A few days ago, the first edition of a series of debates entitled Startup Keynote took place. Co-organized by Leeaarn and partnered up with Orange and Microsoft, this first talk offered useful insights from successful French entrepreneurs about the importance of having a co-founder. The talk was moderated by Olivier Ezratty, consultant and author of Guide des Startups.The speakers were Olivier Mathiot, business angel and co-founder of Price Minister – acquired by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten for €200 millions – Gregory Nicolaidis, CEO of We love words ; Héloïse Dion, founder of Pastas Party which she sold to Meetic (owned by Match.com), Cédric Giorgi, CEO of Cookening and Arbia Smiti, founder of Carnet de Mode.
Interestingly enough, the speakers had all different backgrounds, which led to a stimulating debate as several points of view were presented. Also, the genders were well balanced, which is rare enough to be mentioned.
So what did the panel have to say about the importance of having a co-founder? Simply put, the girls were more inclined to do things on their own, while the guys were more into having co-founders. Nevertheless, they all underlined the importance of their significant other in their lives, the spouse being seen as a truly, intimate co-founder. Also, the support from family and friends was said to be a big part in succeeding.
As a Business Angel, Olivier Mathiot thinks it’s essential to have a co-founder, as this is a criteria of choice for him who receives around 15 to 20 appliances from startups. In his perspective, for any Angel having to deal with an only founder is a source of worries because even the best CEOs aren’t good at everything. It’s important to have somebody to debate with when in doubt and keep a balance. Also, in his opinion, co-founders as a couple is a bad idea.
Cédric Georgi on the other hand, knew he wanted to have co-founders because ”he works better in a team” he said. He dedicated the first 3 months to founding technical and design co-founders and came up with a whole list of criteria in selecting them. He also wanted people with different backgrounds, as for him diversity means increased chances of success.
As for the women entrepreneurs, Dion founded Pastas Party almost by accident without previously thinking of building a startup. As a former journalist, she didn’t necessarily have the startup background and culture. Pastas Party started out as dinners for bachelors in Paris and quickly spread through France, gaining a lot of popularity among young people. Wannabe co-founders started approaching her but she didn’t want to “split the cake” as she said. Instead, she started hiring. 6 years and 100,000 active bachelors later, she approached L’Accélerateur in Paris which guided her to sell to Meetic owned by Match.com, in early 2013. She is currently working for Match.com as their Europe Event Manager.
Arbia Smiti on the other hand is a determined young woman who knows exactly what she wants and had everything planned in advance. This is the main reason why she begun and continued alone. She didn’t feel the need of a co-founder and leaned on her husband for developing the site and on her network for everything she needed. €700k revenue and 50% international sales later, her plan is to get as big as possible without co-founders.