Frédéric Mazzella is the co-founder and president of BlaBlaCar which is a long-distance carpooling platform that connects drivers with empty seats and passengers to share travel costs. The company has raised over $400 million at a valuation north of $1 billion. Investors include Accel, Index Ventures, Insight Partners, Cabiedes & Partners, ISAI, Grape Arbor VC, Vostok New Ventures and Lead Edge Capital to name a few.
In this episode you will learn:
- The three keys to building a marketplace startup
- Going through pivots to land the ideal model
- The traits of successful founders
- Ways to build a powerful business culture
For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash. Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
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About Frédéric Mazzella:
Since pioneering the idea for BlaBlaCar in 2004, Frédéric has led the company to become the world’s largest long-distance carpooling community.
As a branding and communications enthusiast, Fred has built a global brand whilst relentlessly spreading the word about the virtues of carpooling.
Frédéric carries BlaBlaCar’s vision of a people-powered travel network enabled by trust and technology and is passionate about high social impact solutions.
Frédéric is a regular speaker at leading international conferences and in the media, where he comments on the fast-changing mobility landscape, entrepreneurship, global marketplaces and building trust in online communities.
Prior to founding BlaBlaCar, Frédéric held the role of scientific researcher at NASA (USA) and NTT (Japan).
He holds an MBA from INSEAD, a Masters in Computer Science from Stanford and a Masters in Physics from Ecole Normale Supérieure (France). Frédéric is also an accomplished classical pianist.
Connect with Frédéric Mazzella:
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FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW:
Alejandro: Alrighty. Hello everyone and welcome to the DealMakers show. Today, we have a founder from Europe, and I think that we’re going to be learning a lot about marketplaces, carsharing, and all of that good stuff. So, without further ado, I’d like to welcome our guest today, Frédéric Mazzella from BlaBlaCar. Welcome to the show today.
Frédéric Mazzella: Hello. Welcome. I welcome you too.
Alejandro: Alrighty, Frederic. So, you’re calling from Paris today. I’m in New York City, so I guess the world is getting smaller and smaller, but I want to start by doing a little bit of walk through memory lane here. I believe you were originally born and raised in Nantes. Is that right?
Frédéric Mazzella: I was born in Nantes, and I was raised around in Vendée, which is pretty close to Nantes, but it’s on the Atlantic coast in the middle of France.
Alejandro: How was life growing up there?
Frédéric Mazzella: Oh, fantastic. It’s a countryside, so it’s all green everywhere. Lots of animals everywhere, and yeah, a quiet life but quality life.
Alejandro: Very cool. Not the type of quality that you get in New York City, but anyhow.
Frédéric Mazzella: And less concrete.
Alejandro: That’s it. So, I want to ask you about what I find really, really interesting on your background. You have this love for physics, this love for music as well, but I think that everything started with playing the piano. So, tell us. How did you develop this love for music?
Frédéric Mazzella: Yeah, I play the piano. I also play the violin and also the guitar and the batterie when I was 16, and I had long hair. But yeah, I mainly played the piano, and that’s the reason why I moved to Paris initially because I wanted to continue at the Conservatory in Paris, which I did for a few years while still studying mathematics and physics a lot. Actually, I came to Paris because I wanted to become a professional piano player. Finally, I was in love with math, and I continued to do math, thinking that if I wanted to do mathematics, it was at this moment and I could come back to music later on. Where if I was switching for music right at this moment, I would not do mathematics later on, so I chose the mathematics path.
Alejandro: Got it. I remember that people like Steve Jobs say that some of the best engineers and really, people in the entrepreneurial world that he came across were people that had the background in music. Like they would play an instrument or something like that. The level of creativity was really incredible. So, what would be your thoughts on that?
Frédéric Mazzella: I would say the first thing that most music brings is rigor. You have to be literally rigorous when you play an instrument because any sort of mistake can be heard. You have a feedback loop, which is very fast. If you don’t play well, then you hear it intensely, and it brings creativity as well because by essence, by definition, instruments are tools which are made for being creative in a world which is sounds. So, yeah, I would say it brings rigor and creativity.
