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Partager, partager, partager [fr]

Partager, partager, partager [fr]

[en] On the importance of sharing. A heartfelt thanks to Loïc and Laurent for the inspiring discussion at Silicon Valais!

Hier soir, j’étais à Silicon Valais 2016. J’étais déjà dans le Chablais Vaudois, donc le saut de puce jusqu’à Sierre en était un peu raccourci. Loïc était l’intervenant d’honneur de la journée, interviewé sur scène par Laurent. Je n’avais pas vu Loïc depuis des années (ayant raté Paris en mai), et Laurent fait partie de ces gens que je ne vois pas assez souvent même s’il habite à côté — décision facile, donc. En plus, je sais pas comment ils font, mais ils réussissent toujours à avoir du soleil, en Valais.

Soleil en Valais, au Technopôle de Sierre.

Le format de la discussion pour aborder la Silicon Valley, et les leçons apprises par Loïc au cours de sa carrière d’entrepreneur, était vraiment très bon, et bien mené. Je n’ai pas vu passer le temps. Me replonger à travers le récit de Loïc dans ces morceaux d’histoire familière, et me retrouver en contact avec l’énergie de découverte et d’émerveillement face au futur qui pénètre notre présent, ça m’a fait beaucoup de bien.

Depuis quelques années en effet, je suis passablement nostalgique de cette période entre 2004 et 2009 environ, qui représente pour moi “l’âge d’or” des blogs et des premiers réseaux sociaux. Ça bouillonnait, le monde changeait, on était en train de construire l’avenir, nous, “les gens connectés”. La discussion entre Laurent et Loïc me replonge dans cet état d’esprit.

Mais ce n’est pas pour sauter dans la machine à remonter le temps que j’écris aujourd’hui. C’est pour rapporter le conseil #1 que fait Loïc aux aspirants entrepreneurs: partager, partager, partager.

Construire en public, être ouvert.

Être généreux de son temps, de son savoir, de ses connexions.

Penser long terme, ne pas sacrifier les opportunités futures sur l’autel du gain immédiat de l’exploitation d’autrui.

Créer quelque chose qui nous parle, sans vouloir à tout prix monter le business du siècle.

Ça vous dit quelque chose, tout ça? Si vous me connaissez, j’imagine bien que oui.

Au tout début de la conférence, Loïc raconte comment il s’est assis par hasard à côté de Joi au WEF. Intrigué par ce que celui-ci faisait sur son ordinateur, il ne l’a pas lâché jusqu’à ce qu’il lui ait appris à bloguer. Bloguer, une pratique qui a changé sa vie… et la mienne.

Cette éthique du partage, cette foi dans les opportunités inimaginables (au sens propre) que peut nous apporter le fait de vivre nos vies et nos idées un peu publiquement dans les espaces numériques, c’est quelque chose que je retrouve très fortement chez les blogueurs de “la grande époque”. On a compris, dans nos tripes, le pouvoir de la réciprocité quand elle s’ancre dans la générosité désintéressée, et d’une certaine dose de vulnérabilité pour nous rapprocher les uns des autres.

Je la vois moins chez ceux qui ont trouvé leur maturité numérique à l’ère de Facebook, sous le règne des algorithmes, de l’immédiateté encore plus immédiate, de la popularité encore plus éphémère, de la concurrence effrénée d’un espace saturé de marketing, au point même que pour “réussir”, il faut traiter les personnes comme des marques. La mise en scène narcissique de soi prend le pas sur les conversations et échanges authentiques, et on se sent pris dans une course à l’audience, pour capter une lichette de notre attention déjà sursollicitée.

Bon dieu, on croirait entendre un critique réfractaire au numérique d’il y a dix ans! Je suis dure, et il n’y a certes pas que ça dans les espaces sociaux numériques de 2016, mais c’est tristement ce qui domine.

Voilà pourquoi je m’accroche à ce blog. Les relations ont besoin de temps. Les idées ont besoin d’espace. Les newsletters regagnent en popularité, c’est pas pour rien.

Il y a de la place sur Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter et consorts pour le genre de partage dont Loïc et moi parlons: mais pour cela, il faut laisser un peu de côté ses objectifs, oublier la chasse aux likes et aux followers, et plutôt se demander ce qu’on peut faire pour les autres, s’ouvrir à partager ce qui nous fait sourire ou rêver, ce qui nous interpelle, ce sur quoi on s’interroge — même si ça “ne sert à rien”. On ne peut jamais savoir quelles portes s’ouvriront parce qu’on regarde tomber la pluie ou qu’on a rencontré un gros chien.

C’est comme dans la vie “hors ligne”. On sous-estime complètement à quel point nos opportunités professionnelles tiennent souvent à des connexions personnelles ou des échanges en apparence futiles. Quand ça arrive, on se dit que c’est un coup de chance, ou l’exception — alors que c’est plutôt la règle.

