Working with the best Techies

Web entrepreneurs with no tech background like myself quickly find out how crucial the product and the tech is, and how difficult it is to find (and trust ) real talents. 

Today I don’t hesitate to delay a project until everyone agrees the product is “perfect” for the stage we’re at. With L’Idealist, it’s even more complex as we need to START with a perfect product given what we are selling. This involves a lot of testing and not compromising on key features. I went through dozens of designers until I found someone who could translate what I had in mind. 

Each time he interviewed a candidate, a former tech partner started with the following scenario, one that has no relation to computer science:

“If you want to work for me, I need you to mix a pitcher of the ultimate margarita for my entire eng team. We’re a large crew, so you are going to need exactly 4 liters of tequila. However we only have opaque three liter and five liter jugs.  How can you find four liters?”

" OK, so it’s that annoying puzzle from junior high, one so common that Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson dramatized it in that classic scene from the third Die Hard. My interviews always include this brain teaser and my hope is the answer doesn’t come easily. I hope the candidate squirms a little but eventually works through the riddle.  

The right one will ask for a clarification or two, look for a creative angle, and take the suggestions tossed their way to solve the problem. I’m not looking for a coding robot with a list of certifications. My team is made up of people who can think outside the box, who can talk like a human, and who get a kick out of using both sides of their brain. I am always looking for more of these thinkers. “

Obviously knowing how to code is key to building a website, but what good is that one skill unless you also know how to communicate? In my experience the best way to learn communication is by engaging in activities that move, challenge and give you pleasure.

Integral to a developer’s job is taking someone else’s code and working with it. More often than not you get that code in some kind of last-minute, down-to-the-wire crisis when the original engineer is nowhere to be found. It’s at these times when you prove your mettle and your method to solving problems is far more important than just the facts in your head.

A lot of “tech emergencies” (they can always be remembered fondly if the outcome is positive) practically involve no coding. Those fixes often don’t require engineering, but critical reading, knowing who to talk to, what to ask, and being able to incorporate their nuggets of wisdom to the problem.

So power down your computer. Forget about being the best at functions, arrays and other computer science basics; those skills you can develop along the way. Look to develop your creative thinking by reading a challenging book, joining a local  amateur theater group, or even learning mixology. Do that often, and eventually you’ll achieve something much greater than anything you can put on a resume: a truly beautiful mind. 

5 Things Super Lucky People Do

From Kevin Daum : really basic but very well summed up. 

Bad and Good luck are irrelevant concepts. First, you can only “improve your luck” on a limited amount of things, those you can CONTROL. When cancer strikes, it is “bad luck”.

The moment we are born, we are already more or less lucky in theory depending where it is and who gave you birth and their genes. In theory as what matters is happiness and probabilities. As in, you have a higher probability to be happy by sticking to “principles”, and it’s rather your state of happiness which both makes you perceive “luck” and “increases it”.  

Luck and your life in general are just an infinite series of events, a part of which you have control on, a part you don’t. The more control you have and the happier you are, the less the probability something bad happens. 

I read a book from a guy who has done everything perfectly his whole life. Education, career, family, wealth, you name it, he was 100% in control. He had it all. Then he learns he has a non-curable brain tumor at 45, and it’s fascinating to see him write his memoirs while his brain functions less and less, till the point he just stops in the middle of a sentence which no longer meant anything. 

But at least, he wasn’t unhappy while dying; even for that, he was  ”prepared”. 

"The Luck of the Irish" is an American phrase that comes from the days of the gold rush in the 1800s.  Intolerant Americans figured the Irish people weren’t smart enough to find gold, and blamed their success on being lucky rather than skilled. In reality, America’s early immigrants have time and again proven themselves to be hardworking and smart enough to generate their own good fortune consistently.

So often I have witnessed people excuse their own inadequacies by crediting the success of others to luck.  Salespeople I know disparage their more successful competitors as lucky. If those salespeople would make as many calls or work as many hours as their competitors, they would realize that their probability of closing is fairly equal. The competitors are simply swinging the bat more often.

