Lessons on negotiation and debt.
After INSA and my two successful entrepreneurial experiences, I’m looking forward to starting my own business. The HEC MS Entrepreneurs seems to be the best way.
What do you think of Einstein?
Bad start. At the HEC interview, I’m not even seated when the “interviewer”, seeing that I live on avenue Albert Einstein, asks me: what do you think of Einstein? Thinking it’s a joke, I don’t answer.
He tries again: don’t you want to answer? You’re not sure about yourself? Still nothing from me. Well, we’ll stop the interview here.
Ouch! Finally, the interview goes on; but I’m not accepted; I’m on the waiting list.
So, I look for a job and post my resume on Monster. After a few minutes, a headhunter calls me for an interview!
THAT’S SOMETHING EVERY RECRUITER SHOULD EXPERIENCE AT LEAST ONCE: GET INTO THE DEVELOPER’S SHOES. WE’RE BEING HUNTED TO DEATH!
A week later, I get my first phone appointment with Amadeus, the world’s leading provider of IT solutions for airlines.
Uh… I’ve got HEC on dual call.
We’re in June 2007. The phone interview is going great; they want me to come to Sophia Antipolis to meet them. And there, during the call, while I ask for the salary scale and the girl starts looking for it, I receive another call.
“There was a withdrawal; you’re accepted for the HEC Ms Entrepreneurs. Are you interested?” You bet I am! I answer laconically: yes but give me until Monday.
My mind is elsewhere, I resume the call with Amadeus; she still hasn’t found her scale.
I decide however to go to Sophia Antipolis, for the experience. All expenses paid, crazy reception, plane, car with driver, meals… I do 3 interviews; I meet the girl on the phone at the last one, who offers me a developer job for 40K. And project manager? “Not possible before five years.” I’m not interested in the job or the salary; I get up to leave. “Hold on!” They need developers; the following Monday, I will receive a proposal of 5 or 10K more.
GREAT NEGOTIATION LESSON: THE BEST NEGOTIATION IS WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE THE NOOSE AROUND YOUR NECK (OR THAT YOU PRETEND YOU DON’T HAVE IT). BE SERENE. YOU EXPECT SOMETHING, BUT ACROSS THE STREET, THEY NEED SOMETHING TOO. ALWAYS BE A BIT “ASHAMED” OF YOUR NEGOTIATION (OTHERWISE IT MEANS YOU HAD A HARD TIME SELLING).
I get into debt for a toolbox
I decline Amadeus and go to HEC (before that, I spend 2 weeks biking around Corsica, with a friend, and my brother).
One small detail: one year costs €14K. After paying all my expenses during my 5 years of studies, my parents let me handle things. A normal and formative way.
I’m off to tour the banks. Easy: at HEC, they have stands in the lobby. Since loan rates are low (1.9%), why not borrow more? The 1st bank offers me 20K; at LCL, they are fine with 30; SoGé refuses 50. I go back to the 1st one, which goes up to 40; same thing for LCL. Finally, BNP will lend me 50K over 9 years with 1 year deferred.
Here again, I have to make a choice: either I invest this money; or I keep it, with the idea of having some aside in 1 year. I opt for the second option.
My first purchase with my €50K? A toolbox. Facom screwdrivers are guaranteed for life; it’s a good investment. It also allows me to redo the floor of my apartment in the 13th arrondissement; because I just moved.
When I met my (future) partner
HEC starts with a week in the Jura: perfect time to get to know each other and build a strong team. I come back in great shape.
At HEC, it’s simple: 30 entrepreneurs come to pitch project ideas in front of students. We form teams of 3 and we work together for several months.
We’re all excited; we know there are big names in front of us.
One of the entrepreneurs gets our attention. Quite young, very cool, a lisp, he is a freelancer for Tikehau Capital¹ and travels a lot in the US. His investment fund asked him to create an improved venture capital fund²: find projects, recruit teams and raise funds. A meeting between the incubator, the fund and the accelerator (today we would call it a startup studio).
He presents a project about a new private jet that has just been released on the US market, at a broken price (for a jet). The Eclipse 500, $1 million.
THE BASIC IDEA: IN THE LONG RUN, ANY WEALTHY AMERICAN WILL HAVE HIS HOUSE, HIS DOG, HIS SUV AND HIS PRIVATE JET.
I’ll call this man Mr. A. in the rest of my story.
I know I want to work with him.
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.
¹Tikehau Capital is an asset management and investment company.
²Venture capital fund or VC: The idea is to invest in non-listed start-ups with a high potential return and therefore a high risk (you never get something for nothing).