In this mini-series, we interview founders and understand along them the human journey of building a company: it is about people and how they behave in order to build a successful company.
Théo is the cofounder and CSO of Smart Renting, a startup which helps people rent their apartment while away, usually studying abroad. They get to keep their apartment without wasting any money.
Théo is quite the impressive founder. Building his first company while being in college, spontaneously deciding to go work with sleigh dogs in north Canada… He knows a lot about daring to try new things and handling day-to-day stress (and vital stress, too).
Elveo: You’ve been through many hardships during your journey. In your shoes, many people would give up, so how do you achieve this daring attitude?
Théo: Daring has always been my way of work. It’s difficult to understand where this energy comes from. It probably wasn’t taught by my parents, they were engineers, not really a “break the rules” kind of spirit.
For example, when I was a kid, I dreamt of dog sledding. Just after exiting my first company, I had a few months clear and I decided to go to North Canada to work in this area. I called many companies out there, I had no background in this field and living conditions were extremely difficult. But I tried it for the sake of adventure. It turned out to be the best experience of my life. Out there, there is nothing, just silence everywhere. It’s a wonderful opportunity to ask yourself the real, deep questions of life to reevaluate your WHY.
Now I’m building a company, which is a stressful job, but in North Canada I experienced another kind of stress: vital stress. I’ve fought for my own survival which has in turn helped me understand that day-to-day stress is meaningless.
To return to your question, I’ve always tried new things for the sake of experience and I’ve learned a lot this way. Not sure from where it comes from, it’s just part of who I am.
In your journey, you had to make many sacrifices, how did you live with that?
T: It was painful. During the first year at Smart Renting, me and my 2 cofounders had to do all the cleaning and laundry in the apartments we were renting. Every day on the street, in the car between multiple apartments, washing, cleaning, delivering and so on.
The days were really long and all of this cost each of us 700€ per month. We had to pay it with our own money and we didn’t pay ourselves for 2 years.
We’ve all thought of dropping out, one at a time. That’s the moment when a strong founding team makes the difference. We did it together, supporting each other and this way, we’ve pursued our venture.
When building a startup team, it’s not just about work. It’s about true affective attachment. After going through huge amounts of stress, you create strong links because you live complex moments, you make sacrifices.
In my first company, while I was at the university, I was alone and that was the hardest thing.
These difficulties are about the beginning. What about scaling a team? How did you create a meaningful team while intensity arises?
T: You know, every founder of the company did every job we’re recruiting for today. Each task, each difficulty, we’ve encountered them. So when you’ve done that, you know which kind of strengths you’re looking for and how you can empower people to excel in their field.
30% of our time is dedicated to meeting our teams to understand how their wellness evolves
When we recruit someone, one of the essential things we care about is: do people believe in our company? It’s crucial because when things gets complicated, you’re able to make a difference: people try everything they can to keep the company alive.
Scaling a team is really about understanding people. How they perceive the company, if they believing in it. This is hard to understand but it makes the difference.
What can we learn from Théo?
Théo’s journey is all about daring to experience new things and persevering in these experiences. Trying new things is just one part of the story, all the success comes after having persevered, you have to fight for what you believe.
Fighting for something isn’t easy, that’s why having a strong founding team, which can help each other in their difficulties is key. Everyone can lose faith in what they do, so having a team which can support you at any time can be a game changer.
A special thank you to Théo for his inspiring journey!