The truth is that seemingly lucky people are opportunists. They do the things that allow them to take advantage of the world around them. For them, it’s not about being in the way of good luck or bad. It’s the actions they take to get what Jim Collins refers to as a high return on luck whichever way the pendulum swings. Follow these five tips and you can be as lucky as anyone, no four-leaf clover or rabbit’s foot required.

1. Play to your strengths. So much time and energy is wasted trying to do things you probably don’t do very well. Author and Inc. columnist Lewis Schiff learned from his survey of incredibly wealthy people that they got that way by focusing only on what they do best. Everything else you can delegate, or you could find a partner to compensate for your weaknesses. That way, you will shine where you excel and attract opportunity. Good things come to those who emanate success.

2. Prepare in advance. Unlucky people often get that way because they’re reactive and unprepared for whatever comes. People who have stored food and water in their basements aren’t lucky to find themselves prepared when disaster strikes, they used forethought to make sure they had what they might need just in case. I personally scoff at this horrible recent trend of disparaging business plans because things change constantly. The point of a business plan isn’t to follow it no matter what, it’s to establish a structure for smart decision making that allows you to succeed no matter what the future might bring.

3. Start early. Some people seem to have more hours in the day. I myself don’t need more than six hours of sleep and am constantly finding ways to be more efficient. I use that extra time to start my projects well in advance. My rewards aren’t dependent upon the time of day that I take action. (This column is being written at 3 a.m.) But it does matter that I’m beginning to explore projects I expect to complete months or years from now. So many people only want to put their energy into things that provide immediate gratification. The most fortunate people I know are the ones who planted seeds early and now reap that harvest of happiness.

4. Connect with as many people as possible. The key to success is access to opportunity. Access comes from influence. If you’re influential, people will come and bring opportunities to you. The bigger your following, the more powerful your influence. The only way to build a big following is to provide value to many people. You have to provide the sort of value that will cause people to spread your thoughts far and wide, attributing credit to you when they do. Are you creating that kind of value? If not, figure how you can.

5. Follow up. Opportunities often come and go because people don’t respond in a timely manner. I’m always amazed when people ask me for something and I respond only to never hear from them again. Three months ago, a young woman asked me if I hire interns or assistants. I replied immediately saying I’m always willing to consider hiring people who bring value to my work. I asked her how she thought she could enhance what I could do. I never heard from her again. Perhaps she now considers herself unlucky that opportunity doesn’t come her way. I believe that following up is often more powerful and impressive than the act of initiating.

May you be so lucky to have people in your life that follow up.

The First Commandment: Thou Shalt not be an Asshole (1)

It makes for a good title and a bit of fun, but Tucker Max is wrong : Assholes do not finish first. 

What could make me some kind of authority to even debate on this? 

We’ll get there, although if I had time I’d start with a story. Always start with a story, that’s simple.

First, don’t mix up “demanding” with “asshole”. Steve Jobs may be the first example of an asshole who was overly successful, but he was rather “anal” about details, uncompromising and the like, but he was not plain mean nor particularly manipulative. Anna Wintour is no “devil”, she’s just very cold, rather shy, puts results before people- and a total snob, but not “mean for the sake of it”.  

Now, there is a colossal difference between being respected (or at least not taken advantage of), and being a nasty egocentric person who mainly feels good abusing whatever small power they perceive to have (I’m your client - I’m a lawyer and you’re my client - I’m a semi-successful investor). 

Don’t always shut up when someone “crosses the line” (unless he’s crazy in which case ignoring/running away is the only option), because these people interpret that as weakness, and are thrilled to abuse it.

However, do think about a way to respond with clear arguments. That may take more than a second, and you must get a hold of your potential anger, which is why “temporary withdrawal tactics” are good. If anger is involved, it should be in a deliberate way: outrage does work in specific cases, but not in general. 

You never come off better rejecting someone nastily. No need to be overly nice and naive, and at some point you’re bound to encounter when you start running businesses a few types like: 

- the bullying smartass

- the old guy who’s not only supersmart but has seen it all, and looks at you with perverse and disdainful squinted eyes

- the loud and fast talking machine

- the power-hungry manipulative biat.., I mean woman

How do you project authority and deal with these types? 