Laissons au monde une chance de venir à nous, en nous donnant d’abord un peu à lui.

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SWITCH Conference, Coimbra: Entrepreneurship [en]

SWITCH Conference, Coimbra: Entrepreneurship [en]

Running notes from the SWITCH conference in Coimbra. Are not perfect. Feel free to add info in the comments, or corrections.

Celso Martinho

CTO of Sapo. A frog’s perspective on entrepreneurship.

University project became startup. 6 students in the beginning. Now, 250 people. Celso does not consider himself an entrepreneur anymore — was once, but not anymore.

Was there a secret formula to create Sapo? Beer + time + a black swan 🙂 (they had a lot of fun doing stuff they liked, had a lot of time on their hands to do it, and… luck) *steph-note: read the book if you haven’t*

Open source rules.

Growing is painful. Accountability vs. Flexibility. Had to build in processes as they grew, but wanted to keep the spirit and flexibility they had when they started — big challenge they face today.

Success is a balance between the things you do right and the things you do wrong. OK to do things wrong, but you have to be doing enough things right for the balance. Learn from mistakes.

Stay close to talent. (Some kind of programming contest, workshops, emergent technology…) Keep the work environment fun. Work hard and don’t give up. Irreverence.

Fred Oliveira

Fred (@f) is a UX designer and founder of We Break Stuff. Non-funny talk: do NOT become and entrepreneur. (Fred doesn’t consider himself an entrepreneur.) Joined TechCrunch in 2005 (early one), joined another company, and came back to Portugal and thought it was a good idea to found his own company.

Do not do what he did, he tells us. Your life will become a mess!

“Entrepreneurs are idiots because…”

  • their brains act differently from normal people => work work work work work lobes all over the brain
  • they do not have clocks or watches, no sense of time (when they go to bed, when they get up…) — the hand of the clock si always on “work”
  • they wallets are empty; weird relationship with bank accounts: empty, then get a lot of money, then spend it all… (emo-piggy-banks)
  • their social life resembles that of a carrot (carrots do not have fun, go out to night clubs, have coffee… — they sit at their computers all day)

What motivates these people? (you must be crazy to be an entrepreneur, so…?)

  • take pride in working for themselves, are their own boss
  • they get to work on “new ideas”
  • they fix “real problems” (whatever that means, look at foursquare)
  • they enjoy failure (WTF)

Odd, awkward, often lonely people, as you can see. But they’re actually changing the world. Even if I’m not using foursquare now, it doesn’t mean it’s not going to be a big thing at some point. You CAN change the world.

That being said, Fred is really happy with his life. Go make something special (but don’t become a carrot). Ask him **anything**.

Robert Boogaard

One of the fun things about being an entrepreneur is you can wake up in the morning thinking you’re just going to the SWITCH conference, and around 11:30 you learn that you’re giving a talk after lunch! 🙂

The tough time Ricardo and his team have been through these last days show exactly what entrepreneurs need to be made of. You take risks. Portuguese entrepreneurship.

Robert has always been an entrepreneur. Now invests in startups.

There are a lot of great people with great ideas in Portugal, but because of the fear of failure, not many happen. Entrepreneurial spirit is picking up. In Portugal it’s really hard to raise money. So: Financing Your Dream. Actually, Robert believes raising money here is quite easy: the competition is pretty low. If you have a good idea, you have your chances. Investors in Portugal struggle to find good projects and good entrepreneurs.

Most people, when they start out, are very bad at raising money. First of all, you need to identify what your dream is. Being an entrepreneur is not for everyone. You need to decide if your dream is something you want to do for a living, or actually enjoy 😉

Being an entrepreneur is a very unstable life, you don’t make that much money, you work hard. It’s not for everyone.

How do you raise cash, once you have that fantastic idea you want to make a living of? Most people go for the “easy” options, business angels, etc. One of the best ways of financing an entrepreneurial venture is actually your job. Work part-time and grow your business on the side. *steph-note: exactly what I recommend too for freelancing!*

Second source of finance: bootstrapping. Make sure you don’t spend much, and reinvest all the money you make into the company. The company remains yours!

If you really need additional funds, friends and family, but be really careful. There are also a lot of support structures in Portugal but it’s a lot of paperwork.

Expensive ways of getting money: Business Angels and VCs. Expensive because they take away a chunk of your company. Robert doesn’t understand how somebody would give away 80-90% of their company! Investors invest money as well as know-how.

VCs look for scale. Not a good first step. Identify the right source of finance.

You need to be clear about how much you want the finance, once you’ve identified the right source. How much do you want? Not realistic to want a huge chunk of money to be all expenses paid for the next x years. (You’ll also have to give away a huge part of the company!)

