Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Panel on Entrepreneurship at the French American Chamber of Commerce

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak on a panel called "Entrepreneurship - Myth and Reality" sponsored by the French American Chamber of Commerce

It was a fun lively evening with lots of stories of starting a company from the heart. 

Perhaps it was the European setting or the fabulous wine and cheese spread, but this talk went beyond the normal discussions on entrepreneurship where people discuss finding the product-market fit, fundraising, etc. 

This was a more thoughtful discussion on what it means to start a company and the impact we can have on the people around us. 

The panel included...

Olivier Ceberio - COO at Resolute Marine Energy
Tara Cousineau - Founder of BodiMojo
And Myself 
Enjoying a laugh
Samuel Gosselin Director of Operational Alliances at Novartis moderated our discussion.

We don't have video, but there were three recurring themes of the night which are worth sharing. 

1. Who are your people 
Each of us on the panel discussed "our people". 

For Olivier it is people who represent communities in need of clean energy. For Tara it is teenage girls and at Kango we aim to make it easy for you to say thanks and celebrate the small moments either at work or in your personal life.

Who are your people? 

2. Focus on bringing joy, not reducing pain
Tara and I share a mentor and he always reminds us that it is much better to be in the "joy business" than the "pain relief" business. 

The idea is that many companies offer a way to do something faster, better, cheaper. In some ways they are making something less painful like filling out forms or helping you be more productive. Microsoft traditionally has been in the business of doing things this way and has done an amazing job in building one of the largest companies in the world. 

In comparison, Apple has created products that do many of the same things yet they create an emotional response from people. This abstract notion of joy while hard to capture is one reason why Apple is one of the largest companies on the planet. 

This is a simple example, but the spirit of our discussion was that by focusing on your people and ways to bring joy to them, a new endeavor has the potential to create an emotional connection in ways you haven't imagined. 

3. The US market doesn't have to be the starting point
An easy point, but an important one. In various types of industries, your earliest customers can come from anywhere. 

In Olivier's case, his company's first customer is a country in Africa! For us at KangoGift, we received an award from the French government to evaluate expanding to France later this year. When starting something new, it's much easier to work with customers who want to work with you rather than have to go out and convince them. 

Closing Thoughts
This was a fantastic evening and a fun chance to look at entrepreneurship from the human side and share how we are all are focused on bringing some form of joy to our people, no matter where they are. 

Thanks to the Chamber and the CIC for hosting such a great event. I must say that the snacks at the French events are some of the best in Boston. 

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