Why is House of Cards so gripping?

1. It’s the first show to ever release its whole season instantaneously. It goes against the common-sense which would have Netflix release one a week to keep users subscribed. 

But as a result, everyone is pondering how to binge watch it in a proper fashion. We begin to think we owe Netflix something because they LET US DECIDE and in control. 

2. It’s the first show to ever picture a ruthless, amoral, manipulative and entirely shameless couple. Who obtain everything they want and crush any opponent within a few episodes for the most tenacious. 

The absolute lack of remorse is key: it is the basis of all religions and societies.

This is the opposite of the engrained belief that you just cannot get away with EVERYTHING, always. And even if you did, you would be deeply tormented, have relapses.. hesitate perhaps. 

So we begin to wonder if it is actually possible to be the most selfish and mean person ever depicted, be very happy for that, and never have anyone in your way. Surely no one could be like that in real life? even the nastiest politicians. 

More troubling, you can’t really manage to hate the Underwoods. You pity their puppets but think they are idiots.

Good and Evil have disappeared. All this is quite disturbing, and therefore, fascinating. 

Some say they can’t take it and comment: 

"Disgusting. I will not watch another episode of this abomination.
The show has become a gross irreverent abuse of our national pride and esteem by directly associating ruthless deeds down to and below Romanesque murder with the prestige of our nation’s capital and leaders.
I don’t care one lick if it’s really like that in DC or not. The message it gives to all Americans who aspire to greatness is low and unworthy of its association with our capital.”

Does one really believe the guy will stop after this 1st episode? 

What’s the best launch strategy for a web startup?

  • Have a great unique product. Not just great but also unique.
  • Reach out to your customer. It could be telling friends, SEO, paid advertising, PR etc. Limit paid advertising until people start buying from you, even just a few, and then scale according to your business. Usually having nothing to sell implies no paid advertising. 
  • Make a viral loop so that pleased customer can tell friends about their great experience with the product. Their friends will now tell other friends about their experience and so on.
  • The launch is a continuing process not a one time event.

This last point seems to be the hardest to get for a lot of people. You should actually “be launching” probably for a year. Why set a date, or worse, signal you’re not ready by putting “beta”? 

You can afford to label your product as “beta” if you are Google; otherwise just get real people to your product as soon as it’s viable, deal with the inevitable issues, and never stop improving. 

You’re not launching a car or a perfume and it still strikes me how many people still don’t get that. 

The 7 deadly Sales Sins… and the strange inability to follow-up in France

Again a great post from which I am about to try out as a potential comprehensive solution. They apply what they advocate and follow up daily. The below applies to so many business situations in general, and while it is “standard practice” for a lot of American companies, I virtually never saw these common sense practices from a French/European one. 

I think the worst “sin” they commit over here is “not following up”. I noticed it was even worse in Italy but cannot really speak for other countries. It seems deeply engrained in our culture that following up somehow hurts your ego, maybe makes you a lesser human being, and that it is absolutely useless. Often enough, even as a client, I have to harass people for them to sell me what I want.

As everyone I hate having to harass anyone, but in general getting something done here requires a lot more effort than in the US, and I’ve come to the conclusion that in general when the “transaction” or “service provided” doesn’t happen on the spot, they just drop it, never ever answer, until you become such a nuisance for them that they’ll eventually do it - not because they see business potential, but simply to get rid of you (again I’m speaking from a CLIENT’s standpoint). The few exceptions come from international companies which strictly impose their standards. 

Web companies, who you’d think just have to copy the US CRM, typically make weak attempts at following up which at best involves a generic newsletter landing in your spam. You’ll never receive anything from a 5 star hotel you stayed at, a contractor, a lawyer you consulted, a store you bought from; it’s a challenge to get a hold of your bank rep (you really need to go to the very best private banks), and in general no one ever calls or emails back, even when they’re interested. No one ever tries to keep you as a customer, or again unless they are forced to by company standards. I think the general belief is “you’ll buy if you want to and interfering is not only useless but degrading”. 

