The Case for Optimism

Fabrice Grinda is a very successful and inspiring French entrepreneur that I mentioned in a previous post. Earlier this month, he gave an excellent presentation at Le Web conference in Paris making a case for optimism (note: all of the Le Web sessions are free to watch online, live and on youtube afterwards, do check them out, most of them are great!).

In this presentation, he explains very logically and clearly why we live in extraordinary times and why the future is even more exciting and full of amazing advances that will make the world a better place to live in for everyone.

It’s a very inspirational speech and a very welcome change from the general doom and gloom usually painted by the general consensus!

A book burning party in Troy, Michigan…

Troy, Michigan is a city in the Northern suburbs of Detroit in the USA.

When the local public Library was at the brink of being forced to shut its doors due to lack of funding. And then the award-winning Leo Burnett advertising agency stepped in to save the library with this brilliantly creative, provocative, and effective campaign about the issue.



I love this campaign, I think it’s great, original, provocative and most definitely attention-grabbing. It achieved its goal through brilliant use of reverse-psychology!

On the other hand, I know that some people found this campaign appalling, of bad taste and that it didn’t actually achieve that much; placing the results of the vote on the groundwork of the library workers and its supporters.

What are your thoughts on this campaign? Genius or terrible?

Going French…

Being a Frenchman in London, I have been recently toying around with the idea to translate this blog in French (Only 40% of internet users speak English and many of my fellow countrymen are not that comfortable reading a blog in English). What did put me off so far was the idea to have to write all the articles in two languages, and to sort out the hosting for the French pages…

Note : I am not paid nor am I receiving any incentive from the publishers of the software I am about to talk about; I am just sharing my thoughts (good and bad) on a tool I am using.

Well, this blog will now also be in French! I have found a nifty piece of cloud-based software to help with the two issues mentioned above!

Reverso, the online translation website, has launched a service called Flavius, that automatically translates any website for free and hosts it reproducing the layout of the website.

Now, the translation is not perfect (automatic translation never is), so it’s good to know the language you’re translating in to make the corrections needed, but the system still provides a huge gain of time and sorts out the hosting/posting issue. The first posts I edited took me less than 5 minutes to correct; when some of the longer articles would have taken me over 45 minutes to translate from scratch!

Here are my thoughts on Flavius:

Let’s start with the negative points:

  • The translation is not perfect, it’s probably better quality on the full (paid) version. Because I translate a blog, my posts are longer than a « regular » website, where the basic version should do a better job.
  • Translation in only 2 languages with the free version.
  • No spell checker.

Now for the positive:

  • It’s free for the basic version.
  • The system can handle 12 languages including Chinese.
  • The software is cloud-based, which means no updates to make and accessibility from anywhere.
  • You don’t need any technical skills to use the software and publish your translated pages.
  • No hosting to sort out, Flavius will host the translated pages for you.
  • The translated pages seem to render your layout pretty well, although I only tried it on my blog whose layout is very simple. It would require testing on a more complex website to fully test the capability of the feature.
  • It saves a LOT of time compared to a fully manual translation.
  • The system is very easy to use; intuitive.
  • You can assign reviewers before publishing the translation.
  • If you don’t speak the language you’re translating towards, Reverso can provide the service at what seems to be very decent prices.


In short :

Flavius is not a perfect tool (but then again, no automatic translation tool is) but it can really allow individual users and SMEs to gain a lot of time (and money) when translating a website. It’s a very useful tool for anyone wanting to make their website more international at low cost.


Bring on 2016!

After watching all those superb images, witnessing those magical sporting prowesses and living those great human emotions… That will be hard to wait another 4 years!

Thank you London 2012, and bring on Rio 2016!

P.S. How cool is the Rio 2016 logo?

The mindset of an entrepreneur & 9 investment criteria

A very interesting video from Fabrice Grinda, a very successful US-based French serial entrepreneur and angel investor.

Fabrice is currently CEO of OLX, a free online classifieds site used in over 91 countries in 39 languages. The company was founded in March 2006.

In this video, he talks about the mindset of starting your own business and when to use strategic thinking. He also discusses the nine business selection criteria he uses to decide whether or not to invest in a company.

If you find what Fabrice says interesting, you can also follow his blog: Musings of an entrepreneur, where he talks about business but also many of his other interests.


Why your Big Mac always looks better on the advert than in real life

If you’ve always wondered why your McDonald’s burger always looks better on the adverts than in reality, well here is the answer!

