Hello everyone. My name is Boris Golden, I am a former researcher turned entrepreneur. And today I will share my experience on the transition from Academia to Business Entrepreneur. So, first a quick note about my work history and the genesis of my wish to become an entrepreneur. So, in fact, since I was child I have always been curious of all things conception, novelty, innovative, without knowing exactly what these terms mean. I have always been intrigued by these kind of things. As a child, I became infatuated with Mathematics. So, on the logical grounds of the French system, I angled for a MPSI (Maths, Physics & Industrial Sciences), prep class. A real classic for these kinds of profile. And during the prep course I discovered something interesting called IT. What appealed to me in computer science really was the notion of being able to create things. You write lines of codes, of texts and the computer comes to life depending on the instructions you provided it with. Therefore I decided to become a researcher, for if I am interested in IT, I am also interested in mathematics, and I thought "let's have a go at Research". So I entered the École Normale IT Department, that was 2004. And in fact, very quickly, I realised that this was not what I wanted. In fact, at no time throughout my education had anyone explain in what exactly consisted the curricula I was choosing, or how related it was or wasn't with my deepest whishes. So in the end, and fairly soon, I started cheating on this all too standardised, marked out academic curricula. I took a peek at Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences to see what cognitives sciences and philosophy were about. But I kept thinking that I was really into computer science and maths. And so I went elsewhere, to Paris 6, Pierre et Marie Curie University where I finally studied arithmetic, things I was very much interested in, yet I felt confused in that world. And at the time, I wondered if it was a bad or good thing to feel that I didn't quite fit in this world or resemble the people I mixed with or their ambitions. I mean, after all, I do like these subjects. Today, the answer is crystal clear, it is essential, one obviously needs to feel they belong to people they mix with, to their job, to their world. However, I didn't know it back then. So I figured, I need to go see that big bad business world for myself. This world is often not highly regarded by the strictly academic curricula, often have the teachers themselves lacked a pratical experience of this world. Less so in the Business Schools, but it is still all too frequent. I told my self "Go, I will try taking the plunge and studying a Masters degree which will provide more professional training." Shy as I was, I thought: "not too much professional training though, you need to stay in the Research world still." There was an ideal Masters for that: The PIC Masters: Project, Innovation, Conception, it was jointly accredited by the École Polytechnique and HEC. I thought great names, nice, a Masters with a very interesting matter, some friends of mine who studied it gave me a lot positive feedbacks. While studying this Masters, I also did an internship at Dassault Systèmes. Hence, I experienced the business world and it really appealed to me a lot, for many reasons. In the meantime, it wasn't enough to decide I was ready to give up the intellectual stimulation one may find in Research. To the point, I got out of it much less, let's say ideologically against that slightly capitalist business world... but still thinking of the feeling I had, that it's difficult to be able to think in the industrial or the business world. As a result I threw myself in a thesis and gave lessons on the side, carried by that drive to pass on knowledge I have always had, and this was really something I found very interesting. But as it turned out, after starting to work on my thesis I thought: "I need to keep on working on this double hatted capacity: researcher, industry, business." So that's what I did, I launched myself in organisational guidance, 2/5 of my time. Coincidentally, my thesis supervisor worked on that as well. And at the same time I worked as a freelancer for start-ups. Because I happened to run into start-ups by chance, they seemed friendly and I started working as a freelancer for one start-up, then another... And it was quite an eye opener for me. I thought: "this is exactly what I am interested in: innovation. What trills me is to create things. I am interested in being with dynamic people, who want to make things move on shorter cycles, not on a years or decades scale, but on short cycles." And so I really had a revelation and I examined the structure of the existing positions in the field, the Web, et cetera. I spotted something called Product Manager, and figured it seemed fun, it seemed nice and it looked like it matched with what I wanted to do. So that's how, step by step, I went from a really academic hat, with my enduring taste for innovation, to another hat eventually more and more industrial/business oriented. First with a freelancing role in start-ups and my Product Manager position, then with the creation of my own start-ups. I believe it is very important to understand that never did I think "I want to become an entrepreneur, I am an entrepreneur and I am going to set up a business." It happenned haphazardly and when I realised what could be done, what could be expressed when becoming an entrepreneur, it was exactly what I was looking for since I was a child, namely observing items and be able to think: "well this is not right, I'd like to fix that. This could be improved. I have an idea, how can I implement it?" This is to me and above all, what is implied by the flame and the will to move things forward, and to be able to impact and innovate, in a broader sense. So, I have a specific framework, I created the