All in all the economy still works as you still have to purchase things down the road, and you hardly feel the “consumer society” excesses like in the US, where you end up buying tons of things you don’t need! 

1. Not Understanding Your Customer: Many startups make generalizations as to what their customers want. There may be a specific market for your product or service, but each customer’s challenges are going to be different. I’ve seen founders conduct poor research into their prospective customer before pitching them, and then fail to ask those customers specific questions in regards to their unique needs and pain-points. Instead, they’ll talk on and on about how great their product is and its 10 unique features. Startups need passion for their idea, but not at the expense of taking the time to understand your customers and asking the right questions.

2. Not Selling: Most startups explain all the bells and whistles of their product, but fail to sell the core solution to their customer’s problem. To do that, you need to ask the customer questions to understand what they really need. A prospective customer needs to be sold on the 2-3 benefits your product provides to them, rather than the 100 features you’re planning to build into the product in the future.

3. Not Showing Up: Most startups don’t go out into the market to pitch real people and close actual customers. As a result, they miss out on two key experiences crucial to a young company. First, the founders miss the opportunity to connect directly with their earliest customers and develop long-term relationships. Second, they miss direct customer feedback, which often provides the best recommendations to improve a young company’s product or service.

4. Not Following Up: Most startups pitch once and never follow up again. Maybe they follow up once or twice, but not relentlessly. Startup founders & too many startup hustlers are not shameless enough (sound familiar?). They worry too much about intruding on the prospect’s time or being too persistent out of fear of losing the sale. If you lose a prospective customer because you followed up too much, then they weren’t going to close anyways. I’m not advocating calling someone every few minutes, until they rip their phone line out of the wall; but giving up on a prospect won’t lead to a new customer. Keep up with them until they come to a decision, either a “yes” or a “no.” Everything else doesn’t count. 

5. No Process in Place: Startups love to optimize their UI/UX but not their sales funnel. Most don’t even have a sales funnel to optimize. Startups today have access to a vast amount of data but often fail to track some basic metrics for their sales funnel; calls/emails, connections to decision makers, qualified leads, closed deals/deal value and time to close.

6. Not the Right Price: Startups often think the cheaper their service the better. While a low price tag does lower the barrier to entry for your customers, it can also dilute the value of your product. If your email or website plugin provides massive value for your customers, why is it the same monthly subscription price as Netflix? When you have a viral product that gets massive traction online, you can have a low price. When you need sales people to sell your product or enterprise customers, you need to consider if your product is priced appropriately to sustain your business. Ultimately, startups need to charge their customers what their product is worth and sell them on its value, not its price tag.

7.  Not Asking for the Sale: Sometimes simply asking for the sale makes the process move forward in the direction that you want. After all of the phone calls, demos, and follow up, some startups are still afraid to ask for a customer’s business out of fear of losing the sale. If you spent so long cultivating your relationship with the customer, wouldn’t it be easy to close your new best friend?

Some entrepreneurs start their business out of love for art or fashion, some for science and technology. At the end of the day, every startup needs to succeed in pitching their product or service to make their vision a reality. 

7 key characteristics!

From Steli @ I’d apply that to any “start up person”, especially founders (except tech who don’t need 5), and in general traits below are a plus (except in admin or big corp positions). Very pertinent. 

There are 7 key characteristics you want to look for in yourself as well as your team if you want to do sales for a startup: 

  1. Focus on results
  2. Impatience
  3. Shamelessness
  4. Strong follow up
  5. High tolerance for rejection
  6. High sense of values
  7. Resourcefulness

It you’re looking to hire sales people for your startup you should make sure they check off on the above criteria. If you’re looking to improve your own sales game ask yourself how you’re stacking up in these areas and pick at least one of them you want to improve in the next 30 days. You can write down a quick action plan for that or simply reply to this email asking me for advice/feedback. I’m always happy to help :)


A startup sales person is someone who is single minded in her quest to get results. Nothing else motivates her. Nothing else matters. To do the startup hustle you have to think big picture and you have to be driven by creating significant results for your venture. It doesn’t matter if it’s closing deals or closing a round of funding - a startup sales person gets things done that drive revenue for the company and that are crucial for survival and for growth.


