Raphael Vullierme has started and built out several startups. His latest home insurance tech startup has already raised $74M and is beginning to expand globally.
During our interview on the DealMakers Podcast, Raphael shared his journey into startups and how he has built his latest venture from bootstrapped to VC funded. Plus, his tips on picking cofounders, investors and building a team, and what makes the foundations of a successful business.
Figuring Out What You Want To Do (And Not)
Vullierme was born and raised in the French Alps. A place where you grow up going to school in the morning, and then go skiing in the afternoons.
He says his brother and parents had very risk averse, traditional jobs working for the state. However, his grandparents were a little more entrepreneurial. One was a farmer, and built up his own business from investing in the equipment to creating produce. That planted the early seeds of inspiration for desiring to build something of his own in the future too.
Growing up Raphael says he always had an engineering mindset, and a natural talent for coding. Though he set out on several internships to figure out what he really liked and wanted to do.
The first was with Accenture on a SAP project. A big software venture that took 200 people and four years. While the platform was good he found it too boring. He couldn’t bear to keep working on mundane tasks.
Next it was Cartier. Where he enjoyed the creativity and expression. Then he had the chance to join L’Oréal before going on to start his own company.
Raphael dove right into starting his own business while still in business school.
Before ubereats and Grubhub he launched Goodfood. A meal delivery service. At the time the only food you could get delivered in Europe was sushi and pizza.
Together with a cofounder they set out to change this with a vertically-integrated food delivery service. One in which they controlled the cooking, the menu and the delivery.
With two interns on board his co-founder pulled back, just as Rocket Internet began bringing a similar business model to Europe from the USA.
He saw joining them as a great way to fast track his learning. They had a lot more capital, a much bigger team and could burn a million dollars a month.
In this process he moved to Germany and was tasked with hiring a lot of people, even though he didn’t speak the language. A fast way to experience that problem solving and engineering way of life it takes to be an entrepreneur every day.
He learned a lot about setting your business up for future success (or failure), company culture, and managing and investing in people.
He saw the calamities set up by hiring poorly, treating people unfairly, compromising on delivering promises you made and the cost of losing trust.
He says that to have long term success you need to select people to work with that you are going to want to keep working with for the next 10 years, and then to treat them like you will. The outcome of that is a much more enjoyable working experience every day.
When it comes to taking on big consumer markets, he says having that access to capital and speed of execution are critical.
Picking Your Cofounders Well
Sometimes it takes a couple tries to really learn our lessons well. Which is perhaps why repeat entrepreneurs eventually become so successful. Those first couple of ventures frequently turn out to be sprints in learning what not to do.
It turns out this was true of Vullierme’s next venture too.
Moving back to Paris, France, he was presented the opportunity to acquire an existing business. He wasn’t quite ready to build something new from scratch again by himself, but knew that he had to stick with entrepreneurship. Otherwise you get rusty and those golden handcuffs can steal your willingness to take risks and try something new.
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