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…? During World Entrepreneurship Week, we decided to share the experience and advice of our founders, Magali and Sébastien, through 2 interviews.
After presenting their backgrounds as digital entrepreneurs, they deliver valuable advice and best practices to follow in order to successfully embark with independence.
Hello Magali and Sébastien, thank you for your answers during the first interview. Let us return to the subject of business creation. How do you finance a digital project?
“In order to make yourself visible from the start, there are many free and easy-to-use solutions to create your website: Wix, Site123, GoDaddy, WordPress, etc.”Magali
Magali: Online in this case, the costs are lower, unless there is a need to hire due to lack of skills. You just have to succeed in financing your time to properly develop your project. My advice would be to start in parallel with your salaried activity to continue working your network there and to finance, at the same time, availability time to prepare your business creation project in this same sector.
In order to make yourself visible from the start, there are many free and easy-to-use solutions to create your website: Wix, Site123, GoDaddy, WordPress, etc.
“You should not try to create something too complicated that will require a significant investment of time and money at the start but rather take an iterative approach”Sébastien
Sébastien: Investment in the digital field is very low, or even zero. The big advantage when going digital is that you don’t necessarily need offices, machines, stocks … You can work from home with your computer and a good Wi-Fi connection. As Magali mentioned, there may be hiring costs to be expected when you need a particular skill to start your project. In this regard, Magali and I were complementary and self-sufficient when we started, she worked more on the Marketing / Sales part and I worked on the Technology development side so we didn’t have to plan for hiring costs to get started.
My advice for getting started is to have a very simple project vision, don’t try to create something too complicated that will require a significant investment of time and money at the start but rather take an iterative approach. This helps to avoid taking too much risk and maximises your chances of having profitable results from the start.
How to find your first customers
Magali and Sébastien: It is very important to use the relationships you have to start off with. In our case, the direct network and the circle of acquaintances helped a lot. This allowed us to do our first tests and sign our first contracts.
How to recruit your first talents to grow your business
“I think it’s important to be accompanied by recruitment specialists to make sure you find the right profiles and free up time to use your skills with what you know how to do best”Sébastien
Magali: I think that first of all, we have to be able to show candidates that the company has potential and offers a secure environment. Presenting yourself as a start-up can sometimes scare some profiles. Then, I think we have to choose versatile people who will want to think outside the box and go beyond the perimeters of their jobs. For example, when we recruited our first international BizDev, he took care of translating our site into the language of the market and creating Marketing material to introduce our company to prospects. Finally, I think that the paying element to find your first talents is knowing how to surround yourself with recruitment professionals. They know how to identify problems and find motivated people who will succeed in ticking all the boxes.
Sébastien: Like Magali, I think it’s important to be accompanied by recruitment specialists to make sure you find the right profiles and free up time to use your skills with what you know how to do best.
What difficulties can we face when embarking on entrepreneurship and how can we overcome them?
“Do not be discouraged by existing competitors. They are not unbeatable and it is possible to emerge from among them by bringing your own added value”Magali
- In the first year, finding your first customers can be an obstacle course. You have to hang in there and not give up. Once the machine is up and running, the rest follows, but you have to start somewhere, gradually: finding your first small customer, then medium, and then large.
- Do not be discouraged by existing competitors. They are not unbeatable and it is possible to emerge from among them by bringing your own added value.
“At the beginning, you have to concentrate most of your time on prospecting, more than on developing a product that is too complicated to sell and therefore difficult to test”Sébastien
- I also think that being able to convince and land your first clients is the biggest difficulty any entrepreneur faces when he / she starts up. In the beginning, you have to focus most of your time on prospecting, more than on developing an innovative product, which is difficult to sell and therefore difficult to test. The idea alone is not enough, you have to be able to confront it with reality and therefore with customers.
- The other challenge, in my opinion, would be facing product development problems by finding the right solutions to respond to them. You have to be able to quickly unblock the problems that customers encounter in order to continue to satisfy them.
If you had 3 tips for those who want to take the plunge in 2021 what would they be?
- Take the leap in your sector, where you have experience and where you have acquired knowledge that will be able to help set up your project: you know the market, the target, the suppliers, in short all its specificities. It’s a lot less risky getting into something you already know.
- Do not try to reinvent the process by developing something that already exists from A to Z. It is better to focus on an existing technology and make optimisations.
- Know how to train employees in the growth phase: transferring skills to free up time for the development of products or technologies that are important for improving one’s position on the market against competitors.
- Make a business plan, market research and estimates: how much will it cost me and how much will I earn? How many customers will I be able to reach with my technology? What growth can I expect to achieve? I will say that it is important to create a careful business plan to be able to take a step back from what is achievable and reachable and what is not.
- Look for customers from the start. Use your direct network and knowledge and start making contact with potential customers.
- Develop your product in an iterative and agile way. The first version is often imperfect, it is moulded and perfected over time, thanks to customer feedback and changing market trends. I think it is essential to take this approach of continuous improvement.
Thank you Magali and Sébastien for all your advice! We close this series of articles on business creation in the hope that they will help give you a clearer view of digital entrepreneurship and allow you to get started with peace of mind.
See you soon for new content!
The Opti Digital Team.