A good startup sales person knows only one timeline: NOW! She wants to find the shortest way possible to generate the needed outcomes. 


A good startup sales person is willing to look foolish in the name of progress. She is willing to ask for things that others are afraid to ask for. The reason for that is that she doesn’t care about rejection or humiliation to some extent. She knows that failure is part of the game and understands that you can’t succeed if you don’t go for it. Only extraordinary actions create extraordinary results.

Follow up

This is a big one: A good startup sales person knows that life is all about the follow up. If showing up is 50% of success - the other half is about being the one person that actually follows up until you get the job done.


If she doesn’t get rejected she’s not really startup sales material. If she doesn’t have a high tolerance for emotional pain she will not last out there in the cold world of the startup hustle. Resilience regarding rejection is a must!


A good startup sales person wants to generate value. She’s not just in it for a quick buck. Or for her ego. She knows that her strength is her fearless attitude toward getting things done and closing deals for the startup. She wants to use that power for good and for something she believes in.


Startups are places with little resources. By definition you’re looking for people that can do a lot with a little and that are inventive in their approach as well.

A good startup sales person will have all of these characteristics. It’s easy to find bad sales people and tough to find good ones (just like with hackers and designers). But when you find one you never want to let go of them. 

The importance of building a safe transactional environment


I was curious to figure out how this company was being scammed as they just sell online calling services. 

Entrepreneurs tend to neglect the importance of getting payments right - that is controlling the massive amount of fraud they will be subject to, especially if they sell “cheap services” (intangible goods). 

You cannot begin to imagine the extent and the increased sophistication of fraud related to (but not only) credit cards. 

It has obviously grown exponentially with the access to fast internet connections and cheap computers everywhere in the world, and today a great deal of office buildings in developing countries mainly host thousands of fraudsters - because it remains the most lucrative job they can do over there, sadly. And a lot of them are quite smart. 

Today one of our major focus with L’Idealist is to ensure optimal safety for all transactions. 

Thankfully our service won’t be a major target for the “mass fraudsters” as we only sell expensive and physical items, which we only ship once payment was made, and perform extensive checks on buyers - but also vendors, for which the obvious pitfalls being counterfeit items or even non-existant ones. The latter happening more often than you would think, since all you need is a good looking website, appealing photos and interesting prices. 

That’s why we investigate on each of our vendor’s reputation, both with peers and by surveying their past clients, and offer a comprehensive guarantee to buyers.

The fact L’Idealist functions like a “marketplace” enables us to obtain a vast amount of feedback and extensive analytics, meaning vendors or buyers who might not respect our demanding standards are easily spotted. 

As for buyer’s payments, we go as far as checking on the provenance of a wire transfer, and obviously use all the possible checks on credit cards. The transaction and shipping not being instantaneous adds a final layer of security.

Here again, L’Idealist offers vendors for the first time ever, a comprehensive guarantee covering any potential late chargeback, notably from customers acting in bad faith. No matter their location, we are spending time to conclude agreements with credit card companies and recovery agencies, and simply only accept wire transfers if all security standards are not met. 

We believe one of the key services we can bring is peace of mind when it comes to important transactions, not only in terms of amount, but because we are dealing with unique pieces. 

Dodge that bullet!

It took me a while to understand the main key to happiness lies in avoiding conflict. Everyone loses something in a conflict, if only time and peace of mind. And life is short. 

I’ll be brief because I have too much work at the moment. As I said, life is short.  

First, it’s easier to avoid conflict if you don’t get involved in business or politics and don’t have a competitive nature. Otherwise, most conflicts can be PREVENTED

1. Do your homework and be prepared for anything that you can plan. For instance, launching a company where you aim to disrupt an existing player means that guy will sue you at some point, no matter whether you are nice or not. Especially in the US, you will be attacked from all possible sides if you are successful. 

