How failing as an entrepreneur led me to the greatest adventure

By Jean de la Rochebrochard

If you have never failed, you haven’t tried hard enough

Over the past four years, I have met up with hundreds of entrepreneurs, conducted thousands of investors’ meetings and raised €50M for about 20 companies. My track record is public. I had the chance to work with great people and the day when Pascal Mercier offered me the chance to join his team was the first turning point of my - yet long to come - career. It was in January 2011. Thank you Pascal ☺

As I am on the edge of joining a new venture, I thought a little bit of context and history would be a good way to show you where I am actually heading to.

My school years (besides the fact that I was a bored lazy dunce) were punctuated with low scale entrepreneurship and a lot of failure. At 12, I was suspended for a week after having published and sold two issues of a satirical newspaper in the school cafeteria. At 13, I developed a command & conquer like board game, which I almost presented to the International Board Games Design Contest at Boulogne-Billancourtif my computer hadn’t crashed a few days short of the deadline. At 17, my father asked me to develop his restaurant’s website. I ended up doing it, as well as a few dozen others. I remember buying “restaurant paris” at the time for 5 cents a clic! True story:

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Google Adwords “Restaurant Paris”
€0,05 per clic

At 21, during my mediocre days at the University, I developed and ran an online platform for the students at Sorbonne called Paris Interactif. 1500 members signed up within 6 months, against a few hundred for the 10 year-old official student office. It eventually got hacked 12 months later. I had no backup. 

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Parisinteractif.com

In the following years, I rented and sub-rented several apartments, mostly to finance holidays and parties with rich kids and friends. For the record, they are still my friends, except they also have a job now ☺

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A Traveling World - Can’t believe I did this LOL

Basically from 12 to 25, I was both a bad student and a bad entrepreneur

In january 2008, after having contacted about 100 financial institutions, the only offer I got was an internship in a small IPO boutique, called Avenir Finance Corporate. It was part of a much bigger group with more than a hundred employees. I was hired in march. In June, they were firing 8 out of the 15 staff members in the Corporate & Securities department. In september, Lehman Brothers collapsed and 3 more people were fired. I ended up alone executing the few deals we had left with 3 co-managing directors.

In June 2009, I decided to quit and set up my own corporate finance boutique. I was 26. I partnered with an ex-colleague, Guillaume Anselin. In 2 years, we closed 9 deals including 1 IPO, 1 Delisting, 1 MBO, and 6 fundraisings.

In October 2010, I virtually met up with Pascal Mercier, after having retweeted him without mentioning him… Incredible fact when one thinks about it.

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First contact with Pascal Mercier

We finally met for real in January 2011, and I joined the team in June that same year. There, I had the chance to learn from Pascal, my first professional mentor, something that I never had before in my life. While the first 3 months were tough in terms of adaptation, the rest was a great learning curve and a lot of deals.

In August 2012, while Songpop was surely succeeding in the world of asynchronous gaming, right after Draw Something, I don’t know exactly what went through my mind but I made the mistake of thinking I could run a new venture as a side project. I raised a few thousand euros (No, but really!) to start Play With Pictures, the company behind HangPic, the first asynchronous multiplayer game on pictures. Aside from the pretty good job I did at picking up the right guys to execute the product (ratings were not bad at all), the rest is a long series of micro-failures. I failed that venture and I failed my investors.

Another thing I learned was that raising funds for entrepreneurs is already a full time job in which you must be fully committed. Entrepreneurs trust you to be committed towards the success of their operation! And I did not fail them. Plus, when you’re happily married with 2 kids, almost 3 (yeah, I did that too), you can’t work 18 hours a day, 7 days a week. We liquidated the company in November, 2013.

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Hangpic on the French App Store

So… From 25 to 30, I was a great closer with residues of entrepreneurial frustration and I surely had an unclear conception of whom I wanted to become and what I wanted to achieve.

So I took some time to think.

I’m not Elon Musk and I don’t want to become an entrepreneur if it’s not for the billion dollar target. So be it! Fuck it! If I don’t see myself becoming that B$ entrepreneur anytime soon, I will join a team who nurtures the entrepreneurs who are ready to become one! And together we will become the best at doing it!

As a consequence, in mid 2013, I decided it would be my last year on the sell-side as a fundraiser, and that starting 2014, I would dedicate myself to sourcing, helping out and financing great entrepreneurs. I chose to be part of the new coming age of venture capital where education, data and engineering matter, where leading investors remain for their talent and not by some kind of fortune, hazard or calculation.

If you have never failed, you haven’t tried hard enough.

Regarding the venture I am about to officially join, while our future is uncertain and the means to our end unclear, I have never been more sure about anything in my professional career.

Today, I am joining a fully committed team with the purpose of nurturing the best French entrepreneurs, but also an ambitious partnership, unbiased by third parties and with a mutual ambition which is way above the sum of our own individual expectations.

We are TheFamily.
You can contact me at jean -at- thefamily -dot- co

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