Alejandro: Got it. Why physics? What got you into physics?
Frédéric Mazzella: It is the thought of the mathematics which deals with the real world. It’s a way to understand the world we have around us with mathematics formulas. I just love it because to me, it’s a link between the real world and the analytical and theoretical world of mathematics. So, it’s the link between.
Alejandro: So, you were doing physics. I want to know what changed? You came here to the U.S. You were doing the internship at Stanford, but I want to understand like did you find the environment in California really different from what you were used to in France? The way they were viewing business and entrepreneurship and things like that? What did you learn from your experience there?
Frédéric Mazzella: I learned that entrepreneurship was a possible path which nobody had really told me at the time because the studies that you can do even in very good schools everywhere, they just give the impression that you are being formed to go join a project which already exists, or you can do research, or you can join a large company, and do lots of things, or you can do math, or you can do a science. They teach you that you join something new. When I was studying at Stanford, it was just the moment where Larry Page and Sergey Brin were leaving campus at Stanford to come to Google. There were lots of people also joining Google from Stanford and not even finishing their Master’s or their Ph.D. and just joining startups. Not only Google but somewhere else as well. So, I was like, “Wow. It is possible to not finish your diploma, is it and to go join a startup like this? What kind of career is that?” It was really fun to think that actually entrepreneurship and joining a company, and even not finishing your studies for this was even possible and made very smart people which were around. So, it was a possibility. That’s what it brought to me. It opened the possibility of entrepreneurship.
Alejandro: I understand that right after this, you became a research assistant for a couple of entities, one of them being NASA. What were you doing at NASA?
Frédéric Mazzella: It was an internship. I began by being a research assistant for NASA while I was at Stanford. Then I studied my Master’s Degree in computer science at Tampa. But it was the same period.
Alejandro: Got it. So then once you were exposed to entrepreneurship, why did you decide to join a business when it was an employee?
Frédéric Mazzella: Maybe I was not ready enough. I had lots of ideas, and I think I had 25 ideas before having the BlaBlaCar idea. I didn’t feel they were powerful enough. It’s only when I got the idea of BlaBlaCar that I said, “This one is really, really powerful.” It’s rigorous because either it works and everybody knows about the service and uses it, or it doesn’t, and then it’s all or nothing. But I liked this challenge because if it was working, then it would be big. Today, we launched in France like a long time ago, but today it’s half of the population in France in the age range around 18 to 25 while using us. So, the penetration rate is more than 50%, so it’s really, really working well. We’ve got 75 million members in 22 countries. It’s beginning to be massive.
Alejandro: We’ll talk about BlaBlaCar in detail, but I want to ask you there – and you’ve made a lot of investments too, so what do powerful ideas look like?
Frédéric Mazzella: It’s something that prevents you from sleeping.
Frédéric Mazzella: As simple as that. You know, when I got the idea, I didn’t sleep for 72 hours. I was so excited.
Alejandro: Let’s talk about that. Let’s talk about the moment where, in December of 2003, you came across a frustration, and that started to incubate this idea. What happened?
Frédéric Mazzella: Yeah. I wanted to go back to Vendée from Paris. It was Christmastime. I was super, super late in booking a train ticket. Then I had to call my little sister, who was living close to Paris, and I asked her if she could come and pick me up in Paris and bring me to Vendée in her car, which she did. Then on the highway, I saw the trains, the TGVs in France. You can see from the highway. You can see the trains sometimes going faster than you. So, I saw a train, and I was like, “Okay. This is a train in which I could not get a train ticket because everything was sold out.” It was full. Then at the same time, I was looking at the road, and I was seeing all the cars empty. I was like, “Oh! Empty seats were available, but they were not in the train. They were all in cars, and I got one in my sister’s car that there were like thousands or millions of empty seats in cars, and no one has ever indexed them. You can’t look for them in search engines, so why is that? It seemed so simple to me that we should just place all the available seats in a database and put a search engine in it so that people who are trying to move around can benefit from the empty seats in cars. I was like, “It’s such a simple idea. Why doesn’t it exist? What’s the problem?” So, I spent 72 hours trying to find the problem; trying to find why it did not exist. Since I didn’t find why it did not exist, I said, “Yes, it has to exist; it will exist, and this thing will happen. So, let’s make it happen.”