2. Never ever show anger. Especially in writing. That used to be my main weakness: I thought it was fine to be spontaneous, to burst out, speak my mind, then reconcile or apologize or whatever. Most of the time I wasn’t really angry at all.

Issue is, most people don’t take that too well because they don’t feel like being spontaneous, or they’re not used to it - it becomes too unsettling for them and you can’t predict how they’ll react. 

There aren’t even good ways to “use anger”. Be firm when bullied but don’t fight back without a tactic. It only happens in movies that you convince a bully you’re stronger, or right and they’re wrong. In real life no one will admit they’re wrong.

3. Build a wall: completely IGNORE people who are trouble and surround yourself with positive minds. Fend off as many assholes as you can, because they’ll just be a waste of your time. 

4. Be discreet (not secretive but selective). It’s not in my nature, although I’m not loud, I would tend to give TMI (too much information, FYI). Unless your job is being Kim Kardashian, just keep your private life for your friends and loved ones. They’re the ones to spend time speaking with, not strangers who don’t always have the best intentions. Being transparent doesn’t mean sharing everything with everyone. 

5. Don’t be naive. Most people will be very annoying even for a bit of money. Most people will steal if they can get away with it. Most people are stingy and rarely recognize generosity. If you feel something is a scam, it is. If you feel somebody is a fraud, he is. We all have a tendency to overestimate our capacity of dealing with all the crap out there. We “know better”. Nope : Refer to point 3. 

Now, what do you do when someone attacks or scams you? 

1st example: the garage owner who repairs my scooter (which as usual was vandalized, that’s the charm of Paris) didn’t finish half of the repairs after 3 months. I didn’t want all his “extras” (everyone knows a garage owner is more or less a crook, at least in France), so he probably felt the insurance money wasn’t enough. So he wants me to take my scooter (which can’t be driven), pay 20€/day for parking fees he incurred, and (why not try?) 600€ extra (“the painting was more expensive”). The only way to deal w this is patiently, writing letters, getting the insurance on board (they still need to take the scooter to another garage), and have the police intervene. However ponder how much your time is worth: usually if the scam isn’t huge, you’re better off paying, but never after giving it all in a fierce negotiation. Take the emotion out of the equation: that’s the tough part. Practice! 

2nd example: the ludicrous, meritless lawsuit. Some guy was working as a freelancer and after his assignment ended, sued my company to try and claim he was actually an employee and should be paid full time, plus a severance package and a whole list of the most outrageous things. Remember this was France and you do have a lot of people who sue their employer because they always get something easily. But the guy had worked maybe 42h, was a student at Sciences Po where he’d taken legal courses apparently, and was asking something like 12,000€. I mean, that was just funny. I didn’t know him but got angry at him: in fact, the solution was to do… nothing at all. 

Doesn’t mean being lazy, but in 90% of cases, just doing nothing, shutting up- while monitoring the situation will solve it. 

If you run a business, you’re bound to see laughable claims coming at some point: in the US, you just need a great attorney, and forget about them to focus on growing your company. Cost of doing business! 


Looking for partners in a startup is almost as difficult as finding really good dates. But it’s a bit less linked to chance than true love, at least. 

First, figure out exactly who you’re looking for. I mean, in detail: this view is bound to evolve. Look for people you get along with but have complementary PERSONALITIES. 

Personalities, not skills, I said. 


As Mr Branson puts it: 

There is nothing more important for a business than hiring the right team. If you get the perfect wrong mix of people working for your company startup, it will die you have a far greater chance of success

The first thing to look for when searching for a great employee partner is somebody with a personality that fits with your company culture yourself. Most skills can be learned, but it is difficult to train people on their personality. If you can find people who are fun, friendly, caring and love helping others, and DELIVER, you are on to a winner.

Personality is the key. It is not something that always comes out in interview – people can be shy. But you have to trust your judgement. If you have got a slightly introverted person with a great personality, use your experience to pull it out of them. It is easier with an extrovert, but be wary of people becoming overexcited in the pressure of interviews.

