different positioning, but I love what they do, the way they handle it.
I also liked Superhuman. I found it very interesting, the fact of having a limited access only on demo. The hidden side of things. That’s really interesting. That’s something we’re putting in place too. Once again we’re very far from them, but Ahrefs in their content communication and how they always manage to write articles that bring you maximum value but where each time they manage to wedge their product, they are an inspiration. You don’t feel like they’re selling you something, you just think « It makes sense that I use their product because it makes sense, and the guys have given me so much value that I want to use it ». And when you’re doing SaaS, that’s the key, and it’s stuff that we try to do well or not, and sometimes it doesn’t work, but I really like it.
Is there a product, an app that you think will become a must-have?
I was going to give you Notion straight away, because for me, it’s really the tool that I use all the time. It’s really something I love. But I also subscribed to the Coda newsletter which had raised a lot more than Notion, Coda which was created at the same time Notion was. They do exactly the same thing, it’s very similar. Except that on Coda you have the whole automation connection part that Notion doesn’t have yet. I have to tell you that every time I read their newsletter, I’m like « Fucking Notion, you’re frustrating me », because all they show me is stuff I want.
I’m a bit in between at the moment, but like the whole team is on Notion, I’m a bit worried about… But on the product, you can organise everything, your recruitment, your to-do’s, your wiki and, you can make sure that you have a good transfer of knowledge between everyone, which that’s super important for me. In Notion yu can do that in a really simple and efficient way.
Is there an app in your phone that you would recommend everyone to have?
Well frankly, if you don’t have Spotify or a music app, download one, because music is life, I work with music all the time, I love it, it gives me motivation to work late.
Is there anyone with a tech or innovation background that you would advise me to invite to this microphone?
Oh yeah, a really interesting person that I like, but he’s not often on podcasts, is Moritz, who sold two of his companies in bootstrap and now, with his new company called Refiner I think, he’s raised money with a new type of investor who is a bootstrap investor. Their goal is to give you about 200 000 € of investment and their goal is not to give you the money back later. It’s potentially either you pay back their investment with an x, or they keep the shares and get dividends every year until you either sell, or indefinitely, and that’s enough for them. It’s really adapting to bootstrapping. They help you put the little kit together so that you can either pay yourself and another person for two years, and they’re confident that you’re going to do something profitable, or you invest in acquisition to do something profitable but very cool.
Moritz is frankly, he doesn’t look like much but, he does the marketing, the sales, the tech, he’s all alone in his company. He did two exits, in a row and to the same person. In fact he did something called Docparser. So basically in a document, it allowed you to parse, so to recover information within a document, and in fact he sold Docparser. He worked for a year to make the transition at the time of the resale, or six months. In fact, he realised that all his Docparser customers had other problems, which were the emails, because they couldn’t parse the emails. You get things by email, and you want to extract information from the emails, so he launched Mailparser, which he sold to the same guy a year later. Then I said to him « well, are you going to launch Excelparser? » and he hesitated. He told me « It’s true that there are a lot of people who have problems with that » and then he said « No, but I really want to change, I’ve been doing this for eight years. So that’s it ».