Alejandro: What happened immediately after. What were some of the steps that you took?
Frédéric Mazzella: After the 72 hours?
Frédéric Mazzella: I think I got some sleep at some point, but right after I began coding.
Alejandro: Got it. Then you purchased the domain that someone else had?
Frédéric Mazzella: Yeah. I purchased a domain name that was easier to understand for the concept, but then all the engines and the logics were the code I had to fill out that I placed on this URL.
Alejandro: Because the URL, the translation of the URL is carpooling. Right?
Frédéric Mazzella: Yeah. It’s the equivalent of carpooling in French. Yeah.
Alejandro: So, then my question here is, you started to develop this, and why did you decide that it was time to do your MBA at INSEAD rather than continuing pushing on the idea?
Frédéric Mazzella: Because I had a very scientific background, engineering background, I thought that I was not equipped enough for building a company. I was like, “Who can help me in understanding how you build a company? It’s the way I found. And also, another reason. For years, I had in my mind that at some point, I would do an MBA. I said, “Okay. This would be good for me in my studies after doing lots of science to go and study business.” So, it was somewhere in my mind, and it was bothering me as well. The fact that I wanted to do that. So, I said, “Now, let’s do it so that in a year from now, I don’t have this in my mind anymore that I have to do that. I will do that now. And by the way, it’s very useful because I would learn business and help me build the company.” So, I did the MBA, which was a tremendous experience. I have only two regrets. The first one is that I cannot do it twice. The second one is that I should have done it earlier. It was fantastic.
Alejandro: Why do you think you should have done it earlier? Because you really needed that skill set?
Frédéric Mazzella: Yeah. Maybe one or two years before. I could have done it two years before. It was an accelerator for me to understand how you really build a project in the company because you do so many case studies, and you meet so many entrepreneurs. That is really a focus on entrepreneurs as well. You have lots of them on campus.
Alejandro: Yeah. The network is definitely critical. But we’re talking here how you came up with the idea in 2003, and you finally brought it to life. Walk us through that.
Frédéric Mazzella: Yeah. I began coding in 2004. It was coded and available in 2005. Then it began to have some members. Then in 2006, I think we had 20,000 members. In 2007, I was at INSEAD, and we had by the end of the year, I think I had 80,000 members. I had initially coded the first version of the service with my very good friend, Daniel. So, we were two at the time in the company. Then later on in 2006, I met Francis, who then later on became the CTO. Then in 2007, I met Nicolas at INSEAD. The project was already launched, and I already had members, and people were already carpooling with the service, and the company was already incorporated. Then in 2008, right after INSEAD, I decided to simply do BlaBlaCar fulltime.
The name of the project at that moment was Comuto. It was not BlaBlaCar. Then I decided to go absolutely fulltime on it right after INSEAD, which was not that easy because I still had a loan to members. I had taken a 70k euros loan to do INSEAD. I reimbursed it in seven years. So, the project was already running. I did the business venture competition at INSEAD. I did it twice. The first time, I arrived #4 in the study projects roughly. The second time, I arrived first, which gave me a bit of money as well. I think it was 5,000 or 10,000 euros to help while building. At the time, I had not raised that much money. It was just my money, plus Daniel. Then in 2009, some other money came from some other friends.
Alejandro: The business model then – for the people that are listening, you were finally operating fully with your co-founders Francis and Nicolas. What was the business model, so that the people that are listening get it?