I like how open McDonald’s is about the whole question and this short video is a really great way to to understand how a great food shot is really made!


Your clients love you! Wait, what clients?

Don't lie to your clientsWhether your business’ target market is individuals (B2C – Business to Consumers) or other businesses (B2B – Business to Business), there is a good chance that you are using testimonials as part of your marketing, and if you don’t, you should: your clients are your best ambassadors!

Think about it: as a customer, would you rather believe what an advert tells you, or what another client tells you about a company/service?

Now, the trick question: would you believe a client recommendation for a company that… hasn’t started trading yet? Mmm… Yes, that sounds fishy, doesn’t it?

Well, that’s what The House of Yoga… has managed to do!

The House of Yoga is a new hot yoga studio that is opening early June in Putney, a neighbourhood of London where I live. Last week, I got a leaflet in the mail warning me of their impending opening, so I went on their website to learn more about them, and was surprised to read “client” testimonials such as those:

I’m not saying that they’re not good a good yoga studio; but how can they have clients praising their studio and classes when they have no clients yet?

The publication of obviously fake testimonials is a bad move that hurts their brand! Who wants to trust a company that is caught lying from the start? Now, I am not being naïve, I have been working in the industry for over 10 years, and I can guarantee you that made-up testimonials are not a new invention (particularly look out for the ones with no people or company names); but if you’re going to go down that route, wouldn’t you at least wait till your business is running before you publish them in the open?

I’m not dissing the whole marketing of The House of Yoga, I like their visual branding , they have a compelling offer to entice people to try their classes (I might even give it a go myself!), and they successfully managed to let people know of their arrival…

There is a clear market for hot yoga in the area; but why ruin things by lying to potential customers by publishing what are obviously fake testimonials? At a time where corporate responsibility is high up on the agenda, there’s just no justification for that…

Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments!

When the CEO of a troubled airline leads by example

I am not in favour of capping bonuses or salaries in companies. In a market economy, those have to be set by the companies, however outrageous they might sometimes seem.

But what about when a company is in financial trouble and even sometimes had to be bailed out by the states? Shouldn’t it be logical that the company showed some restrain?

Haruka Nishimatsu

I was very impressed by this CBS article about Haruka Nishimatsu, the CEO of Japan Airline who leads by example:

  • He knocked down his office walls so anyone can walk in to see him.
  • He buys his suits at a discount store, because “a boss who wears Armani puts himself at arm’s length from his people”.
  • He empowers his employees to make decisions, come up and implement ideas.
  • He goes and meets his employees, and even gives them a hand with their daily tasks, to “just find what is going on at the front line”.
  • He eats in the company cafeteria and anyone can approach him to discuss an idea they have.
  • When his company struggled and had to cut salaries to stay afloat, he showed the example by setting his at just $90,000; a pittance for someone who runs the world’s 10th largest airline and a lot less than any of the company’s pilots.


To me, Mr Nishimatsu is an example of what any decent person should do in times of hardship. And with such an attitude towards its staff and shareholders, I bet that people at Japan Airline feel good about working there and they respect their leader.

I am a firm believer that happy, motivated and committed employees are an essential ingredient for the success of a company!

My 10 top tips for entrepreneurs looking for venture capital #3

Here is the last part of my article series (tips 7 to 10) on what I have learned about looking for venture capital for a start-up:

7. Be open to different deals

You might have a straightforward deal in mind: x% of the company in return for X amount of investment.

Think again, especially for smaller companies, the deals can be structured in different ways. You might have to give more equity than you thought or let the investor appoint one of its “representatives” inside, not just on the board.

It might be that they want to impose their own Financial Director for example, or a COO. This might not have been what you expected, but before rejecting any offers outright, think about it: maybe the new person is worth it? Maybe it’s someone with experience your company is lacking of?

Understand that, especially for young companies, the VC will want to minimise their risk. A good way for them is to ask for a larger share of the company, but with a “clawback” scheme, where the VC gives you some equity back as you hit pre-defined milestones based on the results of the company (EBITDA, gross profit or other measures). Those schemes can be interesting as they will prove your motivation and belief in hitting targets to investors, and they will minimise the risks to the investors.

8. Can the Investor bring you more than just funding?

If you’re looking to get investment funding, it’s very likely that the thing you need most is money, but what more can an investor bring you?