Also, for valuation: what makes your company worth what you claim it is when you’re raising money? You need to be able to explain that.

Right time of investing: not easy to figure that out. Research the people you approach. Know who you’re talking to. Tailor your approach. The more passionate you are, the more chances. Be yourself. Don’t tell the investors what you think they want to hear. (*steph-note: just like with dating, no use pretending you’re somebody you’re not!*)

If you have weaknesses, talk about them, and say how you’re adressing them. Entrepreneurs tend to get carried away by their dreams. Investors receive tons of proposals. You need to capture their attention immediately, stand out.

Follow the process your investor asks you to follow.

Loïc Le Meur

Loïc by Skype! *steph-note: not an easy way to give a talk*

If you’re thinking about launching a startup, stop thinking and try doing as much as you can. Do something, even if it’s a bit broken.

It doesn’t matter if you change course. Many businesses start out by being something else (Skype, Seesmic, Flickr…).

Start small, and start collecting support and people around an idea. Go for something you have a passion for. Loïc has a passion for social networking, so working on seesmic doesn’t feel like working at all. Invest time and energy in gathering a community around your project.

Another rule: share your idea. Don’t go the NDA route. Develop your idea openly. It will be enriched by others. *steph-note: this way of doing things puts the idea at the centre, rather than the person — it’s more selfless, benefits the community more, and therefore has more chances of actually happening and making a difference*

Don’t pay too much attention to the people who tell you that you will fail.

Ship a product, then ask for feedback! Use that feedback, and learn. Interact with people directly. Gather all the feedback on a site which will help you decide what’s possible to do. Then you need to act on it. People like a company that listens — and answers.

Read Loïc’s do’s and don’ts about starting a business.

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Here We Go Again [en]

Here We Go Again [en]

[fr] C'est reparti. La course. Vite vite vite. Trop pour une personne. Déceptions. Personnes qui proposent leur aide et se retirent: une composante culturelle? Réduire mes attentes. Y'a encore du boulot.

It’s back. The Urge. The Urge to quickly quickly quickly do this, do that, get on the computer in the morning, do this, finish that, OMG-I-wanted-to-do-it-3-days-ago, here’s my list for today, urgent, urgent, quickly deal with it.

What’s going on? Well, first, the Dip. Those of you who know what I’m talking about will know what I’m talking about. As for the others… well, hey, a little mystery here and there can’t hurt, can it, in this age of public people everywhere. So, the Dip is back, and Deadlines are coming up (I resisted the temptation to say “looming on the horizon” right there).

Deadline 1: Friday morning, I’m heading off to the [mountains and my chalet](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2008/08/03/photos-from-the-mountains/) again.

Deadline 2: in a month minus 1 day, it’s [Going Solo Leeds](http://leeds08.going-solo.net).

Busy-busy-busy!

Actually, it’s not astonishing that I feel crunched. Stressed. Running. I’m trying to do more than one person’s work. So, no wonder I can’t keep up.

I’m also learning to not get my hopes up when people offer help. It’s sad to say, but often people are enthusiastic, come forward, and have second thoughts when it comes to actually taking the plunge.

I realised it’s cultural, too: very un-Swiss. I’m not saying there aren’t unreliable Swiss people, but here you expect people to be good to their word. Reliability is very much valued. When somebody says “I want to contribute”, you usually expect them to do so. It also means it’s pretty difficult to find people to say “I’m in”.

I’ve had a few disappointing experiences over the last 6-8 months. In my dark days, it feels like I just can’t rely on anybody — but that’s not true either.

I think it’s a combination of various factors. I’ve noticed amongst my more entrepreneur/Valley/less-risk-averse friends a tendency to talk about lots of projects or “things they’re going to do”, start many things, and then drop a lot, too. Not all that is spoken about happens. “Fail early, fail often.” Be creative with your ideas, talk about them around you, try them out, and let go of them if they don’t seem to catch.

All good.

But I’m not like that at all. I have ideas. I talk about them as “perhaps maybe at some point I might possibly eventually try to start doing this or that”. It’s very difficult for me to make the step to say “I’m going to do this/I’m doing this”. Because when I do, I’m married to the idea. It’s going to happen. Giving up is not an option. (I sometimes do, but it’s agonizing and horribly difficult.) Once I have my mind set on something, I have a really hard time letting go or seeing things differently.

It’s not all cultural.

It’s a mix. Some cultural, and some personal. In a more entrepreneur-oriented culture like the US, I guess you’ll find more people who start things easily, go for it, and turn to something else if it doesn’t work out. In a very cautious and risk-averse culture like Switzerland, well, you don’t bump into that many people with that profile. It’s only recently in my life (these last few years) that I’ve started meeting such people and counting them amongst my friends and network.