Frédéric Mazzella: From 2007 to 2011, the business model that we were doing was a B2B selling carpooling platforms to companies. It was not my initial idea. It was not what I wanted to do, but the thing is, since reaching critical mass and reaching the C2C possibility of a full marketplace like we have in BlaBlaCar today, was taking a lot of time. The liquidity of the marketplace was not sufficient enough to make any significant revenue. So, in the meantime, I had a strategy to sell a couple of platforms to companies on white tables to at least make some money and feed the business and the team to actually build the big platform, the big C2C peer-to-peer platform. It was a temporary business model. In the meantime, I tried five other business models to finally reach the transactional business model, which we deployed in 2011. But in between, we tried several others. At that moment from 2008 to 2011, we were selling B2B. We had been meeting at INSEAD, but then Nicolas went to work for four years at [18:59] in London. He was working in the VC industry, so he was seeing the company growing, but he was working fulltime for VC. Then in 2011, he decided to join the project initially halftime as COO, and then fulltime 2012 when we raised some more money, and then we decided to go international with the concept. It was working because the six-business model, which I tried, which was a transactional business model we have today, where a passenger would pay $25 or euros, and then we keep the commission of about 15%. The rest of the money goes to the driver, of course, to compensate. This business model was working, and it was allowing us to have revenues which were growing with the cost because we had an exponential growth, so exponential cost, and we needed a business model that would go exponentially as well so revenues would grow exponentially with the cost. This was a transactional business model which allowed us to do so.
Alejandro: Normally, to create liquidity marketplaces and to get that supply and demand and the networking effects and all that good stuff, it takes money. So, how much money have you guys raised to date?
Frédéric Mazzella: It’s a few hundred million, but the thing is, it’s not the same kind of money that’s raised demanding on the growth phase you’re in. At the very beginning, you raise money to build the product and to build your processes and to optimize your growth path. Then you raise a lot more money to actually expand and use the best lessons that you’ve learned for acquisition communication to grow faster. At the beginning, I raised several rounds; 600k, then 1.2 million. Then we raised 10 million at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012 from Excel. Those 10 million were different than the one million before. The one million before was to really build our processes and find the right business model. The 10 million was to expand a bit initially. Then we raised 100 million and another 200 million for international and global expansion. We often talk about the amount the company raised, but it’s not the same capital. Seed capital and Series A capital is really not the same you raise in Series B, C, and D where it’s more that you’re raising money on a proven business model to scale up. Then it can be a lot, but it only depends on the size of your market and your ambition.
Frédéric Mazzella: Then you can raise hundreds of millions after it. It’s not the same.
Alejandro: Of course. Of course. The expectations are always different depending on the financing cycle you’re in. As a whole for the business, how much capital has been reported that you guys have raised?
Frédéric Mazzella: It’s around 400.
Alejandro: Around 400 million. I’ve seen as well that over a billion in evaluation. So, pretty good stuff. The next question that I want to ask you here is, what have you learned about marketplaces?
Frédéric Mazzella: I have learned that liquidities have reach. That you have to be very creative on the way you reach liquidity. You have to make sure the demand and offer meet as early as possible. After your brand is known and it’s known in many places and the liquidity kicks in, but at the beginning, it’s really tough. For example, someone is proposing a seat in their car from Paris to Nantes tomorrow at 4:00 pm, and then someone else is looking for a ride from Paris to Le Mans. Two days from now at 6:00 pm, you have no way to make them match. This happens for years sometimes until you begin to have matches. So, I’ve learned this. I’ve learned that you have really price [23:54], which are very interesting. You see statistics at work. It’s really fascinating to see the way numbers are more predictable than features or than emotions or creativity. Once you reach liquidity and your marketplace begins to work, you reach the network effect, and once you have network effects, the more the marketplace works, the better it works. The more people you have in the service, the better it works.
Alejandro: When you’re thinking about, as well, marketplaces, the question that is always there: profit versus growth. What are your thoughts on that?