business while working on my thesis. So, the very important thing is that unlike many researchers, whose goal is to promote their research works through business creation, it wasn't like that for me. The research works I was conducting are being highlighted through guidance, business guidance, but not at all through business creation. And in fact, the idea I came up with and the people I worked with, have nothing in common with my thesis. So they were two dinstinct jobs with no synergy. So, to say a few words about that, well about that topic: transitionning from Academia to Business Entrepreneur. The bonuses there were in doing so while working on my thesis, well, it was something extraordinary for starters. I had a job because writing a thesis is a job per se, so it means a salary. Which means a label. Hence a plan B if my entrepreneurship plan was to fail. Why? Because, obviously if the entrepreneurship plan does not go well, well I mean, I can still complete my thesis and become a researcher in any case. All went well, so I almost don't even need to mention it. And we know that the fear of failure is, to us, something very important. And getting into business without a safety net is a much harder task. In my case, it really helped me to find the energy to catalyse my drive for innovation. I honnestly think, and am not ashamed to say that I would have been incapable of becoming entrepreneur if it wasn't for that thesis, which in the end was altogether a financial and, let's say, reputational fall back option. In any case, I had a great story to tell. Now, of course, I advise people to get into action when they are in the right conditions to do so, even if they take a risk of failing they will have to take responsibility for. Because it has gained better acceptance. But I might say that back then, five years ago, it was something much more difficult, in my opinion at least. Hence, doing so while working on a thesis is not that easy. For, of course, what often happens when writing a thesis is that one has no professional experience, or very little. Hence, no entrepreneurial culture, lots of gullibility, no sectoral knowledge and this is evidently essential, far more than understanding the entrepreneurial strategy of the start-ups. What is really important is to have a mind, well, designed for that kind of things, i.e. very opened to the meaning of Lean and Agile, etc. We will get back to that briefly, later in the MOOC. It's also very important to thoroughly know the industry and assess the clients' needs, what are the sector's business strategies. There was no synergy with my thesis and it was very much frowned upon in the Academia to embark on such path. At least that's my opinion, that I thought to be true. So, I sort of had to hide. Never did I report to my lab that I was creating a business at the same time. I was almost afraid to get fired. I may have slightly exagerrated the situation, but it wasn't regarded as something noble or acceptable. Again, it was a while ago and I believe the attitudes have changed a lot. So, a quick comment on the simultaneously double hatted, researcher-entrepreneur, if the two are in synergy, I think it can be an incredible opportuniy. If the two are not in synergy then, with some perspective, I'd be cautious. This is potentially the best way to fail both or at least to give up on the research thesis. As far as I know, every people I have seen carrying that out simultaneously with no synergy, were people who had put their thesis on hold, for the thesis has a year based temporality when the start-up has a week, or day, or hour based temporality. So one can easily get caught in the day to day entrepreneur grind. So then, still in the Academia to Entrepreneur Business theme. There is a strong message that I... a powerful lesson I learned, that in fact: courses had prepared me for very few situations. Well that may seem a bit rough, but it is not so bad. Well the impression I had and the conclusion I drew is that the courses have prepared me for nothing at all. The will to become an entrepreneur didn't come from the courses I attended or from the academic world either. Once again and fortunately, things are significantly changing. Paradoxically, they are even changing within the Masters I studied. And when I attended the Polytech/HEC business seminars, they didn't make me want to create a business. Why? Because I think that mainly, courses only gave me very little sense of the reality of the entrepreneurial job. These courses were still non professionnalising, they were very interesting but not at all actionnable for a new entrepreneur, he who happens to be an unsuspected budding entrepreneur. Eventually the only practical subject which gives concrete tools to create a business, was financing. We had courses on financing which gave us practical tools. But you don't create a start-up to finance it; financing the business is a means, a key support function but it doesn't drive your actions. We got out of there thinking: however hard we worked on projects etc. I do not recognise myself in the meaning of it all, it seems like a very theoretical approach, very businessy, but in the end we were not prepared to create a start-up, nor in fact "teased" about what it is and just how stimulating it is. Such a MOOC, like the one you are currently watching, is remarkable ; all the practical workshops that additionally spring up, at the same time in every offer: in the schools of engineering, the business schools, everywhere, in the incubators. A truly fine offer is being designed. What I experienced was being alone before the main realities and challenges of an entrepreneur at creation stage. Let me swiftly review, not claiming the comprehensiveness of the list, but to give you an idea of what I describe as the realities of an entrepreneur especially in their first years; and what I think hasn't been addressed