In this mini-series, we’re interviewing founders and understanding with them the human journey of building a company. It’s about people and how they behave in order to build a successful company.
Baptiste is the cofounder and COO of Phenix, a startup which helps companies build a more sustainable life cycle for your products by reusing old ones of any kind.
Elveo: What’s the best way to find good cofounder(s)?
Baptiste: Phenix is my third company. In my previous one, we were three cofounders. One of them was unmanageable, we fought a lot and finally decided to go our separate ways. But these difficulties brought me and my third cofounder closer, it helped us work together and trust each other. We came to understand how to build something together and how best to manage our relations. Now, we’ve build Phenix together and we challenge ourselves all the time and I think that’s the best way to work with someone.
It’s important to understand that hard skills shouldn’t be the first criteria in the beginning. When first creating a company, everyone gets involved in everything, which makes it almost useless to find someone with professional competence. You need to meet a person entirely different from you, who might learn a given trade faster than you.
Take time and watch: do people do more than what you’ve asked for? How do they behave in the long run?
Ask yourself these questions after some time and you will know whether you can build something together.
How to keep a cofounder?
B: At Phenix we challenge ourselves everyday. I don’t take decisions because I’m the COO, I take decisions when I’m serious about them. If anyone, no matter the title, can prove I’m wrong, they win.
We make decision by convincing each other. If we can’t, it probably wasn’t the right choice.
Ego is often to blame for the break up of founder teams. Ego is the most dangerous thing for a startup founder: it will blur your mind, your decisions, and everything you do. Try very hard not to make choices according to your ego, but according to what’s best for your company.
How do you not give up, what motivates you?
B: Most people do get quickly tired out of situations. That’s why they give up.
I’ve worked as an employee since I was 15. I had responsibilities, things to manage and it slowly became natural. I had many ideas and wanted to create something of my own.
When you build anything with an honest passion you just want to make it happen. You don’t get tired. If you’re tired of entrepreneurship, you’ve started for the wrong reason. If you take time to doubt, you’re dead. You don’t ask yourself “should I go on?” If you do, it’s already over.
The key is to have a plan B. If my first company dies what can I do next, what’s my next dream? Being a founder is being a battery that never runs out. Always on, always thinking about your next move. My first two companies died but I had a flame inside me. I didn’t think about it, I launched a third one.
People give up because they don’t have motivation. People want to build a company because they want the CEO title on their Linkedin profile. You need to be honest with yourself, why am I starting a company? What am I looking for?
Money for example is the worst motivation ever. Of course you need some, but building a company for money is a quick win. You just want to get a lot of money and fast. The problem is you don’t get it fast. You work for free for months and if one day you exit your company, you’ll be more broke than any of your 9-5 friends.
What can we learn from Baptiste?
Baptiste pointed out the importance of finding your why. Beyond money (which is essential when building a company), for lasting motivation, one needs purpose. Money is only the result, what matters is to be motivated by the journey.
Choosing the right cofounder is key. Take your time, watch how they behave, especially in the long run. Do you have things in common? Can you be friends? Choose them for their soft skills, their behaviours, not what they know because a startup is a constant learning.
To keep your cofounders, be a legitimate leader: challenge your decisions with your team and put your ego to the side.
A special thank you to Baptiste for his time and inspiring tips!