Hey. Probably the most common question in early-stage startup phase – how to find a good co-founder match. Everyone says – co-found with your friends, colleagues or school mates. Unfortunately, it's not my case. I've been looking online for quite some time, but without success. I'm a non-technical funder (classic). If you are a non-tech founder, could you please share your experience of what did you do to find (and test) your co-founder? Thanks.
Andjaro was founded by Alexandre Ramin, Benoit Ozan, Ivan de Pontevès and Quentin Guilluy in 2015. Their motivation: to re-balance the management of employees spread across multiple sites. The idea is simple, yet powerful – big corporations can lend employees to other sites of the same group instead of making temporary or fixed-term staff hiring, thus saving costs and improving HR efficiency for organisations.
So far, their platform has clients like Accor Hotels, Groupe Flo and Sodexo, among others, and it has already powered more than 50,000 staff movements within client corporations, with seven digit savings for them.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Quentin Guilluy, one of Andjaro’s founders and asked him about his company, his tips for other founders, Paris’s startup ecosystem and his vision for the HR market.
Andjaro was founded in 2015. How have your objectives and goals changed since the company has grown?
We founded Andjaro with my 3 co-founders to have a positive impact on the job market. We first wanted to uberize temp agencies, thinking technology would bring a new paradigm. I think we were mistaken in our approach, not our goal: Andjaro brings flexibility to large organisations while securising permanent jobs. We are very proud of it.
What first got you into entrepreneurship?
Opportunity! The opportunity to create a solution to the problems of tomorrow’s economy was my entrepreneurial impulse.
Is Andjaro the first company you founded?
Andjaro is the first company that I founded. We matured it for several months before launching the company in August 2015.
What do you think it will be the next major shift in human resources in the next 5 years?
It is clear that the next breakthrough is towards blue collar jobs. I am not saying this because Andjaro’s main target are companies employing blue collar workers. I am saying this because for 20 years, HR tech has concentrated its effort towards white collar jobs. It is interesting to note that white collar jobs only represent 20% of the working population. Entrepreneurs have seen this gap and now want to have an on the largest possible crowd.
Would you give any advice to first time founders? What about any advice for yourself 10 years ago, knowing what you know today?
Today, France is a leading player in European entrepreneurship and the ecosystem is rich, strong, unified and surprisingly friendly. If I were to give some advice to my peers, it would be to ask more experienced entrepreneurs to discuss the problems they encountered over coffee.
For me, moments like this of knowledge exchange have been decisive. For example, my meeting with Cyril Marschal, founder and CEO of LuckyCart, over a drink on the terrace when I was a young employee, allowed me to go from an idea to a specific project, giving life to Andjaro.
Experienced entrepreneurs have experience of both the glory of starting up, as well as the hard times, which gives them an understanding of a startup’s situation at any given time. Their thought processes, their experiences and their understanding of the ecosystem are therefore precious assets to ask about and move forward. They will not be afraid to expose the weaknesses, interrogations and truths that are the most difficult to hear, because they themselves have gone through this process. It is vital to listen to their advice, as it could lead your startup from failure to success.
Who are your business idols and who inspires you most?
George Mallory is perhaps one of the people I admire most and identify with.
George Mallory was the first man to attempt to reach the summit of Everest. His story is fantastic. It is certainly the greatest mystery in the history of mountaineering. He was last seen some 100 meters from the summit of Everest. What happened next, nobody knows. Except, perhaps, a Kodak Vest Pocket camera, with which he was climbing, waiting desperately for someone to find it.
No one knows if he reached the summit. I find this myth, this sense of effort, this taste of the grand prize absolutely admirable. His taste for the impossible is something I admire a lot.
Do you think that founding a startup is for everybody?
I recently found my high school teacher’s report card. Trust me I was not a special kid, did not go to a well-known school, and do not come from a wealthy family. As far as I am concerned, you do not need to be special to launch a startup. What you need is a very strong drive, not skills.
Which town, city or region in Europe do you believe has yet to be discovered, has its own secret ‘entrepreneur’ sauce, or has a unique environment for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Dunkerque! More seriously, the North of France. It is a region that for many years has been committed to an ambitious policy of developing the initiative and entrepreneurship of its inhabitants through several actions. Furthermore, in 2012, the Nord-Pas-de-Calais Region was the first region to be labelled ‘European Entrepreneurial Region’!
