March 25, 2023

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“If there is no competition, there is no market”

In your latest book “Ose! Anyone can become an entrepreneur”*, you will laugh at those who wait to find the brilliant idea before launching. Why is this a pitfall to avoid?

There are differences between inventor and entrepreneur. By wanting to do something that no one has ever done before, we put so much pressure on ourselves that we end up never launching anything! Because this unique and magical idea, it almost never exists. I often hear people say, “That’s great, there’s no competition. My answer is that if there is no competition, there is no market! It is not the novelty of the project that determines its success. I’ve started six companies in gig hosting, web, tech, and aside from the Epic donation platform, I’ve always recycled, improved, adapted templates, and had successes. If we embark on something existing, it is the ability to differentiate ourselves, to give more desire that will make the difference.

Can intuition be a success factor?

Intuition is being right a little before others, picking up weak signals that others haven’t seen. This sometimes allows you to be the first to occupy a specific niche in a given market by developing a service that will make all the difference and allow you to raise money before the others. This is part of the “soft skills” that you don’t learn at university or in the Grandes Ecoles.

Entrepreneurs are often more “street smart” [l’intelligence de la rue, NDLR] than “book smart” [l’intelligence des livres, NDLR]. We are beginning to realize that a diploma is not everything. You don’t have to come out of high school to be successful. I am committed to the democratization of entrepreneurship which should be open to everyone. For people who haven’t had the chance to study for a long time, it’s a great springboard to positively change their life trajectory.

In France, entrepreneurs find it less and less difficult to talk about their failures. Is this a good thing?

Like assuming not having a bac + 12, it’s good to start assuming your failures. In the real life of an entrepreneur, there are always mistakes and failures with their share of difficulties and sacrifices. The key is to be able to draw lessons from it to succeed in “pivoting” your model. But beyond failure with a capital “E”, there are all the little mistakes that we can make on a daily basis that allow us to progress. This is the principle of entrepreneurship: telling yourself that you don’t know everything and that you need to learn constantly, that you’ve never really arrived. The entrepreneur is a human sponge.

Investors are wary of solo entrepreneurs, but partnering up also has some pitfalls. What would you recommend?

If we start with several people, I think it is important that in its governance, there is a “leader”. I don’t believe in the 50/50 association. Inevitably, a divisive subject will arrive and the balance can become paralyzing. It is therefore necessary to say in advance who will decide.

Entrepreneurship is protean and what can work in one company, for example partners from the same family, will not work everywhere. But if I look at my background, I deduce that in key positions the profiles must complement each other. I’ve run tech companies but I can’t code better than my kids. Yet, I developed these companies and sold them well. But I surrounded myself with very good experts on subjects where I couldn’t bring the most value. This presupposes knowing one’s weaknesses… for some, an exercise in humility that is not easy.

The Master Class of Alexandre Mars

Every Wednesday from July 13 to August 31, find on Les Echos Entrepreneurs the wise advice of serial entrepreneur Alexandre Mars to lead his business project on the path to success.

* “Dare! Anyone can become an entrepreneur”, Alexandre Mars, published in January 2020 by Flammarion Versilio editions.