Two weeks ago, I was in Fribourg for a 3-days entrepreneurship workshop. I had the opportunity to spend some time with the most experienced entrepreneurs and investors around. I seized the chance to ask a couple more personal questions and gather some advice with regards to one’s career.
The first most valuable answer I got came from a business expert in the field of technology and innovation. I asked him:
When thinking about my career choice, I am very often hesitating. I see many partnership opportunities, but it’s either the mission is super cool, or the company growth is great, or the new experience appears extremely enriching. However, there is hardly an offer that goes in all directions at the same time. How should I prioritize career potential vs passion vs learning ? How do I get the most out of this startup environment and fully benefit from this fast-paced world?
And so was his answer:
Find a startup that is already selling a product and generating revenue. A growing startup with a small team where you would quickly get responsibilities. Focus on career potential and learning experience. Sometimes, you’ll have to put aside the idea of doing only fun things. Also, you may have to compromise on the salary and the equities in the beginning. Just make sure you are in the right place, that you keep learning things and getting new responsibilities, and that the company is steadily growing. Also, there is no need to absolutely go abroad. Life in a startup is tough, and you should take advantage of being surrounded by friends and a familiar environment. On the other side, if you go abroad, you will benefit from the fact that you are 100% there for work, and it puts you in a situation where you can dedicate more time than ever to your career development. Also, even though in Switzerland speaking multiple languages like German is considered valuable, in the innovation and entrepreneurship world, speaking English is enough to get you started.
Also, I had a very surprising answer from an experienced woman in the field of investment. After giving me great and detailed advice for ten minutes on how to study my market and my customers and turn these pieces of information into valuable feedbacks, I asked her:
So, do you think we could do this market study and business modelling ourselves or is it necessary to team up with a young business graduate ?
– You should leave it to the business guys.
But then, what do you think about all these courses that try to turn engineer and scientists into market analysts and CEOs?
– It’s bulls**t. You know, if a serious investor decides to put a couple of million dollars into your startup, the first thing he’d think about is how to make sure this investment will perform, and he’d better get rid of you as a CEO and put an experienced entrepreneur he knows instead. It’s good to know how both worlds work, but leave the business experts do the business work. Focus on what you’re good at. That’s where you are the most valuable to a company.
Surprising answer isn’t it? I loved her positive energy and honesty.
Apart from this, I get more and more experienced everyday. When meeting other startup founders, my questions are more precise: How did you perform your customer investigation? Have you done a pilot yet? What is your entry market? How do you know that the problem you are trying to fix really exists?
Also, cerise sur le gâteau, I just got hired in one of the most promising startup of Switzerland. I will be working with Bestmile as a software engineer and mathematician. This is amazing, because I will be working on all technological aspects of their fleet management system for driverless vehicles, from the user interface to the core of the traffic optimization algorithms, thus broadening my skills while developing expertise at the same time. The company currently has 19 employees and is completely self-funded. Perfect profile.
The electric and driverless world of tomorrow will reshape transportation while preserving the environment, and it is crazily exciting to join this adventure.
Let’s get the party started!
Photo credit: Erwin Soo