Want to attract investors? This start up business story inspires and excites.
Maestrano was born last March when Stephane Ibos and Arnaud Lachaume made good on a pact to start a business together that they made while studying telecoms engineering together in France. Within seven weeks of pitching to The Indus Entrepreneurs last October, a $1 million investment from IT heavyweights including a Microsoft CEO and the founder of eServGlobal was secured by this Sydney startup.
We managed to catch Stephane in between meetings in the US, to talk about the highs, the lows and advice he has for other budding startups out there.
We were so interested to read about how you made good on a pact with your business partner, to start this business. Can you tell us about what problem you are solving for small businesses?
Essentially we are helping SMEs save time, money and complexity when running their business, by providing them with a centralised place where they can find all the Cloud applications they need to run their business, with a nice twist…
All these applications come automatically connected thanks to our proprietary technology Connec!™, which means that SMEs can now use various third-party cloud applications (Accounting, CRM, e-commerce, etc.) and yet have them automatically ‘talk’ to each others and share data, thus making it a coherent, end to end system, very much similar to the ones used by large corporations, but with apps specifically designed for SMEs needs and … for free! That’s right – taking apps on Maestrano doesn’t cost more than taking them directly from the providers, with the difference of having them automatically connected – meaning no setup, no configuration – just use the apps and see data flow across them.
On top of that, we provide automated and real-time reporting across all the apps used by a business in our Impac!™ analytics dashboard. Of course this includes financial reporting, but also sales, milestones, resources, inventory and more. For the very first time, SMEs have the level of reporting and visibility that until now only large corporations could afford, provided for free and completely out-of-the-box.
Do you think there is an advantage to going into business with a partner, rather than trying to tough it out yourself?
Definitely! Being an entrepreneur is not an easy ride, even if it’s an extraordinarily exciting one. At times, it can be stressful, a bit tiring and discouraging. In these moments, it is absolutely fantastic to have a partner that shares the load and knows exactly what’s going on – someone you can openly discuss challenges with.
Besides that, I don’t believe that one person has all the skills required to create a business on his or her own. It’s good to have a partner to bounce ideas with and have another set of views and skills available for the business. It is both stimulating and positively challenging and really helps making the best possible decisions.
Last but not least – it’s also really enjoyable to share the great moments with someone you know has been working with you on the same wavelength from day 1 – it just makes the small and great achievements much more enjoyable. Share the pain, but certainly share the joy as well!
What has been your greatest hurdle to overcome with Maestrano to date?
We’ve had many actually. At first, it was about convincing potential investors that we could execute properly, both technologically and from a market penetration point of view. It took a good amount of legwork (literally) and countless hours of relentless pitching.
Then came the time of pulling of the technology in a very short timeframe. It was certainly challenging for our tech guys, but they did great and allowed us to have our first patent, which was instrumental for the growth of the company.
At the moment, we are facing a new set of ‘good’ challenges, all related to our rapid growth. With offices in the US, Europe, Middle-East, Asia and Australia, Maestrano has become quite a widely spread operation, and we need to ensure we manage all the priorities across the group consistently, with all the support needed, whilst remaining agile and nimble. It’s a very exciting challenge!
Greatest achievement so far?
There have been many as well ;-p. But I would say that our greatest achievement so far is to have built a really awesome team across the globe. Lots of people talk the talk when it comes to the importance of people in a given organisation. We walk the talk. We invest a lot of time in our team members, we choose them very carefully and we literally give them a part of the business. In return – and because they are all awesome folks – we have an incredible team. And truthfully – it’s probably one of the main factors behind our positive trajectory.
Most of our coworking business members are startups themselves. Do you have a piece of advice for those looking for investors?
That is a very vast question! I would say 3 things, based on our experience:
1 – Tell the truth. They know you are a startup and not everything is going OK in a startup – otherwise, you wouldn’t need any help. So be transparent about your strengths, but also your weaknesses and your plan to address them. Don’t hide anything – they will ultimately find out and it will only bring you trouble.
2 – Put yourselves in the investors’ shoes. It’s their money we are talking about. Ask yourself: “why should they trust you with their money?”, “what do they expect in return?”, “Can you provide this return and if yes, how and when?”. If you can answer these questions, your discussion with them will be really meaningful and will resonate.
3 – Don’t take the discussions personally. Most investors will want to challenge you before trusting you with their money, to see what you are made of. At time, they can even be quite provocative. Don’t take it personally; it’s only fair that they want to know who they will potentially be dealing with. Answer honestly; don’t try to be what you are not. You will ultimately find your ‘match’ and even if it takes a bit of time, it is far better to have investors that understand you and that you can understand rather than fundamental misalignments that can be lethal for your venture.
Favourite thing to do when you aren’t concentrating on work?
I wish there was such a time! But unfortunately (Or fortunately because I am passionate), Maestrano is pretty much at the centre of my life – thankfully my better half is very supportive and understands really well, which is essential for me.
But everyone needs to ‘escape’ from time to time. When I do, I like going to the gym to let some steam out, or go for a nice meal out. Just anything relaxing really – when you cut out, you need to really cut out – even if it doesn’t last for long.
I also read a lot in the evening. It’s important to keep a door opened on the rest of the World!
Thank you again Stephane, we look forward to hearing more of your stories and insights at the Disruptive Startups Event next week.
If you haven’t got your ticket to this event, register here. You won’t want to miss this.