You can learn most jobs extremely quickly once you are thrown in the deep end. Within three months you can usually know the ins and outs of a role. If you are satisfied with the personality, then look at experience and expertise. Find people with transferable skills – you need team players who can pitch in and try their hand at all sorts of different jobs. While specialists are sometimes necessary, versatility should not be underestimated.

Some managers get hung up on qualifications / degrees / past experience. I only look at them after everything else. If somebody has five degrees and more A grades than you can fit on one side of paper, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right person for the job. Great grades count for nothing if they aren’t partnered with broad-ranging experience and a winning personality.

Actually, like a ton of details, they mean something because they give you elements about the personality. 

It’s just not possible to have spent 15 years working as a Management Consultant and say you know the in-and-outs of entrepreneurship- you’re absolutely ready!

Well, as long as you get paid almost as much.

That’s remaining an employee. 

Having “(almost) launched” 34 ideas, like the true entrepreneur you are, but needing money. 

That’s becoming an employee.

Nothing wrong with that, I guess less than 0.01% of people launch their own company and make it a business, that is something that generates revenue (or at least you can sell to someone). It’s very difficult especially if your family has no money. It’s only gratifying after a while and most often, never- and always very demanding. It’s something too many people want to like (the “wantepreneurs”) but few actually will.  


At Smartdate I made so many hiring mistakes that we could have withstood all the tough luck without them. These make me a good talent spotter now, because I never would want to go through what I endured. 

I used to think it was a good thing to “try out people”. It’s not. The wrong people destroy value besides time and money, even in a few weeks. Plus in France, it’s always a pain to fire them.

The first person I hired was a disaster. I had strong doubts and was going to rescind my offer right when he showed up. I got weak: I needed someone, and that was an online dating business based in France, meaning talent was not exactly knocking at the door. 

Jesus that guy was the worst pain and one of the best specimen of a stalker-loser I came across. Great way to start your company! 

Besides being useless, he started making the most absurd demands after 2 weeks (I want 30% of the company and so on). I fired him on the spot and he relentlessly sued me for at least 2.5 years. I received threats from his family for a year. Of course now I’d never hire anyone with a French contract, and would ignore the whole thing, but I was still the kind to want to be proven right when attacked / challenged.

That, and wanting to “be in charge”, “take responsibility for” - gave too many people the false impression it was “personal”. In fact, in most subsequent cases, I liked the person. I would fire someone because the people working with him asked me to, and were really happy not to have to do it. Besides not making the hiring mistake in the first place, if you need to let go of someone who doesn’t directly report to you, the last thing you wanna do is make it look like it’s some arbitrary decision from “the King”. As flat as your structure is, as a founder/CEO, you don’t go to some intern to explain why he’s fired. Whatever team leader there is, must do it. 

Learning how to communicate is the area where I improved the most since 2010. Patience and thoroughness, notably in hiring, is the second. Learning the in-and-outs of web product management and coding the third. 


(Note 1: Don’t ever set up your company in France unless you can’t do otherwise. I’ll come back on that. I love France and a lot of French for many things, but as a general rule not for business. Don’t mean to sound like I’m bashing, the “cons” are just too strong for me.)

(Note 2: But the “cons” in the US would also deter many people. I hate the absolute prevalence of money, for a start. I am very competitive but I hate to see people who will do anything in the name of business, and leave ethics out. Competitors are more predictable in Europe: they won’t help as they might do in the US in specific cases, but they won’t execute sophisticated sneaky war plans either)

(Note 3: Ignore and exile any negative person as I’ve explained. But plan thoroughly for all business litigation scenarios if you are in the US, because at least a client, a troll and a competitor will sue you- for any reason. That’s the cost of doing business in the US. I hate litigation to death but there is no way you’ll escape it. If you’re a pure tech startup you’ll fare better as the people in the Valley are not as aggressive as in NYC).  


That doesn’t mean you can’t take “risks” when building your team. Don’t be afraid of hiring mavericks, if you LIKE them. Somebody who thinks a little differently can help to see problems as opportunities and inspire creative energy within a group. 

But when you have doubts, it’s ALWAYS going to become worse.

“It’s better to have a hole in your team than an asshole in your team!”