In 2019, more than 815,000 companies were created in France, according to INSEE. Entrepreneurship continues to attract each year, so much so that 31% of French people say they want to create their own business according to a study by the Banque Populaire (in French). In this particular context of the health crisis, the digital field is, more than ever, an undeniable growth vector. How to make your idea a reality and succeed in your first steps as a digital entrepreneur? Who better to respond to the subject than those who are living the adventure on a daily basis…? In this World Entrepreneurship Week, we decided to share the experience and advice of our founders, Magali and Sébastien, through 2 interviews.
In this first interview, they discuss their career paths, their first steps in entrepreneurship and go back to the beginnings of Opti Digital.
Hello Magali and Sébastien! To start with, can you tell us more about your background? Have you ever been an entrepreneur?
Magali: I started my career, in Spain, in a digital contextual advertising company. I was in charge of the marketing and development of B2C products. I quickly evolved from product manager to manager of a small team and then a larger team. It was then that I was able to work with Sébastien.
After 5 years, I felt the need to immerse myself in the operational side of things, in order to challenge myself and to stimulate me on a personal level. Being passionate about wine, I founded Les Sommelières in 2013, an internet platform to introduce women to oenology. At the same time, I supported SMEs to improve their visibility and their commercial performance on the Internet as Freelancers in Digital Marketing, an experience during which I had the opportunity to collaborate again with Sébastien.
Looking for a little more stability in my life, as a freelancer and founder of a wine company, I became an employee of an SME in Lyon, as International Development Manager. I was asked to internationalise the company while everyone was backtracking towards it… It was a great challenge to take on. I was mainly responsible for the development of the Spanish and Belgian markets, addressing on the one hand publishers wishing to monetise their databases and on the other hand advertisers of eCommerce sites wishing to re-target their email traffic. I had to learn to adapt to the Spanish market, which is less inclined to carry out behavioural retargeting than in France, fearing the data protection agency. It was not easy, but I managed to sign some great names and above all, I enjoyed being in contact with the customers.
Sébastien: I accumulated 11 years of experience in a performance marketing company in Barcelona starting as a Web Developer, then Project Manager, Product Manager and Technical Director, ending up as General Manager. This experience allowed me to understand several professions, both in the operational, managerial and decisional parts. It has helped me a lot to build and develop Opti Digital.
Then, I decided to jump with both feet into freelancing by becoming an AdTech Consultant for a year, offering my expertise to companies concerned about their digital advertising.
Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Magali: No. It was not at all in my life goals at first. In addition, it is not something that is part of my family culture, my parents were civil servants and I did not have entrepreneurs around me.
Sébastien: Me either. I wanted to accumulate experience and work on projects for which I could have some freedom in their realisation. With time and opportunities, I started to become interested in freelancing, looking for a little more autonomy in my work.
In your opinion, is working as two easier than going it alone?
“When there are two of you, you can count on the other to support you in the most difficult times, and vice versa”Magali
Magali: It is obvious to me. Having tested both ways, I find that going it alone can sometimes be difficult. When you lose your motivation or experience a failure that is difficult to overcome, you have no one to support you except your loved ones. When there are two of you, you can count on the other to support you and motivate you to move forward. Being two also makes it easier to make decisions, especially difficult ones. Also, I think it’s essential to put in place a balance that will satisfy both parties so that there is no frustration. On the other hand, you have to start with the right person, which can be difficult to find. Seb and I have known each other for a long time. We are complementary on many points.
“Being two allows you to confront your ideas with the other and make them mature much more quickly than if you were alone.”Sébastien
Sébastien: Yes. I think it’s easier especially when the partnership is effective as is the case with Magali, we manage to support each other, to complement each other and to move forward together. When you want to embark on an innovation that requires testing, as is the case with Opti Digital, the fact there are two of you allows you to confront your ideas with the other and to make them mature much more quickly than if you were alone.
What are the main questions that we should ask ourselves before starting?
Magali: Am I bringing value to the customers? What problem will I solve with my technology?
Sébastien: Am I ready to invest my time? You have to be ready to commit to a project whose first results can take a long time to come – to the point of encroaching on your personal time.
What solution can I develop to meet a need and give satisfaction to a customer? Can I get a place in the target market or is it too competitive?
Where did you get the idea for Opti Digital?
“You have a thousand times more chance of succeeding in a sector that you know well”Magali
Magali: During my salaried experience, I was often in contact with Seb. One day he called me to tell me about a new technology in programmatic advertising, Header Bidding, which was working brilliantly in the United States and asked if I was up for testing it. I was in regular contact with publishers who told me of a real need for monetisation and as I wanted to become freelance again, I immediately went for it. We started by testing this solution on our friends’ websites before creating Opti Digital. I think that the chances of success are increased when you start in a sector that you know well rather than in a field that you want to discover in a personal capacity and which you do not really add value to.
“What’s interesting about this industry is that it is constantly evolving. We constantly have new solutions to create to help publishers develop their activities”Sébastien
Sébastien: Being a consultant for several publishers at the time, I had a lot of free time to do research to improve their digital advertising. Several of my friends were editors of small media sites and with my experience accumulated in their feedback on the sector, I could realise the difficulties they encountered on a daily basis. Difficulties that can be overcome thanks to this innovative technology coming straight from across the Atlantic! After having tested it and found that it was bearing fruit, Opti Digital was born very naturally.
Every day we learn and adapt to keep pace with industry trends and the ever-changing needs of publishers. We constantly have new solutions to create to help publishers develop their activities. It’s very stimulating!
How were the first months at Opti Digital?
Magali: We started remotely, Seb in Barcelona and me in Lyon. We had the time to prepare the project well since I started working part-time and he was on a mission, especially with the possibility of organising his working time as he wished. In the beginning, we spent our day in videoconferences analysing the results of our tests. At that time, I was only focused on sales, tirelessly reaching out to small publishers I knew to introduce them to the product. We quickly realised that we lacked a Google AdExchange account to support small publishers so we used the account of an official Google partner and deployed their header bidding technology on publishers’ sites.
“The trigger was signing up with a major online magazine that was looking to increase its ad earnings. At that time, Seb programmed our own Header Bidding technology”Magali
At the end of the first year, we started contacting increasingly important publishers. The trigger was signing up with a major online magazine that was looking to increase its ad earnings. At that time, Seb programmed our own Header Bidding technology to support this publisher via his Google AdExchange account. Very quickly, their turnover increased exponentially. Little by little, we integrated all the new sites we were working with using Opti Digital technology.
“Our direct network and our tenacity have helped us a lot to emerge in this market, to find our first customers and to quickly realise our ideas”Sébastien
Sébastien: The first months were intense: there was a lot of learning, tests, failures but also successes as we progressed.
At the beginning, as we were not well known, we had to show perseverance to succeed in carving out a place among our competitors. Our direct network and our tenacity have helped us a lot to emerge in this market, to find our first customers and to quickly realise our ideas. We started by doing a lot of tests and learning from the first results. And, as we went along, we added new pieces to our product, which thus matured.
Thank you Magali and Sébastien for this feedback! The rest … in the next article: Digital entrepreneurship in 2021 # 2: advice and good practices for getting started.
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