I have made the choice to live remotely, away from the city, to maintain a balance between the pressure of the business life and the need for a slower, more meditative pace at home. By sticking to my daily routine, and allowing for a few hours each day spent in the company of my partner with our animals, gardens and forests, I can comfortably maintain an intensive and productive output for months.
Pierre’s career started as the very first Marketing Manager of the French National Basketball League, 18 years ago. Since then Pierre has honed his business skills in Europe, southeast Asia and now Australia, developing hands-on expertise in commercialization for start-ups.
Holding positions such as Head of Commercialization, Regeneus, for which he was the first employee and leader until its IPO (ASX:RGS), Chief Operating Officer, Advangen and General Manager, Umicore Australia, Pierre specializes in ground-breaking and disruptive technologies.
Pierre holds a Bachelor of Commerce and a Masters of Business with a specialization in Sport Management, from Kedge Business School.
Pierre now lives in the Hunter Valley, NSW Australia and holds dual citizenship in France and Australia.
Favorite sports: Basketball, Rugby and Cricket
Where did the idea for StatsOne come from?
The four founders of Smart Sports played sports at an elite level at some point in their life. We had in common that passion for competition and understanding how performance works. Looking back at our respective sports careers, we all marveled at the idea of today’s ubiquitous technology applied to our passion and sports heydays. StatsOne – the platform that brings the latest technology and sport analytics to grassroots and youth athletes – was born.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wake up at 5 AM, check my emails and the company’s latest metrics (new members, app downloads, website traction) with a cup of tea. At first light, my partner and I go out, walk our dog, feed the chooks, the peacocks, tend a few things in the garden and drive to work. My office is located around 50 minutes from home.
7.45AM. Arriving at the office, I enjoy a coffee whilst checking the company financials. By now I have already spoken once or twice to my co-founders and business partners. We have discussed ideas and actions for the day. From there I put the wheels into motion and focus on the execution of the mornings priorities.
By 4.30PM I’m tired, my brain needs a break. I drive back home, talk to my business partners again, organize my thoughts for the following day. Once at home, I walk my dog, enjoy my surroundings – I live on a remote farm – and prepare dinner. Once a week I will spend an hour or so on the phone with our fourth co-founder who is located in France – 10 hours behind Australia.
After dinner – around 7 PM, I get back to my computer for a couple of hours. There’s always an excel spreadsheet somewhere, which requires my attention. And with our software engineers across three time zones, I can talk to them online, exchange ideas or discuss issues. By 10 PM, I fall asleep.
Weekends are much the same without the commuting. I can spend an extra few hours in the gardens or around the property fixing a fence, cutting firewood or tending the vegetable patch.
I have made the choice to live remotely, away from the city, to maintain a balance between the pressure of the business life and the need for a slower, more meditative pace at home. By sticking to my daily routine, and allowing for a few hours each day spent in the company of my partner with our animals, gardens and forests, I can comfortably maintain an intensive and productive output for months. I have not had a holiday in two and a half years.
How do you bring ideas to life?
From ideation to proof of concept, I tend to look equally at the pros and the cons. I don’t dodge the hard questions and the assessment of barriers to success is exacting. If the barriers can’t be removed quickly or an alternative solution doesn’t come to mind I have found it’s best to move on to the next idea and come back to this one later when the conditions have changed.
I keep my fighting spirit and energy for the next step when I have finished my due diligence and believe the idea is going to work. I then start working on a pathway to market. I focus on bringing business partners on board and convincing investors that this idea is worth it.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Quantum physics, especially the potential of quantum computing in predictive algorithms.
The whole idea that quantum computing could move us away from a binary world, the dichotomy of black/white, right/wrong, yin/yang, 1/0 is really exciting. Multidimensional and superimposed states would change the way we think, and by extension the way we do things.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
My competitive nature. By this I mean I don’t let go until I get to the bottom of things. I will keep trying until I understand an issue and can decide if it can be fixed, removed or used to my advantage.
This habit helps me with attention to details even when working on the bigger picture. By staying on top of details, I can constantly probe and review assertions and make ideas move forward in a fast and productive way.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
Early in my career I worked as a Marketing Officer for a multinational company specializing in the manufacture of optical and imaging products. Two years into the job, they asked me to transition to a sales job to “extend my knowledge of the company” they said. Selling photocopiers has been by far the worst job in my 20-year career. I left within months.
I knew there and then I could never “sell” products, services or ideas for which I had no connection or passion.
Since then I have found great personal and professional satisfaction working with and for businesses that specialize in sometimes widely different and disruptive technologies, be it regenerative medicine and biotechnology or sports analytics. Living through passionate conviction in a product, service or idea is what holds my interest rather than surviving the business grind by becoming an expert in a field for which I have no personal connection.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I often ask myself this question: what could I have done better? And why? I can’t stand the idea of having made a mistake and being about to repeat it because I have not identified it yet.