Moreover, Lille is a real strong member of the French startup nation. The home of the French textile industry, Lille has developed its digital substance. The first incubator and accelerator for startups in the sector, EuraTechnologie is the perfect illustration of this sector migration; this center of excellence dedicated to information and communication technologies has invested in two former textile factories. Its strategic position in Europe, less than 80 minutes from Paris, Brussels and London, allows it to take advantage of the dynamism of those three capitals.
You are based in Paris. What is your opinion on the environment for creating a tech company there?
Paris is an accelerator of opportunities. In fact, to accelerate these ‘opportunities’ over the last few years, more than a billion euros have been invested in supporting startups! To encourage the emergence and development of future “unicorns”, Paris offers a wide range of assistance, from financial aid fpr innovative project leaders, to accommodation and support.
Paris’ ecosystem is strong and well connected. I love being an entrepreneur here even though I think France should decentralize its ecosystem a little more.
How did you finance Andjaro up to this point? Do you plan to achieve additional funding in the future?
After raising €5 million in 2018 from Balderton Capital and SAP.io, we just raised €13.4 million in Series B a few weeks ago. This was a new round of founding launched before the current health crisis, led by Idinvest Partners via the MH’Innov fund, joined by the investment company Sofiouest, We Positive Invest, the Arkéa group’s societal innovation fund, as well as funds managed by Alliance Entreprendre and SWEN Capital Partners. This new round of financing will enable us to pursue our business development strategy by targeting new sectors and developing our technology and services in Europe.
What are your plans for international expansion? Which markets are most important for Andjaro and why?
We will look at how the situation will develop in the coming weeks and months. Indeed, plans have changed a bit, as it might be more difficult to cross the borders physically.
Before this health crisis, we had planned to open offices abroad with a more intense pace of deployment. That has fundamentally changed. Today, it is collaboration with our clients that we will set up first, by accompanying them in markets with similar employment constraints, i.e. in Western Europe such as Belgium, Spain, Italy and Germany, which are becoming our priorities.
And finally, what is your long term vision for Andjaro?
We want to impact the job market. We will be happy when the percentage of permanent contracts has increased everywhere that we are implemented.
I'm building a short video app for video status updates(Twitter for short videos). I'm looking for someone who can help me build this together.
A short video status update app, a blend between Twitter & TikTok.
There has been a lot of buzz about TikTok lately, I love the app but it looks like it's getting banned in many places(India has done it already). My primary market is India, currently apps similar to TikTok are are taking it's place (20m+ downloads). It's still early but I believe given enough time a new app will take over in this short video format.
My skill is in technical development, I can work on app development + backend and everything technology and growth hacking. However I'm lacking in community building and other people skills, I'm hoping someone can help me fill this gap.
This is the first time trying to build a startup. I'm devoting my full time into working on this. Currently app development is in progress, I plan to complete dev(MVP) by Aug, 10.
I am an aspiring entrepreneur with a couple of ideas that I think are worth perusing, but I have very little technical skills and coding experience.
How would I find a skilled engineer as a co-founder to help me with these pursuits?
I feel if I pitched the idea to an engineer who saw no value in the idea, they wouldn't work with me. Conversely, I feel like an engineer who found lots of value in the idea would just execute something on their own with somebody who has better business acumen than me.
My current ideas are
1) learn to code and at least get the project up and running. Then find a co-founder once I need more complicated coding done. I do have some experience and would love to learn how to code myself, the only issue is that I suspect that my idea requires complex backend infrastructure and am also very serious about the UX and UI being near perfect.
2) Get prospective co-founder engineers to sign an Nda before I pitch them so that they cant steal my idea
3) Pitch the idea to software engineers anyway and stop being so worried about someone stealing my idea. If my idea could potentially be stolen and executed by an engineer who replaces me with someone who has better business acumen than me, then I was probably doomed from the start. I would hope that no engineer would be able to steal my idea and execute on it better than me, without me. I would hope that my vision, sales experience, marketing ideas, connections, and own unique way of thinking that led me to come up with this idea are essential to carrying out the idea.
