“It's hard to do a really good job on anything you don't think about in the shower,” blogged Paul Graham, co-founder of the prestigious Californian incubator, Y Combinator in July of 2010. Three local entrepreneurs explain how this enlightening quote applies to their own experiences in the world of start-ups.
Paul Graham believes that the idea that comes into our head while showering is the one that we hold closest to our hearts. That's the idea our thoughts will drift toward when they're allowed to drift freely.
Yet undertaking an adventure as demanding as starting a business means diving right in, not simply dipping your toes in the water.
Marc-André Roberge can appreciate where Paul Graham is coming from. For the founder of Nectar, a company that is developing a tool that will update beekeepers on the state of their hives and how to keep them healthy, entrepreneurship is not an end in itself. Rather, it is a means to serve a cause that he holds dear: helping beekeepers take care of their bees.
“I have worked in a company, I have been self-employed, but I was continually haunted by my project idea,” he explains. “I even dreamed of it at night. After meetings and discussions, the idea of starting a business seemed to be the best way to reach beekeepers and give them a direct solution.” And his enduring passion is what motivates him throughout the demanding development process of his product, which he hopes to market next summer.
Dominic Gagnon, co-founder of Connect&Go, admits that his intelligent bracelet and RFID solutions company follows him wherever he goes as well. “I’m always looking for the new idea that will appeal to customers. That’s what is so great about working with technology: there are endless possibilities!” Ideas come to him when he’s in the shower, when he’s driving and even during the night. This “serial entrepreneur” who is on his fifth company went so far as to set-up a board next to his bed to take notes on the spot.
These sudden bursts of inspiration are crucial to Connect&Go’s growth. Founded in 2013, the company first became well known when its bracelets were used to control access to the Osheaga Festival. Connect&Go has since diversified its clientele: “By exploring different possibilities, we are no longer limited to festivals,” explains Dominic Gagnon. “Our clients include stadiums, VIP events and amusement parks, like the Ubisoft Rabbids Amusement Centre.”
Laurent Maisonnave also recalls being consumed by what would become Seevibes, a provider of smart data targeting for efficient social media advertising that he launched in 2011. But he believes that kind of mindset is actually beneficial during a company’s start-up phase. At that stage, a borderline obsessive passion is possibly even necessary: “You have to believe 200% in what you’re doing because if you have even the slightest doubt, it will be difficult to persuade investors, employees and customers to follow you on your journey,” he explains.
The CEO of Seevibes also concedes that a certain amount of distance is essential in the long-term. “It’s hard to see the big picture when you’re caught up in the rush.” It’s not just about maintaining your physical and mental well-being but about taking a step back to better assess where you’re at. “It’s for the good of the company, not just for your own good,” claims Laurent Maisonnave.
The entrepreneur has learned to take breaks during his busy schedule, to go on vacation or to spend time with his daughter. “I then come back to work with a fresh outlook and a healthier state of mind to continue working,” he explains.
For his part, Dominic Gagnon believes that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to work long hours when you’re passionate about what you do – as is the case with him. “You still have to learn to disconnect from time to time,” admits the man who found an ally for achieving balance in his life thanks to his 10-month-old daughter. “Finding balance is definitely the biggest challenge faced by entrepreneurs,” he says.
As Marc-André Roberge explains, this challenge begins for start-up executives in the earliest stages of their projects. His product is still in the prototype phase but already he faces the difficult task of finding a balance between his passion for Nectar and…everything else.
He follows the principle of “finding balance amidst the chaos.” “As an entrepreneur, I just won’t be able to lead a balanced life,” he says. “My loved ones are bound to suffer a little.” The Nectar founder feels nonetheless fortunate to be surrounded by friends who support him, providing him with encouragement, lending a hand from time to time and having a partner who is “open and attentive”.
For him, healthy communication with everyone means understanding each person’s definition of a balanced lifestyle. “It wasn’t easy at first but more and more I manage to find time for myself and my loved ones,” he says. Being able to count on a team with whom he can share the load helps keep his head above the water, even if he isn’t planning to stop dreaming of bees anytime soon…not even in the shower.
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