April 3, 2017. Champs-Elysées.
I go up the Avenue towards the Orange store. I need to buy a phone and reactivate my personal line that I haven’t used for 8 years.
It’s 9:30am, the store isn’t open yet; I’m waiting.
I’ve just been dismissed from my position as CEO of Wijet.
How can you get fired by two guys you worked with for 10 years?
An hour ago I was expected at the Wijet⁰ office for the earliest Board¹ in the history of the company.
When I arrive, all the doors are closed, and there’s usually a lot of light flooding the rooms. In the meeting room I see a bailiff and a stenographer; they introduce themselves coldly.
The agenda is trivial: a brief update on the financial situation in the first quarter of 2017, proposals and decisions on the company’s short-term goals as well as “other matters.” No mention of my dismissal.
In front of me, Mr. A. and Mr. H., my associates; Mr. DM., administrator of Wijet, is not there and not represented. I’m relaxed, I listen to them; I know there’s no point in arguing.
After 15 minutes, Mr. A., my associate, says: “We’re gonna vote and I apologize.” My removal from my position as Chairman of the Board of Directors and General Manager of Wijet will be decided through a vote.
The reasons given are as follows: my inability to provide answers on possible new financing allowing the company to overcome its difficulties as well as significant strategic disagreements and divergences.
Then everything goes very quickly: I’m dismissed from my position, Mr. A. is appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors, and Mr. H., General Manager.
An American exit
When leaving the meeting room, Mr A. comes to me and says I shouldn’t worry; they will manage a smooth transition, everything will be fine, and I’ll get paid for 24 months (I’m still waiting).
I go back to my office, take some papers; the RAF² is there, he asks me if I’m okay. “Yeah, yeah.”
Mr A. really insists that I stop the conciliation³ of the company. I was indeed trying to get a conciliation for the company in order to manage the reimbursements. Instead of answering I leave, holding a briefcase with my stuff. I’m thinking of the laid off workers in the American TV shows (and in reality as well); that’s exactly what it’s like.
First thing I think: I need to buy a phone, tell my friends, my lawyers, my family. I didn’t have a personal line. My company had been keeping me busy 24/7 for 10 years. Lucky me: a few hours later, my line was going to be cut off; my email accesses suspended in the following days.
The culmination of a great mess
Of course my dismissal didn’t come out of nowhere.
The preceding months were full of tensions within our company. And with my partner, Mr A., I discovered senseless expense accounts and invoices addressed to Wijet.
On behalf of our company, I hired 2 lawyers: Mr. FB. and Mr. LMR. At the time of my dismissal I was preparing a criminal complaint that I wanted to file for Wijet.
In March 2017, Mr. A. put a lot of pressure on me to quit. I was this close to doing it. Everything was turning upside-down. Shareholders were demanding refunds, the company’s accounts revealed dubious maneuver attempts, and we’d even discovered a microphone in our offices, a week earlier.
It’s time to take stock
1 year and 29 days after my dismissal, it’s time to take stock.
Not to paint a gloomy picture; on the contrary: Wijet’s adventure – my first entrepreneurial adventure – has been extraordinary for me on all levels.
At 23 years old, I made a crazy bet to create an airline of private jets, ever though I didn’t know much about them. For 10 years I lived at a hectic pace in completely unfamiliar environments. I learned a billion things, with funny and less funny things and situations happening to me, like having to honor a €40,000 order when we had no plane or pilot. And some dreams came true to an unimaginable extent.
Today I decided to tell this adventure from A to Z. With Z+n, probably, because this story isn’t over. Over the last few months dozens of bailiffs came to my home, to my friends, to my girlfriend and to my parents. My lawyer calls me every day to see how I’m doing (even on Sunday mornings).
My entrepreneurial story is not over either. Entrepreneurship runs in my blood: it’s my passion and what drives me forward. After Wijet, I did a six-month desert crossing. Right time for a fresh start. I then embarked on a new crazy project: Blockchain Studio, which I’ll discuss at the appropriate time.
But one thing at a time!
Friends, partners, entrepreneurs of all kinds, and the curious, this article is for you. Follow me and discover Wijet’s crazy adventure through these episodes!
THIS EPISODE IS PART OF A SERIES OF ARTICLES ENTITLED: “THEY DIDN’T THINK IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE, SO THEY DID IT.” YOU CAN FIND ALL THE ARTICLES BY CLICKING HERE.
⁰ Wijet: I very often use the website www.societe.com for competitive intelligence (Wijet’s page here). A gold mine of information concerning companies: the names of executives and directors, but also the various capital increases (sometimes the distribution of capital), etc. For an example, the extract of my dismissal (a public document) from the minutes of the Board of Directors is available for download.
¹ Board : Conseil d’Administration in French, Board of Directors. Wijet is a limited company with a Board of Directors (Société Anonyme à C.A in French). The Board is responsible for the strategic direction of the company and its implementation, including the preparation of the company financial statements and the management report, the notifications of general meetings, the appointment and dismissal of the Chairman and General Manager, and the authorization of agreements between the limited company and one of its shareholders or managers.
² RAF: Responsable Administratif et Financier in French, Administrative and Financial Manager.
³ Conciliation: Conciliation is a procedure open to persons engaged in a commercial or craft activity who are experiencing proven or foreseeable legal, economic or financial difficulties and have not had payments suspended for more than 45 days.