If anyone has any better ideas or insights, they would be much appreciated.
Did you know that only 1% of global venture capital goes to black founders? The founder of venture capital firm Impact X, Paula Groves, was made aware of this fact in 2000, and it’s still true today, almost 20 years later.
To create long-lasting social change, Paula Groves believes that the answer is successful impact investing. So how does this work? Through the ‘virtuous circle’? A virtuous circle is a complex chain of events, via which each successful event leads to the achievement of the next successful event, in a feedback loop. Entrepreneurship creates jobs, builds wealth, and then allows successful entrepreneurs to help the next generation of entrepreneurs, who in turn build jobs and wealth, and so on.
Driven by an incredible consortium of founders hailing from the US, Impact X set up in the UK in 2018. The firm supports underrepresented entrepreneurs across Europe, particularly the Afro-Caribbean diaspora, with Seed, Series A and Series B rounds, within the entertainment, media, tech, health and digital industries. To find out more, we spoke to Paula Groves about their portfolio, her impressions of the funding landscape in Europe compared to the US, and her advice for underrepresented founders.
Hello Paula, thank you for joining us. We first learnt about Impact X last year and are interested to know more about your impressions of the European funding landscape coming from a US background.
First, we could jump in with your story. What first got you into investing?
I got an itch for finance and investing in 1982 during my freshman year at Stanford University when I took the Economics-101 class and suddenly a light bulb went off. I thought to myself, economics and finance play a critical role in how the world works. If we can understand finance and how capital flows, we can begin to understand how to influence economies and address fundamental social issues that plague our society such as poverty and economic well-being. I then quickly joined Stanford’s student run investment organization, The Blyth fund, obtained the position of student representative on the Committee of Investments for Stanford’s Board of Trustees, and upon graduation in 1986 with a undergraduate degree in economics, I secured a 3-year position in New York City on Wall Street at Credit Suisse First Boston as part of their analyst program. After obtaining my graduate degree at Harvard Business School in 1991, I went to Chicago, Illinois to work for Leo Burnett Advertising agency. However, as I was contemplating whether I had made the right career decision, one of my old bosses from Wall Street called and asked if I wanted to help launch a private equity fund in Boston called Triumph Capital. My guardian angel had smiled upon me. Here was my chance to return to my first love — finance — and so I responded with an enthusiastic “Absolutely!”
After helping the firm grow assets under-management to almost $ 1 billion, in 2000 I was confronted with a challenge. I learned that less than 4% of venture capital funding went to women and even more shocking, less than 1% went to Black entrepreneurs. Despite the world-changing ideas that were being funded by venture capitalists, women and Black entrepreneurs were not getting a seat at the table, or to quote Hamilton, they were not in the “Room Where it Happens”. Having gone to schools such as Harvard and Stanford, I knew first-hand that Black and women founders were also developing ground-breaking innovations that could not only change how our society operates but they also had ideas that could transform their respective communities that might not be readily apparent to mainstream investors and entrepreneurs. Getting back to understanding the importance of capital flows, I knew that successful venture capitalists and venture backed companies play an important wealth creation role in society whereby investment returns could be used to back the next generation of Black and female entrepreneurs, and could also bring about societal change through charitable contributions and directing funding to social impact causes.
These combined factors led me to co-found my own venture capital fund, Axxon Capital, which raised over $ 50 million in 2000. Axxon focused on Black and women founders of technology-oriented companies.
How did you start Impact X, and why did you decide to set up in Europe?
Eric Collins, the CEO of Impact X, and I first met in 2000 when Eric was raising funding for an online conflict resolution platform. Unfortunately, the first of three major economic downturn cycles in my career hit, the dotcom crash of early to mid-2000s, and we were not able to invest in his company. I should probably mention that the second downturn was the 2008 financial crisis precipitated by the downturn in the mortgage market. The third downturn is the one we are experiencing now, starting with the Covid-19 pandemic and impacted by the protests which followed the death of George Floyd in the US.
