How to become a serial entrepreneur.
I’ve often heard that you have to come from a specific background to be at the head of a company like Wijet; nothing could be further from the truth!
On the other hand, I felt quite early that entrepreneurship was made for me (a glimpse from the future).
A few words about me: I come from Lille, but I grew up near Salon de Provence, in the south of France. On the family side: my mum is a school teacher, and my dad is manager; we save, and we spend our money on useful things (my father still rolls his eyes when I arrive with a big sedan… that I rent).
In ninth grade, I do an internship in my cousin’s computer company. He teaches me the basics of Visual Basic programming; He’s free in his life and with his clients; I like that. In high school, I specialize in science and I program snakes on my Ti82 (just like any geek).
My first software paid in expense accounts
One evening, I’m 16 years old, in eleventh grade, my father explains that he would need an Excel table to facilitate the management of his trucks. At that time, he works in a logistic transport company, and each morning, his collaborators note down with a pencil the tour details on a A3 sheet…
I say right away: Let’s create a software!
Super excited, I start to develop. I know the excitement of the hours of uninterrupted work, the feverish expectation of the result, the nervous concentration. I can still see myself at night in front of my computer, my dad behind me explaining in groundbreaking PO¹ what he wants; he was falling asleep on his chair.
I DISCOVER WHAT I LIKE ABOUT STARTING A BUSINESS: BEING FREE AND IN CONTROL OF WHAT YOU DO (IF YOU SCREW UP, YOU PAY FOR IT; AND VICE VERSA).
The project comes out; the boss is reluctant (change management!), the employees, super enthusiastic; finally, the boss accepts.
After a few months of use, my dad timidly suggests that I should get paid. His boss refuses… then surrenders. 12.000 francs (back in 2001), paid in travel expenses in the name of my dad (the self-employed status did not exist yet). With this money, I buy a PC.
Another great thing: the thought that with this software, I was able to improve the workdays of a few people. That feeling gave me a boost; people thought I was the future Bill Gates! Funny fact, the software started to crash after 1 year: I reported the variables up to a certain point, 32 767 or something like this… After that number it crashed.
National Institute of Applied Sciences
After graduating from high school, I go to an engineering school. Not just for development (like EPITA²), or just for theoretical work (like Preparatory classes); I apply to INSA³ and I’m accepted… on the waiting list.
Finally, I’m really accepted; I get involved very quickly in associations and in the Student Services Office. My profile during all those years of study? Not the workaholic type; but more like the annoying guy who knocks on the door to go out. At the end of 2nd year, I specialize in IT.
A major event: the following year, I organize the INSA gala, and I love it. Large budget (€200K), a team of 20 people, Palais des congrès de Lyon. It reinforces my idea that managing a project, a team, is what I like. And I’m good at it. By the way, I’m also learning some essential basics on the administrative side: pay slips, state-aided contracts, minutes, URSSAF… Some structuring and governance knowledge I’d need later!
After doing an Erasmus Program in Finland (the sun rises at 2pm, I spend my life going out and almost never see the day), I take entrepreneurship classes. Here again, we set up a mini business plan to market geolocalized watches and find children who get lost in amusement parks. This could work! My partner is a mad scientist; I give up.
Graphology doesn’t (always) work
At that time, the Grail that makes me dream is the HEC MS Entrepreneurs.
Before applying, I meet with a graphologist and she tells me that it will take me between 5 to 10 years before becoming an entrepreneur.
That’s way too long! All I want is to be an entrepreneur.
I will soon be able to do that; all I have to do was to push a small door to enter HEC. And first, make a choice.
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.
¹P.O.: Product Owner. Basically, it’s the customer on a project with the Agile method; the one who has the vision of the product.
²EPITA: Computer engineering school in Paris, Lyon, Rennes, Strasbourg, Toulouse.
³INSA: Institut National des Sciences Appliquées in French, National Institute of Applied Sciences