in these courses at all. Firstly, the detection and conception of a product, in other words an object which will generate value for a market. On reflection, there was much talking about ideas, business & marketing opportunities, go-to-market, but very little about the grounds and what fills the entrepreneur's time, nearly full time, during the first and second years even more so when there are slightly bigger projects with lots of R&D : the fact of detecting and designing a product which will create value for a specific market segment. So, the transition from the idea to the production, between those stages is something that is called a product. Too often was the Entrepreneur Business presented as an idea, an opportunity, then there was a sort of realisation, but the link between the two has always been a bit vague. So, all these attitudes, strategies and methods, what we call lean and agile. Roughly speaking I think many of you have heard about it: lean, what is referred to as lean in a start-up, is customer development; this means being efficient on the resources we have and question our assumptions instead of rushing headlong, spending all the resources on the initial idea with no intention to challenge it. Also, the start-up culture in a broader sense: we talk about cloud, SAS, failure, we talk business model more than business plan, Lean Canvas, etc. All the terms that are absolutely essential to an entrepreneur, not once had these words been delivered. The MOOC will address many of these points. I suggest you learn about each of these notions, try do understand them, at least immerse yourself in this culture, you will only understand them through practical works, through action; but soak up this culture and all these notions which will timely pop into your mind, and when you will really need them you will have the capacity to find the tools you need. Ironically, there's another subject which I didn't feel quite prepared for was: a business strategy attuned with the realities of the creation stage. It's a good thing to have business strategy courses, but developing a business strategy for a multinational company, SMB or a start-up at its creation stage is completely different, a different expertise and also true for marketing. All the start-up operating processes fill the other portion of the time: 80 % for the product, 80 % for the business processes and the remaining part for private life... not much then. What is a business process? It's the recruitment, management, administrative tasks, the financial management, what do I do when the are very limited? When I lack a bit of everything to carry out a successful project? These are the realities an entrepreneur will face on a daily basis, these obstacles must be overcome and to do so one needs to be thoroughly prepared. Succeeding doesn't necessarily imply creating a large multinational, but at least it means that one can be proud of what has been achieved as an entrepreneur, one has the right approach and the project is moving in the right direction. Of course criticism is easy, the goal is not to criticise for criticism's sake, in fact the idea is to illustrate our experience, to have the right to review it and above all show how today's world has changed so much. Because today's world has really changed. Within the Academia: the academic profession now admits the Business Entrepreneur, promotes it and seeks to suport the students. For the students, it has become very hip to be an entrepreneur, even a tad too much, being one because it's hip is not enough, You need to do it because your really want to, because you feel capable and because this is a real driving force in your life. Once again this MOOC is a really good example of the guidance, the awareness and the tools the academic world wants to pass on to the students so they succeed. As for me, how then did I overcome all this? In fact, as everyone did: I created a first start-up, which I failed and it gave me the opportunity to learn as I went along. Take my word for it, there is nothing better than making mistakes to learn. Yet it is no magic bullet, which means there are a lot of mistakes from which you can learn without making them in practise or failing, unlike the child who must get burnt, they say, to understand how painful that is. In a start-up most of the subjects, if you have the right culture and right company, can be avoided or at least you can make the mistake faster or realise faster what mistake you were about to do before making it and lose a whole year doing so. Thus, reading blogs, articles on the Internet to grasp the "start-up" culture, are essential matters. Again, a lot of people told me about tools and methodologies, etc.; it's true that it's important, but if you must start somewhere you should soak up this culture and state of mind. Lean, agile, too often do people see the methods only; but what matters behind that is the reflection process, the approach people will opt for. Because this reflection process put into practise will help you grow the right reflexes. So now, I am a mentor for new entrepreneurs to support them in the launching stage of their start-up and that's probably my way of compensating and share what I didn't have back then. So, to enter a guidance phase, again this might seem pretentious but: What would I suggest to the technological business entrepreneur in the broad sense? If by technological business we mean a business which will highlight research works or a business based on a slightly denser R&D: the first thing would be to avoid being dogmatic. Be capable of reflecting way beyond your researcher's visions. The thinking mode of a researcher, a brillant researcher, will be very different from that of the entrepreneur. So there are a lot of research workers who turned excellent entrepreneurs by promoting their research, but for a majority the obstacle is dogmatism, which