Frédéric Mazzella: It’s a choice depending on where you are in your growth. It depends also on the competition. If you have a bit more time because you have no competitor, then it’s also an issue, but you can go to where it profits fast. Since there are lots of companies like this and not places grow by paying a lot to acquire new members, and then make the service work even better. You choose how much you want to spend depending on how fast you want to scale. So, you have a control on this. Part of what you spend, basically, the market and spending is the reflection of your ambition. If you want to scale slower, then you reduce the amount of marketing you spend. If you want to scale faster, then you increase it. Then profit is a result of all this equilibrium, but then you have the possibility to either spend a lot or spend less in terms of growth. It’s really a choice.
Frédéric Mazzella: When the company is growing and working, it’s a choice. If you want to be profitable, then you would slow your growth. If you want to grow faster, then you’ll spend more, and you’ll not be profitable.
Alejandro: Got it. You’ve been with this idea and at it since 2003. My question is, how have you seen the ecosystem in Europe for hyper-growth companies develop over time?
Frédéric Mazzella: it’s been a tremendous evolution. It’s incredible. Today, the young generation in France wants to create a company. Ten years from now, it was not the case. I would say the brightest students wanted to join a big corporation, and today, they want to create a startup. It’s a totally different mindset. Also, the ecosystem itself has evolved a lot, especially in the last three or four years. Now, that was raised by startups in France have tripled the last three years, and the growth this year is, again, almost 100% year over year in terms of investments and capital. We should reach probably 6 billion euros invested in startups in France in 2019, where we were at 3.5 last year.
Alejandro: Got it. When it comes to investments, you’ve been very active too. So, how many investments have you done in startups?
Frédéric Mazzella: I’ve invested in about 35 or 40 startups together. It’s not big amounts, but it’s usually on the very early rounds. It’s when the company is very fragile, ready to seed rounds because that’s what I love.
Alejandro: Typically, it’s a bet, I would assume, on the founder because it’s so early. What do you see in the beginning that makes it click for you and you say, “You know what? I’m going to go with it?”
Frédéric Mazzella: Yeah. You have to love the product and see that there is a market for sure. The main reason why you invest in a company is the founders. Founders are like cats. They have to be animals who will always end up on their feet because it would be bumpy because sometimes, they will fall; sometimes, they will have to jump. So, you want founders to be very agile and adaptable and be able to give up when the business or the service is not working as well as planned. For us, as I said, we tried six business models, and this is devoting every six months until you find the right business model to grow. That’s what you want to have. You may have a direction, but then you just do everything you can to end up doing what’s needed.
Alejandro: Would you say that when you’re pivoting like six times – and I’ve been there as well, so I understand what is going through that. So, my question is, how do you maintain the morale of the people around you when you’re going through these challenging changes?
Frédéric Mazzella: First, it was devoting mainly on the business model. So, it didn’t change the main vision, the main activity, and the simple fact that we were building a service for people to carpool. So, we didn’t change the activity totally. We simply changed the business model. But then what we can say is like with the recent announcements that we’ve done and the focus and the new purpose that we are bringing on the busses with BlaBlaBusses that we’ve launched, it is very important to make sure that everybody’s going with the big vision in mind to follow and to give most of their energy to the mission and the vision.
Alejandro: Of course.
Frédéric Mazzella: So, when the vision is clear, and you have elements to make sure that it’s clear to everyone, then it is possible to give out several times, and people follow as well, the founders.
Alejandro: You know this, Frédéric. There’s no such thing as a straight line as a founder. Looking back through all these years, yourself in your journey, has there been a moment that was a little bit darker than others, and perhaps a breakdown that led to a breakthrough?
Frédéric Mazzella: I would say yeah. The years when we had to pivot and change the business model every six months were a bit tough – the years as well in 2016 and 2017, where we had launched 20 countries in three years. So, from 2012 and 2015, we launched around 20 countries. Then out of those 20 countries, three of them were not coming as good as we expected, and we had to slow down a bit on those countries. It was also a difficult moment for us all because it was the first time that we had to say, “Well, you know, for once, we’re not opening a new country. We are like lowering the investments in those countries because it’s not rational right now to push with more money. So, we have chains on the ground, and then we had to say goodbye as well. This was really tough. It was new.
