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.
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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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This opportunity to take over SaaS marketplace OpenJet seemed like a good middle ground. He took over 50% of the company. The deal seemed almost too good to be true, and it really ended up being that way.
He found the company culture tough. It was cutthroat. It was toxic. Internally people were trying to take advantage of each other. He ended up in court battling the other cofounder before leaving.
This really drove home the lesson of picking your team, investors and especially your cofounders well.
He says it really isn’t much different than choosing a partner to marry. So, you had better put the same amount of thought and care into it. Most notably that you really have a shared vision of wanting to build the same thing, to the same scale, and to do it with integrity.
You also have to know each other, divide the workload and respect each other’s roles.
Raphael has certainly carried all of these lessons forward to creating his latest startup baby, Luko. A home insurance tech startup.
They started out bootstrapping. Even bringing in their family members and little brothers to help build the sensor hardware. Then managed to attract a team who shared their passion for building a solution.
Their progress helped attract investors, enabling them to raise $74M from notable investors like Accel and Founders Fund.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Raphael was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.
Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
Today, Luko has a 90 person team and insure 100k homes in France alone. They are currently working on expanding internationally and rolling out new and even more exciting products to make our homes safer, greener and simpler.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- How Luko is changing the way we manage and insure our homes
- Raphael’s top advice for other entrepreneurs
- What to look for in VC investors