When considering an offer, also look at the other things that an investor can bring you:
– do they have other companies in their portfolio that they can help you do business with as a client? A provider? A sales and marketing partner? Do they have a network that can help you achieve your goals?

Those “extras” can be as important as money and can help your success greatly, so don’t forget to put a value on those connections when considering a deal.

9. Prepare for a long slog

Securing an investment can be a long process, and the more money you’re asking, the longest this process will be.

If you’re looking to raise a few tens of thousands from an angel investor, the deal can be agreed and completed pretty quickly, but if you’re looking to raise a in the upper hundreds of thousands or millions from a VC firm, then to complete the deal can take a while! I don’t say that it is always the case, large deals ar sometimes been completed quickly but there’s a definite possibility that it will take long, so be aware of it!

Between starting your search, various presentation meetings to different people, internal discussions at the VC, discussions inside your company to mak decisions, negotiations, term sheet, getting lawyers to check the deal, due diligence, signature of the deal and release of the money… Things can take a very long time, so be aware of it and don’t think a deal is dead because it’s not going as quickly as you want!

10. Don’t be scared to walk away from a deal!

Getting an offer from an investor is not the Holy Grail, and you should not be scared to reject an offer and move on if you’re not happy and comfortable with it!

As an entrepreneur, you spend your days and nights thinking about your business, and getting investment shouldn’t be done at any costs as it has too much impact on you and your company. A good offer is one that works for everyone. If it’s not right for you, then it’s not good for the investor either. An investor wants you to be happy with the deal because they want you to be… MOTIVATED. If you don’t like the deal but still take it, you won’t be committed 100%, and your company won’t succeed as well, which is not good for you or your investor.

It’s really ok to reject a deal and it doesn’t mean that it won’t be possible to make another deal with the same investor at a different stage of the company!

Most importantly and finally, don’t give up if you’re struggling to find funding. Many companies have been very successful without ever taking a penny of external funding! Do you really need to grow quickly? Can you not go slowly and steadily, self-funding your growth and keep complte control of your company? I don’t have any definitive answers for you, it depends on your company’s situation, and no one knows it better than yourself.

Don’t hesitate to leave any comments with any thoughts or questions!


My 10 top tips for entrepreneurs looking for venture capital #2

Here is the following of last week’s list of top tips for entrepreneurs looking for venture capital. The rest will follow in a final post later this week.

Don’t hesitate to let me know if you agree, disagree or have any questions in the comments!

The first three tips were:

1. Do your homework first
2. Don’t just turn up with “a great idea”
3. Keep your first presentation short

Now for the next tips:


4. Ask for more money than you think you need

If you’re going to find investment, you have (well, I hope you have!) asserted how much money you need to raise to fund your plans.
When pitching to a VC, you should always ask for more money than what your calculations call for. You need to include some head room, as the best laid plans are always plans, and more than often, unexpected expenses turn up.

You are more likely to secure funding if you have built in headroom in what you’re asking, investors will be more confident in your ability to be a good partner if you prove that you understand risk management. I have heard that straight from the mouth of the partners of venture capital firms, who were very happy to see that we did build a 20-30% extra in what we thought needed to fund our plans.

5. Investors don’t just invest in future plans, they invest in people.

Investors want to know about your business, about your plans, but they first of all invest in people, and only then in your business plan.

Plans are just, well… plans. They will change and evolve with time, and that’s normal!

Most investors want to help fund your growth, but they don’t want to take operational control and run your business for you. Its not their job. They don’t want to know in details how you’re going to make something happen, they want you to convince them that you are the person to make things happen.

A good plan is important, it shows you’re thinking things through, that you’re not just moving in the dark on cheap assumptions; and without this, you won’t secure an investment. But your plan will change; and your capacity to adapt and react, to dodge curve-balls, to grab opportunities is what will make your company work. That’s what investors want to see in you to back you up.

6. Don’t be scared of previous failures

You might think that investors only back up entrepreneurs with a successful track record? Well, think again.

Of course, a track record of launching successful businesses is very positive and will be highly valued, but having previously failed at launching companies will not be seen as a negative if you can show that you have learned form it! To directly quote a venture capitalist I met: “I’m more than happy to invest in someone who has failed 2 or 3 times. Actually, I’m probably more likely to invest in someone like this because the way I see it: they have made their mistakes and won’t make them again!”

Never forget that most successful entrepreneurs have failed several times before making it, and that failures will not be seen as detrimental by investors as long as you can show that you have leaned and understood the reasons of those failures.