Alejandro: Yeah. Got it.
Frédéric Mazzella: Then with the vision and with the fact that you rationalize when you say, “Okay, we opened 20 countries, and 17 of them are working. That’s really an honor.” Then it’s rational.
Alejandro: To follow up on that, Frédéric, what have you learned about international expansion. Probably some of the people that are right now listening, they’re thinking about going overseas and opening in other places, so what recommendation would you give to them?
Frédéric Mazzella: Partner with people who know the country very well. Don’t suppose that you’re going there, and you would succeed there with your methods. Be ready to adapt your product and your messages because not all the countries will be able to adapt to your service.
Alejandro: Very, very powerful. Going back to BlaBlaCar, how big is BlaBlaCar today?
Frédéric Mazzella: Today, we are 450 people, and we are in 22 countries. We have a community of 80 million people; 75% of all activities now are now inside of France. Although France is very big in our numbers, it is only one-quarter of the activity. There are 25 million people that travel with BlaBlaCar each quarter.
Alejandro: Very cool.
Frédéric Mazzella: To give you a sense of scale, Eurostar has 2.5 million people per quarter. BlaBlaCar is 25, so it’s ten times more. British Airways had 10 million people a quarter. So, we have 2.5 more people traveling with BlaBlaCar than with British Airways. That’s just to give you a sense of scale. Just because it’s millions, it doesn’t mean anything.
Alejandro: Of course. No, no. That serves definitely as a good way to benchmark for the listeners. The space as a whole, the carsharing space, and what you’re seeing, where do you think the space as a whole is heading?
Frédéric Mazzella: I think what’s happening is that we are witnessing four revolutions at the same time in the mobility segment. It’s fascinating. The vehicles and mobility are becoming connected. They’re becoming autonomous. They’re becoming shared. They’re becoming electric.
Frédéric Mazzella: That’s four revolutions at the same moment, which is the reason why we see so much innovation in mobility today. Only one of those revolutions would already be a tsunami. Then we have four of them at the same time. So, it’s incredible, and mobility is so important for us all and for all human beings to move around their daily lives. Obviously, it’s a very important path where we can bring new services with so many revolutions. For now, many, many things are moving. It’s really a field which is in a total transformation. We will see clearer a few years from now what comes out of this, but I think some trends are already visible like the fact that we’re going through possibly more mass and mobility as a service.
Frédéric Mazzella: The fact that we will want to have [36:10] for mobility so that you find all mobilities in the same space. But also, of course, that would be on the passenger side, but also, we don’t really know what will be the effect of [36:27]. It can be great, or it can be disastrous because we already have lots of fancy cars running around, but at least there is always one person in the car who wants to move with the car. With autonomous cars, you could have cars running in the street, and there’s no one in it. For the environment, it would be even worse, but then the good news is that I think that autonomous cars or electric cars will need anyway to be shared because our society and planet cannot afford to continue to have empty cars. Whether they are electric or autonomous or running on gas or connected on up, they will have to be shared, which is why BlaBlaCar is, obviously, focusing on the sharing part. So, carpooling is really a way for people to save money and to save energy and to share the cost when passengers and drivers go in the same direction. When they share the cost, they also make it so that they reduce the air pollution resulting from moving around in the car. Last year alone, we calculated that we saved 1.6 million tons of co2 thanks to BlaBlaCar. To give you a sense of scale, 1.6 million tons of co2 saved is more than the entire emissions resulting from the road traffic in Paris for a year, which is 1.3 million tons of co2. So, last year, we saved more co2 than what a city like Paris emits in a year.
Alejandro: That’s amazing. That’s something that I’m seeing about entrepreneurs. They’re being more conscious about this and the level of impact that they have to the world that we live in. So, kudos to you guys for doing that.