in the end is a very technology oriented idea - my own research, without opening my mind. Teaming up with a business skill in the broader sense, is also very important; you can't do everything. Some may brilliantly develop two skills, but in the end we realise that it is so much simpler and more logical to team up with a business skill in the broader sense, someone whose DNA will be much more business oriented. Why? Because, what is important is to partner but also to develop your own business culture, to understand that the technology you will enhance through your creation is a key asset of your entreprise but also, after all, lot more marginal that what we think, for the start-up success. Because what will also matter is the team, above all the team, the product with which you will promote your technology; the target market, the distribution which, as they often say, is more important than the product; the marketing, the strategy. All these aspects for which Research leaves the students very unprepared. It's altogether important, most of the time, to team up with someone who will have this logic and to grow it yourself to be able to understand and be in synergy with the team with which you are going to developp this opportunity. And that also means taking the plunge for good reasons, with a picture of what we are committing to and not on the splur of the moment. Because the backlash of what is going on today, namely the widespread enthusiasm for entrepreneurship which is fantastic, is that a lot of people resort to it as sort of an eldorado, financial eldorado, thinking: I am going to make a lot of money! Please don't do it for money, the expected profits are way weaker than for a lot of other jobs; if you want that, then angle for Finance, it's great, go. It is also a symbolic eldorado reputational, social, which implies: that it's good to be an entrepreneur. People's eyes are much more sparkling when you say: "I am an entrepreneur" than with "I am a researcher" which is quite unfair actually, or "I work for a company". So you need to get into action for the good reasons. It is really important. This is a seemingly super basic piece of advice but, it's proactive advice, a preparation: why does one want to start a business? I remember an HEC researcher telling me: "I want to get into business, but I have a problem, I want to increase my salary; and I know I have a great idea, but I don't need guidance about the product, or about the methodology, I just need to develop it and hire engineers and this will work. Well, when you hear that, you know the person is heading for disaster. More generally, if you consider every business, you may find thousands of suggestions, there are some good insights on the Internet, if it all boiled down to one thing a bit abstract yet very important, it would be: working on a happy medium between lots of opposites, oxymorons even: an entrepreneur needs to be arrogant yet humble Arrogant: because, frankly, the thought that amongst billions of human beings you are a person with a new idea who will be capable of developing that idea and make it grow throughout the world... is a form of arrogance, or madness. Yet humble : because if you get obsessed by your vision, if you think your are the best, if you think you've got the keys, never will you seek to challenge yourself and understand which of your arguments are wrong, how you are mistaking with your assumptions. Which, to this day, is the approach that is most acclaimed by start-ups, even if it lacks unanimous recognition. Anyway, arrogant yet humble, is a really important thing. Daredevil but also risk-averse. Daredevil: for some people are spending all their savings in start-ups; but risk-averse also because you need to seek to understand what the risks for your company or your project are, all the time. And to mitigate them, there is no use being a hothead and rushing. Flexible, but determined: flexible because 99% of the time your initial idea was bad. It doesn't mean that underlying there are zero very good ideas, but the idea of your project as you imagined it is destined to fail. So you will need to be flexible, know how to pivot, as they call it; from little things or from core matters such as your vision. But determined, because everyone will tell you that it's impossible. Which, by definition if no one has ever achieved it yet, is not so easy. So, determined also in your vision, you must think: I know or I believe I have something there and I want to go all the way. And a workaholic yet lazy: workaholic because facts are: being an entrepreneur always implies a lot of work, you must donate time to your project; the work time in itself and all the time when your mind is busy. In the end, as mentionned by many entrepreneurs, the hardest task is not all the time spent working, it's the fact of not having the ability to take a break, because the emails are pending, yes okay, but even when the emails are not incoming the ideas in your head, in the shower, during family time... they are flowing, "I coud do this and that". Yet lazy: an entrepreneur must be lazy to find the shortest way, to save some time, some money, to save some resources. Being a workaholic does not mean being intensively devoted to each task, it means: you never get enough time, use it in the laziest way possible and find some shortcuts; sometimes even prepare some work ahead to be lazy some time after, get some automatic reflexes. So there are all of these oxymorons, and we could list the many others, all very important. And maybe a last note: are we born an entrepreneur, or can we become one? I don't have an answer, but for all I know the right question isn't there, the right question is the following: why do I want to become an entrepreneur, and do I feel ready to start? If the answer is yes, then plunge away; if it's a no, maybe you should still give it a go. Thank you.