Eric and I stayed in touch over the years and explored several ways to get capital into the hands of Black entrepreneurs and to generate wealth for the Black community. In 2018, Eric launched Impact X which is a European double bottom line vehicle established to make direct venture capital investments in European underrepresented entrepreneurial and creative innovators including Black entrepreneurs of African descent. Impact X invests primarily for solid financial returns to LPs and secondarily for measurable social impact.
The founding members of Impact X saw the same problem that I saw twenty years ago, less than 1% of venture capital funding goes to Black entrepreneurs – worldwide. Eric called me in late 2018 to discuss this problem and asked if I would help him solve it. I was quite humbled that Eric asked me to join him once I looked at the esteemed set of individuals that were backing Impact X. The list of founding members is comprised of an accomplished and ethnically diverse group of professionals with over 500 combined years of investment and management experience from organizations such as Credit Suisse First Boston, Microsoft, AEW, Xerox, ExxonMobile, American Express, Uber, BBC, HBO, Universal, Paramount, McKinsey and more. This group also includes a Sir, a Dame, US Presidential Appointees, CEOs, serial entrepreneurs, institutional investors, investment bankers and professors at various universities.
But perhaps most importantly, I was inspired by the fact that this group, who had achieved such economic success and stature in Europe had taken it upon themselves to fix the fundamental problem of lack of access to capital for Black European entrepreneurs. They were living the cliché, “Put your money where your mouth is” and were investing in the solution. This was the principle at work of “helping capital flow back into the Black community by investing in the Black community to create economic wealth and prosperity”. I saw the light bulb flash in the recesses of my memory from my Econ-101 class back at Stanford. By now, this had become quite literally a “calling”, given that Eric had called, and I could not say no.
Could you tell us about your portfolio companies?
The Impact X portfolio consists of technology-driven companies that provide innovative solutions that help their target customers become leaders in their respective marketplaces. One health tech company is led by a Black female neuroscientist who has designed an AI powered SaaS tool that streamlines the medical research process required to initiate clinical trials. In this time severely disrupted by Covid-19, accelerating the clinical trial process for her customers plays a critical role in helping the global community find a way to combat this global pandemic.
Speaking of Covid-19, one of the unforeseen benefits of sheltering-in-place is that many are enjoying TV streaming services. In fact, Netflix demand is up over 30% and given that the pandemic has hit all communities across that globe, streaming services have increasing demand for international stories. To that end, Impact X has invested in a project that uses graphic novels, animation, video games and other forms of media to tell stories inspired by African history and culture and combat negative African stereotypes. The investment is timely because animation demand in particular is increasing and animation can be produced remotely in isolation / semi-isolation.
We’ve read about how investing into marginalized groups has been more common in the US, than Europe. Why do you think this could be?
Investment in marginalized communities in the US has a historical government foundation. In 1964 when the US Civil Rights act was passed that outlaws discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, simultaneously, the US Small Business Administration, an organization established by an act of congress in 1953, created the Equal Opportunity Loan Program to assist applicants living below the poverty line, in other words applicants from marginalized communities.
Many believe this program was launched in direct response to the civil unrest and turmoil of the US Civil rights era to increase economic opportunity for all US citizens.
Could you tell us your impression of the current VC landscape in Europe? Have you seen anything change in the past few years?
Covid-19 pandemic combined with the civil unrest in response to the death of George Floyd has created unprecedented conversations regarding the fate of worldwide Black entrepreneurship and Black economics at a breadth and depth that I have never seen before. The question now confronting society is what actions can be taken to bring about lasting positive change in the Black economic future.
As the first line of defense against the protests that followed George Floyd’s death, many individuals and corporations have turned to charitable giving. The New York Times reports millions of dollars have been quickly raised for racial justice groups, breaking fund-raising records for many organizations. This charitable funding certainly begins to address some of the social inequity problems noted above.
However, it is important for those with capital who seek to bring about social change to not only address the important problems solvable by charitable donations, but also turn an eye toward creating long-term solutions by funding entrepreneurship. Funding which is used to bring about social change and right the wrongs of economic inequities is called Social Impact Investing. This type of investing has its root in the Equal Opportunity Loan program created by the US Small Business Administration mentioned earlier. Using capital to address social ills is the most effective way to bring about sustainable social change. This shift from charitable giving, which is the equivalent of giving a community fish to eat, to Social Impact Investment which instead teaches a community to themselves fish, can lead to long-term sustainable growth. Entrepreneurship creates jobs, builds wealth and then through reciprocity, these successful entrepreneurs can then fund the next generation of entrepreneurs who create jobs and build wealth. This is what Impact X refers to as the virtuous circle.