Frédéric Mazzella: Yeah. The thing is in the motivation as well to build it, especially in the early years was really the fact that having empty cars running on the road was clearly going against the possibility for being rational on the way we use energy in mobility in cars. It was a real motivation for me. I thought I’d tell you that was back in 2006 where I said, “If with my project we can save 1% of the co2 emissions in the world, I will be happy. Actually, it’s always been a motivation for me and for the entire team, but we have never been so vocal about it because we knew that the environmental reason was not initially the reason why people were carpooling. They were carpooling for three main reasons: 1) To save on the cost because you share the cost. 2) To not drive alone because it’s too boring. 3) Because it saves the environment. But we knew it was not sufficient enough for people to do it, so we didn’t push that much on it.
Alejandro: Got it. One question that I typically ask the guests that I have on the show, Frédéric is, knowing what you know now – you’ve been at it for all these years – if you had the chance to talk to your younger self, with that Frédéric in 2003 that came up with the idea, given all the experience and the wealth of knowledge that you have been able to accumulate now, what one piece of business advice would you give to your younger self and why?
Frédéric Mazzella: Don’t hesitate to talk about your idea to anyone who’s ready to listen and who you think can bring good advice. Sometimes, we’re a bit paranoid when we launch an idea. We say, “This is such a good idea. I don’t want the others to know about it.” But that’s not the way to go because this would be forgetting that 90% or 99% of the value that you will be creating is around execution around the idea. So, even if someone has the idea, well, good for them. Then they need the time, the resources, and energy to make it happen.
Alejandro: Got it. And probably at an early stage, Frédéric, again, you work with a lot of early-stage founders. At an early stage when you’re at that level, where you’re at an idea level, I think that being able to brainstorm and perhaps finding holes and gaps that you didn’t know were there I think is key. For the people that are listening that are perhaps at that stage, who would you recommend that they should go out to brainstorm and get some feedback?
Frédéric Mazzella: Go to potential users, potential clients. Go talk to anyone who’s got an idea about business around you, anyone you know who’s doing business, anyone who actually knows the technologies that you will be needing. Yeah. That’s a good starting point I would say. Then also, if there’s someone you know who’s financing projects, you can go see if they would see a business model and how it would work. Then also, the best thing is if you know an entrepreneur, not far, who can reach and they have time for you, then go talk to them because an entrepreneur usually has all this in mind. They see the customer point of view, the investment opportunity, the media point of view, the technology point of view. They have to. When you’re an entrepreneur, you have to do a bit of everything, and you make a puzzle with everything you learned. So, if you have the chance to be able to talk to one, they’ll be able to help you make the puzzle happen.
Alejandro: Of course. You were talking about investors. How early do you think the founders should establish their relationship with investors?
Frédéric Mazzella: As soon as possible simply because investors invest in movies and not in pictures. When investors invest, usually they like to see that they’re seeing the same person that they saw one or two years ago. This person was saying that they would be doing this. Then the year after, they have actually done it, which means they are executing on their plan. This will convince investors. So, even if you are not raising money, it’s a good idea if you have the chance, go and see investors. Tell them about your plan and that you’re not ready to raise money from them at this moment, but you will be in a year or two from now. Then when you meet them again a year or two later on, they’ve known you for a year or two. So, they will have a bit of the movie, and still have several pictures.
Alejandro: Of course. Building trust is super important. Frédéric, for the folks that are listening, what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi?
Frédéric Mazzella: I would say on LinkedIn even though it’s very crowded.
Alejandro: I hear you. Do you have Twitter, for example, as well?
Frédéric Mazzella: Twitter, yeah, but I don’t go that often on Twitter. I think when I publish on LinkedIn, it automatically publishes on Twitter because maybe I’m lazy, but I try to synchronize my accounts so that I don’t need to send the same information over all the channels by doing three things. When I write on LinkedIn, I think it publishes automatically on Twitter and on Facebook.
Alejandro: Very cool, and people know that they can find you on LinkedIn. Well, thank you, Frédéric. Really appreciate having you on the show today.
Frédéric Mazzella: Thank you very much.
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