To develop a successful startup, you need to resist the temptation of easy, short term victories and think of the long term goals… all the while keeping your spirits up. It’s not an easy balance to strike, between a marathon and a hurdle race. Read the advice of Pierre-Henri Deballon, co-founder of Weezevent and AcceleRise mentor.
Weezevent: self-service online ticketing tool
While organizing the ‘Vélo Tour’ in Dijon, a fun bicycle “race” for all ages, (give it a go if you are in town, it’s a great way to see the historic city), Pierre-Henri Deballon and Sébastien Tonglet met with a number of obstacles: how to manage registrations and ticketing? How was it, in 2007, there were no online solutions to manage the event’s finances?
So, in 2008, these two sports-mad economics and management students launched their startup adventure: they developed Weezevent, a self-service ticketing and registration tool designed for event organisers, with – added in 2015 – an online payment solution. For Pierre-Henri Deballon, the charm of his activity is the passage from the digital world to “real life”. “We often take part in various events (festivals, concerts etc.) to test that our solution works. It’s a nice sector to work in.”
With a stratospheric development (incredible but true, growth of 42,000% in 2015!), it’s no surprise that this startup now has 75 employees and several offices in throughout Europe (Dijon, Paris, Manchester, Madrid etc.).
The tortoise and the hare – don’t start off at a sprint…
That said, for Pierre-Henri Deballon, to guarantee the future of your startup, there’s no point running after success. “The image of the “Eureka” style idea where everything comes togetherin a few months is completely false. In real life, it’s rarely a fireworks situation. Getting your idea off the ground can easily take 3 to 4 years, even for fast-growing unicorns.
He admits however the temptation to go fast is huge for startuppers, in particular regarding fundraising. “Racing after funding is a huge trap. For getting funded is just the start of the adventure. It is a means to an end and should never be end goal.” This former athlete is quick to employ this activity as a metaphor: “Getting funded is like running a marathon-length hurdles race. You need to strike the right balance between stamina and high-energy.”
The temptation to jump at a short term victory also comes from the corner of buyout offers. For Pierre-Henri, all depends on the founders’ vision for their company: short term success or long-term ambition? “Sometimes it’s better to turn down an immediate 1 million euro offer to give yourself the chance to develop your project to its full potential. This almost happened to us… and if we reacted on instinct at the time, hindsight and analysis has proved that this was the best decision for us.
Develop your endurance
So, what are the takeaways from his experience in developing the long-term endurance of his startup?
- First of all, be sure that your idea is a good one, and be motivated to prove it. It’s your insurance to keep you in the race, even when to going gets tough or when the temptation arises to throw in the towel. “We asked ourselves the question ‘Do we keep going?’ several times. We were below targets for all 4 scenarios that we had planned for. It was because we believed so strongly in our idea – and with reason, we used it ourselves! – that we made the choice to persevere.”
- Work, work and work some more. “We worked our behinds off. This has a number of advantages – you don’t see time go past, you have no time to spend any money (that you are not earning anyway at the beginning) and, of course, your project gains strength.”
- Support and get support from your colleagues. “It is important to share and to be mutually supportive. In difficult times, one of you will be more positive and encouraging. In moments of euphoria, the other will be more grounded. Whatever your situation, you need to keep communication open.”
- Pay attention to the stability of your partner’s job. "Our girlfriends at the time (now our wives), had their own jobs. This may appear self-serving, but it’s an important point: their stable employment was an additional safety net for our risky venture.”
- Sometimes you need to be irrational. “Setting up a startup is like jumping into the void, taking a huge risk based on instinct. This paid off for us. You need to be passionate about what you’re doing, it will carry you through.”
You too can share the experiences and advice of Pierre-Henri Deballon, AcceleRise mentor, by joining our Session #2. Applications are open until June 12 2017. Click here to apply.
By Christophe Breuillet
Managing director of Vitagora and AcceleRise, Christophe is the big boss! His various areas of expertise cover innovation and food business development, internationalisation and influence strategies… basically Food “Business” with a capital B! You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org