What advice would you give to startups with female and underrepresented founders, who are currently experiencing pushback?
The hardest most universal aspect of raising money for a startup is the overwhelming number of “Nos” that you will get. What is even worse are those who don’t have the courage to say no, but rather keep you in a holding pattern of optimism by saying, “if you fix this one thing, I will give this idea serious consideration”. My advice is to always be a student of the universe. Getting a meeting with an experienced investor is itself quite an accomplishment. Therefore, I say, don’t just get a no, get a lesson. Chances are the feedback you receive is borne out of the money they lost based on the less than optimal investment decisions they have made in their past. Listen, learn and try to incorporate the feedback.
What are your priorities this year? What exciting things can we expect from Impact X from 2020-2021?
Our priorities are:
- To maximize returns for our investors by working with our existing portfolio to achieve meaningful exits;
- The demand for investment by Black entrepreneurs remains strong and therefore we will continue to raise money to support this ecosystem;
- And finally, we seek to create positive and measurable social impacts which is also part of our mission
As we emerge from this time of global pandemic and social unrest Impact X seeks to share its model and partner with others to generate meaningful social and economic returns for Black and underrepresented entrepreneurs.
How can founders in Europe get in contact with you, and what are you looking for?
To reach us please visit our website at Impactxcapital.com. If you would like to submit your investor presentation, please complete our client intake form. For other inquiries please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oculus co-founder Nate Mitchell is heading up a new game development house called Mountaintop Studios, joined by colleagues from around the gaming industry. The company aims to leave the crunch and toxic culture pervasive in game studios behind and make one that’s “collaborative, anti-crunch, diverse, and inclusive.”
The founding team includes Mitchell’s former colleague Mark Terrano, who was creative director at Oculus, Matt Hansen, former COO of Double Fine, and artist Rich Lyons, who worked at Naughty Dog and Vigil.
According to its webpage, Mountaintop will be creating “multiplayer games for players who crave a challenge,” though when I chatted with Mitchell and Hansen, they cited mostly single-player titles. The theme they came back to was growth and a journey: mystery, but also mastery.
It isn’t just the thrill of victory. It’s looking back and seeing how far you’ve come. How you were forced to grow, adapt, and improve. It’s the satisfaction of knowing you’re better than you were before. And sometimes, it’s sharing the joy of the climb with your friends.
While it’s too early for the team to reveal details on their first game, “we think we’re onto something,” Mitchell said. Considering the time and effort it takes to create a AAA game these days, and the fact that Mountaintop is currently only five full-timers, we can probably expect the first details no earlier than next year.
But the founders were clear that the company is also about getting away from the culture problems in game development.
“What we really want to do is have a studio that is people first,” Mitchell said. “There are so many folks across the industry who have just been burnt out by endless crunch. And the expectations around hours don’t allow for any sort of work life balance. We want Mountaintop to be a place where people can come and still have that.”
But it isn’t just labor issues of crunch and overtime plaguing gaming. Racism and sexism that are endemic and evident in both the final products and companies themselves. And it must be said that the founders themselves follow one of the most common and unfortunate trends in the industry: All four are white men.
Mitchell and Hansen declined to make any specific commitments as far as diversity and inclusion go, despite those values being central to the new studio. They did, at least, acknowledge the difficulty and complexity of this pursuit.
“There’s no silver bullet for inclusivity, a lot of it is long term work,” Mitchell said. “Because it’s a fresh studio, a fresh culture, we can start from scratch with the right foundation. We never thought when we kicked off the studio that we’d be launching in the middle of not just a pandemic, but a global conversation about institutionalized racism, police violence, and injustice. So talking about that stuff internally, where we stand as individuals and as a company, that informs how we act as a company.”
“One of the earliest conversations we had was around getting the culture right. Our founders are all aligned in this,” added Hansen.
