I was born in Paris, France. I discovered programming with an Amstrad CPC464 in 1987. By then, I was 6 yrs old. At the age of 7, I wrote my first game in basic language and loved it. My computer was my best friend, it would do everything I would ask it to do. Games were actually quite boring, it was much more fun to create them. This is how I discovered the beauty to create something out of thin air.
By the age of 16, I got my first 56K Modem and fell in love with the Internet, IRC, and World Wide Web. Kids at school were boring and I spent much of my time learning how to program in Pascal, Visual Basic, C, C++. On IRC, I finally met people I could share my passion with. I started my first venture, developing software to improve network security. I would spend all my week ends, holidays and nights developing network sniffers, packet builders, honeypots and IDS. By then, I was probably one of the rare people on earth who could decrypt any TCP/IP packet just by reading its hex code
Fascinated by aeronautics, at the age of 16, I enrolled in a program to learn the theory of flight and was among the best students at the final exam. This score awarded me a state grant for the practical pilot license for glider aircrafts.
By then, I did not know anything about funding or even finance. On my 18th birthday, I started as an intern at Tekelec Airtronic as the lead developer to create a test bench for quartz oscillators. Since these quartz oscillators were used for aerospace, we needed to test their behavior under extreme weather conditions. I spent the whole summer in a cleanroom with people around dressed like surgeons. It was my first “real” work experience and it was really cool to be a part of something that would go to space one day.
In 1999, Silicon Valley was often featured on TV in France and it seemed like my dream land. Guys of my age dropped school and became millionaires, I was totally in awe. During the next years, I discovered a different reality in France : Being under 20 and without a diploma in engineering, it was impossible to get the great jobs and hard to be credible with customers. You were just the cool kid to build a website, but that stopped there. I had to go to the US, that was exactly the place I wanted to be.
In 2001, I turned on my TV and discovered with horror the twin towers going down. I understood that things were about to change and getting a visa was impossible for me by then. However, staying in France seemed like a dead-end for me. Wanting international exposure, I searched for startups in Europe and found a really cool startup in Athens, Greece. There, nobody cared about my age or diplomas. School dropouts were working along with PhD guys, it was just amazing. We were there to get the job done, period.
A year passed and I finally decided to return to France to enroll into an engineering school and get a Msc degree to gain credibility. Still focused on improving my technical knowledge, I joined a startup working on some awesome projects and learnt to develop embedded software for drones and artificial intelligence. I ended up graduating in 2005 as valedictorian, ranking first out of 160 students.
At that time, I had lots of ideas and was thinking about starting my second venture. My technology skills were surely good, but my business skills sucked and I wanted to know more about how a company actually *works*. I then joined ESCP-EAP Business School in Paris in a dual program with the MBA of Asian Institute of Technology of Bangkok. During my time there, I served as an advisor for various startups. Advisory is a great position because you have the opportunity to see various cases and gain a heuristic of what separates failing projects from thriving projects. While it isn’t an exact science, I found out one common denominator for success : People. I can’t enumerate how many companies I saw failing with a great technology/product/service, but poor management or team. I love that Gurbkash Chahal quote : “assets go home at night — and your assets are your people“.
Later on, I discovered 2 excellent books which illustrate this:
Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, by Jim Collins
The art of Recruiting, by Guy Kawasaki (Which is an extract from his excellent book “Art of the start“)
When reading these books, most of us understand and agree with what’s written, but few are actually the ones to implement it. It can never be emphasized enough how important it is to have the best team. It is what I consider the hardest task of every startup/company founder : Make the best people share your cause and convince them to join.
A year later, I graduated from ESCP-EAP and AIT. To be honest, I don’t think I learnt much about “business” there. That’s what they say, nowadays business schools teach you anything but “business”. Business reminds me of war in some way. While I have never been into one, I guess that you can be trained for combat, but never be prepared to experience what a real battlefield is. You have to improvise everyday.
However, I discovered that business school wasn’t only about what you learn, but what you experience. I had the opportunity to meet, study and work with amazing people from different nationalities and backgrounds: Lawyers, chemical engineers, civil engineers, army men, marketers… I can say that my world really changed at that moment. I started to travel in Asia, see the world and meet absolutely amazing people from Bangladesh, India, Japan, Nepal, Uzbekistan and a few countries you probably never heard of. It was a magical moment in my life. I did not study much, but the experience and the network I built there are still invaluable to me today.
After graduating ESCP-EAP, I decided to get out of my comfort zone and challenge myself into trying a radically different work experience from the ones I had. I then joined the trading floor at SGCIB (Société Générale Corporate Investment Banking) at the fixed income sales desk in 2006. It was just before the subprime crisis and it was a crazy time. I learnt a lot from it and I am so glad to have had the chance to experience working in a trading floor. Some of my posts will cover this experience.
In early 2008, I decided to create my second startup with my own funds. The project was a SaaS application for investment banks to accelerate the pricing of various financial instruments and ease the reporting process. This blog relate my experiences, failures, successes and what I think can be learnt from it.
A few things about me
– World traveler & learner of foreign cultures.
– Indian & Japanese cuisine addict
– Shark conservation activist (Sharks are slaughtered at an alarming rate for their fins)
– Believer of the Japanese saying “Ichigo ichie” : Every time you meet someone, treasure the opportunity and make it like it will happen once if a lifetime
– Muay thai fighter for many years, I still enjoy the trainings but stopped fighting because of injuries
– Love the feeling of flying an aircraft on my own, would love to try the ICON Aircraft when I get the chance