In StatsOne’s case there seemed to be a shortage of skilled programmers around us when we started. It is very hard to build a large team quickly around a good idea without the right experts. So in hindsight I would have spent more time building links within the programming community to find the right people fast. The time it took to find those people cost us almost a year of development, whereby our two initial engineers had to develop everything from complex indexing and database structures, to website and app front-end.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I challenge every single new idea. No exception. It’s mainly for the purpose of separating the wheat from the chaff and identifying new ideas that bring value to our users. If a new idea, product, process or development does not have a clear path towards value creation for our users and easing their pain points, then it’s of no immediate use.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Not to put all our eggs in the same basket. As simple as that. Commercialization requires a lot of preparation: analyzing competition, studying users needs, foreseeing trends, identifying partners and supporters, developing win/win/win relationships. Although tech businesses want to grow fast and demonstrate their user attractiveness with their Minimum Valuable Product in a few weeks, Rome was not built in a day. I might be old school, but diversifying targets and usages of your product is a very useful strategy. You learn more about different types of users, different contexts and may discover new avenues for your product. A mono approach, an all-in-one or one size fits all is a dangerous way of thinking.
Diversity is strength. Think about eco-systems and multi-cultural societies. I find it easier to iterate, pivot and tweak a multitude of ideas than shift an entire system because you are on the wrong path.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In my previous venture, my failure was simple: I had become unable to work on the business rather than in the business.
I was the first hire of a biotech start-up with groundbreaking research and a promising portfolio of patents. In charge of the commercialization, I was absolutely determined to make this startup succeed and I would willingly do anything to help the CEO and the other founders. I put my absolute best and gave all I had. All my savings: I invested in the company. My time: I was working non-stop. My energy: worked way beyond the expectations of my position, managing so many things at once: IT, HR, finance. Obviously the team grew, we hired people great at their job. My field of action shrank and I did not realize that my performance was solely judged on my position as Head of Commercialization and nobody could care the least about all the extra things I was doing. I was actually consumed by the desire to do everything rather than to be the best at my job. Two months of disappointing sales, a few doubts at Board level about my strategy, and me not playing the politics game, too busy doing other things for the company, and I was gone.
You don’t overcome a burnout. You learn from it.
I decided I would never be part of a startup again if I did not have enough equity to leverage my ideas and position, including the right to have a work/life balance.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There is absolutely no greater and more pressing challenge today than finding a way to protect our planet and its resources. Obviously there are already great ideas and business projects out there trying to make a difference, such as Elon Musk’s ventures.
However, I challenge young entrepreneurs to develop a product/service/app that would enable anyone on this planet to measure accurately the resources they consume (daily or monthly?) enabling us to adjust our behavior and actions accordingly to minimize our impact. This would give our society a chance to exist beyond 2100.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
The $100 I have not spent because I kept them aside for an emergency.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
At the moment Slack is definitely the web service I use the most. All our “young” developers love these tools, and instant communication. I had to adapt and make sure I stayed included in the ideation process. Slack is very easy to use and with team members across 5 or 6 locations and 3 time zones, we would not be able to work so efficiently without tools as cool as Slack.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The entrepreneur community is a tricky one. We share a burning desire to bring the next great idea to market, in the process we enjoying learning from like-minded people, and yet we may all end up competing with one another.
This ever-present competition can lead, us, tech entrepreneurs to achieve amazing things but can also make us lose track of what is at stake. To never forget who we are and that all are actions can have consequences, sometimes disastrous, I recommend one of Nick Bostrom’s books: Global Catastrophic Risks. Nick’s insight and research as well as his contributors’ peer-reviewed articles are invaluable. This book reviews and scales most anthropogenic risks as well as natural risks to the survival of humanity.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
There is no easy answer to this question for me because I can be inspired by anyone anywhere at any time. I look around me and something or someone will catch my eye and will be an instant source of reflection and inspiration. A bird in the sky, a young mother pushing pram, a unique meal in a restaurant.
However, Roger Caillois’s book “Man and the Sacred” influenced my formative years with the introduction of concepts of the “spiritual and sacred” at the time when as a young adult I was naturally questioning and rejecting most dogmas. Turning chaos into harmony in a sense, or at the very least helping me make more sense of the world around me.
Looking at the deepest and longest lasting influence in my life I will acknowledge it is my sister’s. Raised together in a loving family, we share the same values and yet we are totally different. Our conversations, her insights into human psychology, she is an art therapist, have durably shaped my thinking. Together we are living proof that very different individuals, with obviously distinct personalities but also sometimes opposite goals in life, can share the deepest bond and are able to passionately discuss any topic, eventually coming around their differences to a find consensus.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.