On a personal level, well, I’m particularly risk-averse, and (as NNT would say) particularly ill-equipped for dealing with probabilities. When somebody says they’ll do something for me, I know there’s a chance it’ll fall through, but I somehow can’t keep my emotions in line with that intellectual knowledge. I build whole worlds on the sand of people’s words, and forget that they are likely to crumble. When they do, it feels like everybody and everything is letting me down.

Another situation in my life where suffering less seems to depend on my ability to adjust my expectations.

There’s still work.

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Advisors, Boards, Companies, Partners, Oh My! [en]

Advisors, Boards, Companies, Partners, Oh My! [en]

Welcome to the area where I feel I’m swimming rather than standing on firm ground. Thankfully, I have advisors for this, but I’m still the person who needs to make the decisions. Let’s dive into the swimming-pool: it’s called [Starting a Company](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/11/13/im-starting-a-company/), in the city of Oh-My-God-Is-It-Really-A-Good-Idea-To-Blog-All-This.

I have one event underway, [Going Solo](http://climbtothestars.org/archives/2007/12/14/announcing-going-solo/). If all goes well (and I intend it to) this will be the first of many — whether they cater to the same audience or not is still something I’m thinking about. So, I want to create a company which will be behind these events. Good for branding, allows me to bring in partners, pay myself a salary, etc. (Actually, I realise now that I’m not 100% sure why it’s a good idea to create a company — I’m sure it is, but I have trouble explaining it. Enlightened comments welcome.)

This company has a board of advisors. I haven’t drawn up any contracts or anything yet, but we have verbal agreements. I do want to get things down on paper, though. In French, we say *les bons comptes font les bons amis*, meaning that keeping money/business issues clear and clean preserves friendship (or makes it, depending how you understand it).

I need to incorporate the company, too. I live in Switzerland, I’m a British-Swiss dual citizen. In Switzerland, to have an “SA” company (the equivalent of an Ltd.) you need to show up with 100K CHF on the table. Even an SàRL requires 20K. From what I hear, it costs virtually nothing to set up a company in the UK. My focus is events on the European market, so basically, I see no real reason for the company to be Swiss. I’m no specialist of these kinds of decisions, though, so I’m basically listening to what people tell me and reading up here and there.

It seems to me that the simplest thing to do is to set up the company in the UK. I could have a subsidiary (? = succursale) in Switzerland, but again, I don’t understand how this makes things easier. (This isn’t making me look good, is it?)

I’m also not sure what happens with my “independant” status in Switzerland. I’m not going to stop being “independant” because I set up the company (ie, not looking at becoming a full-time employee of my company yet), so is there a way I can preserve this — it’s particularly important from a tax point of view, for example.

Then, advisors. I want the advisors to the company to have a (small) financial stake in it (I think that’s rather common), so I need to write up agreements for that. Do I need a lawyer (eeek)? Can I just do it myself? How do I know what to write in it? I’m a bit uncomfortable about saying who the advisors are publicly before the formalities are done — am I worrying for nothing?

Which also brings up another issue: many people around me are being very helpful by providing their advice and support. But if I bring them all onto the advisory board, as I’d be tempted to do, that means I’m going to have a (possibly) important amount of very little shareholders, which can create trouble if I want to bring partners into the company, or investors, or sell (they have to approve, don’t they?) So, can I have two kinds of advisors — advisors with a financial stake in the company, and others without?

Those of you out there who own companies with advisory boards or who are on advisory boards — would you mind telling us a bit more about how this works? And this is Europe, not the US (in case it changes anything — I suspect it does). Also, should I set up the company now, or wait until the first event is done?

Same kind of questions about partners. At the moment, there will be three of us doing the bulk of the organisation of Going Solo. We’ll be subcontracting other companies or individuals for some pieces of work, of course (any tips about where to go shopping for Wifi That Stays Up, by the way?) So, as far as Going Solo is concerned, we can draft out an agreement between the three of use to determine how much and how we get paid for our work, and what happens with any extra money we might have (ok, might be dreaming here). If this first event goes well, and we’re happy working together, it could make sense to have them enter the company, wouldn’t it? (This is where the when-how-howmuch stuff comes in, but I’m aware we’re not there yet.)

So, maybe my question is this: what are usual models for paying people who organise events? From what I’ve heard, bringing in sponsorships should earn you a cut of what you brought in, though it gets complicated when the sponsorship in question is not just cash, but covering the expenses for certain parts of the conference, or bringing in goods/services. It also gets complicated if the event doesn’t make as much money as planned, or makes a loss — should the person in charge of the sponsorships be paid while others are not? So many questions.

Also — trademarks? Do I need to trademark anything?

Any pointers, advice, or opinions that can help me see clearer here will be most welcome.

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