“There’s a bunch of micro things we can do every day,” continued Mitchell. “Setting our cultural values, making sure people understand those, driving towards inclusivity and diversity training, excellent hiring practices, working with community groups and integrating and supporting them, maybe recruiting from there.”
It’s a lot of promises and few concrete commitments, a common theme in tech and gaming these days. Having one’s heart in the right place is nice, but what the industries need is action. Hopefully the promises are preludes to lasting decisions, but only time (plus real and sustained effort on Mountaintop’s part) will tell.
I'm looking for an app developer to help build out my app from a prototype. Ideally, the developer also has food allergies so the app can be made with similar people in mind. I'm interested in either paying for this to be done or to start this with you by my side and share equity in the company. Based on conversations with 30+ people, my idea really would be helpful. PM me if you are interested!
Can you please help me in deciding how much equity shall I offer to the c founder who is not monetarily invested in the app. They will manage the code of the app and I have actually outsourced the development. Operation cost is 20% of the development and they will be taking care of this side I guess. It's difficult fore to get the investors without the co-founder as I don't have a tech background. Let me know if I should have a Co-founder or not and if yes then how much equity they should get.
Over the last year, I've been doing research and user interviews on a concept similar to Yelp but with a twist. As Covid19 hit, I figured it would be a great time to get ahead and work on an MVP to be ready by the time the restaurant/bar scene is back to normal.
But, as a non-technical founder (I have Product Management experience), I'm trying to figure out the best way to get an MVP built. I played around with building prototypes using Google Sheets/Maps, but felt they didn't do a great job of framing my hypothesis. I'd like to build an MVP, but really focusing on the "minimal" and "viable" here. I feel like I have three options:
Learn to code: I've already taken a React Native course and had taken some introductory CS courses way in the past. This could be an option, but personally I don't feel like I have the industry experience to pull it off well.
Find a technical co-founder: I've been working this angle but have had some challenges. From company policies and time constraints to finding the right personality to work with, it's been a bit tricky. Personally though I feel like this is the best route.
Work with a freelancer: I've considered this, but I have no experience working with freelancers and have heard it could be pricey. For what my mindset is (side-project, not billion-dollar company) not sure if the costs are worth it
Curious to learn if there is a better option here?
Hi everyone. I have googled and googled but havent found a sufficient answer. I am hoping you guys can offer some insight. Thanks in advance! I really appreciate any help/advice.
As unbiased as I can, here are the facts.
I have been working on a project for the past several years by myself. I set up an LLC, got mentored from a small business development center, created business plans, created assets and documention (on how to build the software) and continually work on the business almost every day. The only thing I need help with is coding the software (FWIW I did try to do it myself, and it's not my strong point, hehe).
In the past couple of months, I got in contact with someone who can build the software I need and we are trying to work the best way to go apportion revenue.
Company ownership: 100% me. The LLC is going to be in my name by myself, non-negotiable because they do not want to and we can't work out the logistics with them in a different country and the liability of working with someone we each haven't met.
Founder #1 – me CEO, contribution: effort and capital
Founder #2 – them CTO, contribution: effort and no capital
Their duties: build the software or as much of it as possible; after product launch they will maintain software, do software upgrades, and customer service. Plans to work on these things in their free time with no intention of leaving day job.
My duties: excluding all my prior work I will manage the business and all aspects of it from trademark, legal, operating costs, development costs, company expenses, create and maintain website, marketing and promotion, create assets (meaning artwork for product, graphic design, logo etc), contribution of up to $ 20k capital (not much spent so far), and can bring to the table personal contacts to promote product (including influencers, retailers, publications, etc). I will be carrying out these duties in my free time but intend to leave my day job to work the business full time as soon as possible once product starts bringing in stable profits and we're sure it isn't a flop.
My dilemma is that I could hire someone outright to code the software (with my budget it will be a shoddy MVP) but I will get 100% of revenue OR I could have this person build the software at no upfront cost and get a product much closer to what I'm looking for (they understand what Im trying to build) but I give up a (significant?) % of profit/revenue.
I am accounting for vesting, operating costs, putting income back into the business (did I miss anything). How do we determine ROI and revenue % split between us? What's a fair distribution?
Thank you so much!