This week’s Misfit Entrepreneur is Emmanuel Straschnov. Emmanuel is the founder of Bubble.io, a company that empowers anyone to build software without code. On Bubble, people can start businesses and tech startups without engineering talent or knowing how to code and launch products and whole businesses in just the fraction of the time it used to take. In fact, many of the businesses created today like AirBnb or Twitter could be built with a solution like Bubble. It truly opens a whole new world for entrepreneurs. And thousands of products and companies have started using the platform worldwide.
But Emmanuel didn’t start out to create a solution like Bubble. In fact, at 22, he was a waiter in a Chinese restaurant and went on to become a management consultant in China for a number of years. He and his partner bootstrapped Bubble over the last 7 years and only just recently took on venture backing. It’s the lessons learned in this journey that I’ve asked him to come on and share with you in this episode.
Emmanuel is also very active on Twitter
Emmanuel’s path was not a direct one. He grew up being fairly technical, but at 18 decided that he wanted to be in management and after college took a job with the French Government. After some time, he realized that if he didn’t go abroad early in his life, he would most likely never be able to, so he negotiated a 3 year delay in his start date as a government employee. He wen to China and did management consulting for 3 years. He did a lot of different projects and unique things. After 3 years, he decided to discover the U.S. and ended up going to Harvard for his MBA. It was during this time that he began to get more clear on what he would do with his life. He took an internship in the fashion industry with Prada. It was one of the best jobs he ever did.
He decided to not go into government because it was too slow and to stay in the US and work in the corporate world. During this time, he started to get the entrepreneurial itch to build software. It was a passion for him as a kid and he re-discovered it. He dropped going into the corporate fashion world. He graduated Harvard without a job, but had a mission to become a software entrepreneur.
He started networking across New York, Boston and other cities. During this time, he got connected with his now partner, Josh, who was working on a “no-code” development concept and as Emmanuel says, “Partnered up after the first coffee meeting.” They have built the company together ever since.
Did your experience as a management consultant in China help prepare you to build Bubble?
- Yes, it taught him to deal with uncertain and ever-changing environments.
- His less technical background, but manager experience helped provide balance with his business partners skillset.
- Working in China taught him how to still thrive and contribute when he didn’t necessarily understand everything and it was useful for building Bubble as well.
Did your experience being a waiter in China do anything to help you in your business?
- It was the most efficient way to learn Chinese
- It teaches you that you are not above any task. You have to learn and do everything.
- This helped him in business because he was not afraid to take on every aspect of the business and learn it and do it as they built the company.
- In fact, this lesson led to the policy at Bubble where all employees have to be on “success rotation” in customer service for 2 weeks.
Tell us what you’ve learned about bootstrapping a company…
- There are tradeoffs.
- You go slower at first.
- You will be more customer centric because you don’t have investors to talk to, you only have your clients.
- It teaches you to be careful with cash.
- It forces you to have to generate real revenue so you can grow and hire, etc.
What advice do you have on getting the first few customers?
- They focused on the non-technical tech savvy founder struggling to find engineers for their product.
- They found them in Meetups.
- They went to their first Meetup at NYU and started networking with founders.
- The in-person connection really made a difference in getting people to give them a chance.
- They were able to help people take an idea and turn it into reality.
- The first couple years was finding clients by word of mouth and used their feedback to build out the solution.
- Once they had gotten the product to a good place, they launched on Product Hunt and started getting new clients from the recognition.
- Best advice is to not try and get too many clients up front. Find 5 great clients that are willing to work with you and your initial, somewhat ugly solution and work with them to make it great.
- “If it is an idea where everybody says, “that’s great,” it’s probably not because most likely it would have already been done. But, if it is an idea where most people say, “That’s stupid or not going to work,” but about 5% of people are extremely excited about it and want it – then that is a good idea.”
You recently took on a funding partner, tell us about it and the benefits so far…
- It was something that had to happen at some point.
- They needed to be able to balance growth while really building out and scaling the platform and it made sense to get capital to do so.
- The raise was just over $6 million. Half of it went to product/engineering.
- The rest is being used for marketing, etc.
- They chose a group that has a longer term view in how they operate. The benefit for them was to get in early.
What makes a great business partnership?
- Emmanuel and Josh didn’t know each other.
- There was a good personality match. It is a relationship like a marriage.
- They are direct in their feedback.
- They are extremely complimentary from a skill set standpoint.
- It has allowed them to be extremely efficient.
What advice would you give a new entrepreneur starting out today?
- Don’t let excuses stop you from getting started.
- Get clients as soon as possible on your MVP.
- But wait as long as possible before you make the “big splash” and launch in large way in the market.
- