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Software as conversation

July 10th, 2012 by

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Not all comments posted on blogs are crap, read below for a inspiring one posted by an Anonymous visitor on Business Insider.

In 20 years software development will be done trough conversations with “software Siri”, shortly after you say what you want a prototype application appears, like a Google search result, as you test riding the prototype you are working out the details in real time, as a flow of a conversation.

Running the modifications of the prototype will be as fast and fluent as refining your search queries, based on the previous results.

Once you say “yes” for Software Siri’s legendary question, “Is this what you want?”, Software Siri will optimize the prototype to a polished application and saves it to any main-stream device, cloud or application context.

Software As Conversation. Mark my word.

— Posted here by Software siri.

One step further

This idea can be applied to anything involving a creation process. For example, this is already exactly how we proceed when we’re designing, there’s a discussion between what you have in mind, how you produce it, and how you feel about the result.

Today, it’s the only way we have to validate or to kill an idea, and this is also exactly why I think ideas are shit. Nobody uses an idea. You cannot click an idea. You cannot swipe an idea. You cannot crash an idea. You’ve to play with your idea and that’s why execution is king.

(First posted here on checkthis)

1,234,567

June 17th, 2012 by

Following my last post on how we raised money — and thanks for the huge support by the way, I got the same exact question a couple of times. Why did you raised $908K and not $1M? That’s a good question, and it’s clear that we all like round numbers, easier to remember, more impact in the media. Prettier.

I love numbers. How pretty is 999,999? Or something super cool like 1,234,567? At the end, the only difference between all these numbers are the number of shares you sell, and who buy them. We first wanted to raise 100K from a belgian angel. Then thought we should raise 250K to have more time before the next round to focus on the product here in Belgium. Then, seeing the high interest from top investors (being trending on AngelList helps, thanks for the support Naval), we decided to go to 800K to hire aggressively, ship faster and move to the US to work closer with our investors.

And then, magic happens, an investor a really like told me we should raise more. How crazy is that!? Not that much, remember: what you raise equal what you sell. We could have raised more money from people I really liked, but the commitments we got were already like 9x the amount we were ready to raise a couple of months before.

Did we had enough money to hire the best, moving to New York, having fun with the product, working on a super ambitious roadmap while building a strong community of happy users? Yes. Should we have spend more time with our calculators raising a prettier number? No.

Here is how we raised money

June 15th, 2012 by

Let’s be clear, my co-founder and me are super ambitious, we left everything and are hundred percent sure we’re onto something huger than huge. But, sometimes, things can go wild. This is our last 6 months — and how we end-up raising money from world-class investors.

I love this. I’m selling that. I’m looking for this. I need you advice on that. This is exactly how people use checkthis, and after seeing every one of the 36,321 pages you’ve created, one thing is very clear, you have turned a toy into something cool, a product that’s filling the gap between the quickness of a status update, and the commitment of a blog.

(We’re in January and this is where I should thanks friends, families, Robin Wauters, François de Halleux and Tim Van Damme for advising us on how to build a product that people could like.)

Building a product is ambitious in term of design, money and marketing, and that’s exactly why we applied to Seedcamp. We wanted to see what this London based early stage mentoring and investment program thought about what we’ve build so far. Here is how it works: You apply. You’re selected. You pitch. You’re finalist. You pitch again and, sometimes, you win. Guess what? We won.

At first it was a surprise, but we quickly understood the big validation. Look, Seedcamp receive hundreds of applications, select 20, and invest in a couple, sometimes none. Checkthis was one of these and, cherry on the cake, they were the first non-friends to put money on the table — not a lot, but we honestly didn’t care. We got an idea. We built a product. We attracted users. And now got access to a network of entrepreneurs and investors who “did it”.

(We’re in February and this is where I should thanks Philipp Moehring, Reshma, Carlos and Kirsten from Seedcamp, you probably didn’t get the whole vision hidden somewhere behind our crappy slides, but you were sure we were crazy enough to be part of your family. Thank you.)

Seedcamp companies not only join a one year-long program focusing on company’s development (which we’ll have to skip, read further), these companies are also invited to join a one month trip to the US where they visit and pitch tons of companies like Twitter, Facebook, USV and Andressen Horowitz. We had two weeks to sign the termsheets, pack our bags, book our flights and enjoy the journey with around 20 founders across 8 cities.

Amazing time. It’s impossible to summarize the human experience so let’s focus on the purpose of this post. We got interests for 32 investors thanks to our growing network and Seedcamp friends that I had to delay 3 times my flight-back. This cute little one month ended-up as a two months marathon full of face-to-face meetings with world-class investors, including VCs who took a private jet for a dinner — while iterating my pitch and the product thanks to Melvyn Hills, my üher talented co-founder who had to stay in Europe. Sleeping was already so February 2012.

Now that I was playing the game of raise money — at then end its the purpose of Seedcamp, I wanted to get back to Belgium not only with termsheets but with a deal done. Watch out! No rush, my advisors constantly advised me to take the money of people I really like. This could be another post but, to make it short, your lead investor is your new girlfriend, no quick fuck. More meetings. More product sessions. More lunchs. March 28th: termsheets! Unfortunately, for non-disclosable reasons, I wasn’t allowed to sign them straight away. Back in Belgium.

(We’re in April and this is where I should thanks Elise, my lovely girlfriend who understood how important it was to stay in the US and spend time with these people. Thanks also to Sal Matteis and Pierre de Schaetzen for your feedback on my pitches and how to handle the whole fund-raising process, at that point I still didn’t knew what equities means. Thanks a million to Jeremy Le Van, Pierre Valade and Ben Broca for your time while in New York, you and your sofas rock!)

The following process is captivating. Now that I had signed the termsheets and investment commitment for a part of what we were raising, together with my lead investor we worked on who else fits our vision and could help where we’ll need help, money is important but experience is critical. It could be Angels who have experience to ship to millions, or VCs with portfolio companies facing similar challenges — Twitter, Bitly or GroupMe to name a few.

First step was to go through the list of people I was talking with, and then to follow up introductions to people my lead investor likes — once you get termsheets from someone super respected, things are much more easier. After thousand of emails and Skypes, back to New York to meet these new friends interested by joining our round. I’m not talking about bankers, all these people love to build products and wanted to talk about these little details of our product. Remove this step. Try this button. Engage with this community.

What a fantastic experience, exactly the opposite of the meetings I had with investors one year ago while pitching checkthis to belgian investors. What’s your business model is probably the worst question an investor can ask to an entrepreneur building a consumer web product, sure we will make money, but I’m confident enough to believe that money follows passion.

(We’re in May and this is where I should thanks Jordan Cooper, Steve Schlafman, Xavier Damman, Antoine Perdaens, Alex Rainert, Saul Klein, Antonia Abraham, Reshma Sohoni and a couple of others for opening me your impressive network of VCs and Angels. Thanks to you, we were quickly oversubscribed and had that luxury problem of choosing our syndicates. Thanks also a million to my good friends Renaud Deru and Caroline Dufrane for your time, your food and your sofa, thanks to you I was hundred percent focused on closing my round. Love you!)

Today, June 15th, the news is finally out, we closed our $910K seed round with an amazing group of investors and it’s the first time since we won Seedcamp that I slept 3 nights in a row at home.

It probably means nothing for you, but it’s was a crazy journey, probably the most exhausting and surely the most exciting thing I ever did in my life. I’m another man, I’m a better entrepreneur, I’m a super happy founder who can now focus all his time building a product that people love, hiring the best talents, and hopefully soon moving to the most inspiring city in the World.

Don’t give up

May 29th, 2012 by

Give Up!

The first idea of checkthis, somewhere like 3 years ago, was a simple one page service. Add your content. Change how it looks. Share your link anywhere. Nice idea Fred, but why on Earth should I fucking create a page? Now, months after our public launch, +35,000 pages later and the recent introduction of our Verbs — Tell, Sell, Ask, Invite — you cannot imagine how proud I’m to unpack an object I bought on… checkthis.

There is two cherries on this tasty cake. First, this poster is just beautiful, the seller took the time to pack it perfectly, it’s a limited edition and it’s signed. That’s e-commerce dude! Second, the product you can use now on checkthis is just at the very beginning of what we are building. Stay tuned, big things coming really soon.

By the way, I recently sold two objects on checkthis but having people I don’t know making money is just a totally different feeling.

Ask

May 3rd, 2012 by

What I like in blogging is it doesn’t take so much time to write a post, but your blog is never too far. Anything can inspire your next post. An anecdote. An idea. A rant. Then, this little thing evolves into a bigger idea, and you realize that everything is connected. Your life is much more consistent than you think.

I wanted to write a two lines post about a clever answer I got for a super smart guy. The other day I was discussing with this World-class investor and I had a question, a simple but kind of hard to ask — who wants to show its doubts?

Here is the deal, I love to build products that you could use everyday. I truly believe that it’s one of the reasons why I’m on Earth. On purpose or not, I’m a serial entrepreneur. For some reasons being a CEO has always scared me, there is millions of little, unfocused tasks to do every single morning. So I asked him how to manage my time between my passion and everything else. And he got this clever answer: “You have two jobs: don’t run out of money, hire good”. Accountancy? Not your job. Legal? Not your job. Money and team? Your job! What he means is off-course that I’ve have three jobs, the product, the money, and the team. If you’re a designer, design. If you’re a hacker, code. If you’re a sales guy, sell. Plus money. Plus team.

Back to my point, a startup journey is all about the asks. First colleagues, then probably engineers, friends, girlfriend, parents, idols. Are you in the early days of building a product? Please, oh please consider an advisor. It’s exactly what you need, it’s the smartest way to get honest feedback, to redefine your product, and to get answers that will allow you to go to the next level and, I wish you, to access world-class investors. Ask!

He also recommended me to read High Output Management. Apparently it’s the CEO Bible, they all read it, from Dell to Google to names I forgot, sorry dude.

First

May 1st, 2012 by

Mobile first. Team first. Product first. User first. Acquisition first. Experience first. Design first. And so on. So, who’s not first? Friends, not first. Family, not first. Sport, not first. Shopping, never first.

The other day I realized that for the last three months I haven’t sleep three nights in a row at home. The other day I had a call around four in the morning, with a lawyer. The other day I was sleeping at Jeremy’s place and we wake up talking UX, first thing in the morning, before our first coffee.

And guess what? I love that, it’s my new life. Work is important. The feeling of working is horrible. I urge you to find a way of being passionated about what you do. Thus, the conclusion is simple, passion second. Yeah, cliché blogposts always come first, after ninjas and sex.

This is why I sold my Porsche

April 28th, 2012 by

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A couple of month ago I made one of the hardest choice of my career, but let’s first approach this another way.

After 10 years of hard working, I finally got what I wanted since I was kid: the legendary and beautiful Porsche 993. Cliché? It wasn’t, there is no other way than fixing goals to achieve things. Some want to be rich, some famous, I just wanted my Porsche.

Off course I was to young to understand that things never come alone, a Porsche is great — I mean, it’s fucking incredible, but it has to fit with everything else, including you. Surprise! It wasn’t a good timing, so I left it together with nearly everything else I built the past 10 years, including my advertising agency and my lovely city.

Last week I came across this article wrote by Saatchi & Saatchi CEO, Mr. Kevin Roberts, including a legendary “Martin Luther King did not say ‘I have a vision statement’ did he?”. Off-course he didn’t, he wasn’t working for Visa.

Here is my point. I don’t believe in brands telling stories, we simply don’t care about these stories. What we need is a friendly relationships with products, these products that understand our behaviors and, at the end, make us spending our money and buying products. Food. Clothes. Whatever.

During the past 10 years I was trying to tell stories for brands that just don’t care about what you do when you leave their bling-bling digital campaigns. I love humans, and that’s exactly why I left everything, I can now spend 24 hours a day building and talking about products that people use, helping them to tell their stories.

Now that I’m here, I would like to thank you Jérôme, my dear good old friend and business partner who understood how important it was for me to reach my goal, and now letting me setting up new goals. Miss you my mate.

Et après, tout sera plus simple

October 3rd, 2011 by

Règle numéro un d’un produit: être synonyme d’une action, une belle grosse action. Peu importe que ces synonymes varient légèrement d’un utilisateur à l’autre, du moment que cela reste dans un périmètre relativement restreint.

Facebook est synonyme de partage, d’amitié, d’échange. Twitter de veille, de flux, d’actualité. Flickr de dinosaure, de vieille bête. Hah.

Quels synonymes vous inspirent les services que vous utilisez quotidiennement?

Souvent, simplement

September 27th, 2011 by

Il parait que quand on est entrepreneur il faut écrire, régulièrement. Il parait aussi qu’il ne faut pas se poser de questions, chaque prise de parole est un entrainement. Il suffirait donc de prendre sa plume et de pauser des mots, simples, sincères, personnels.

Cette semaine, au travers de discussions et rencontres, il m’est venu cette petite lueur quant à l’orientation à adopter pour marketer un produit: ne communiquez pas à quel point votre produit est beau, communiquez à quel point il est puissant (et d’avantage encore une fois entre les mains de ses utilisateurs).

Tu sais, le why, le what. C’est con, mais c’est tellement bon de placer des mots cons sur des questions aussi complexes.

Podcast #16: Première classe

August 3rd, 2010 by

Première classe

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  2. The Knife “From Off To On”
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  4. Archie Bronson Outfit “Chunk” (6th Borough Project Remix)
  5. Discodeine “Singular” Feat. Matias Aguayo
  6. Talking Heads “Heaven”
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  12. Première Classe “La fille qui rit”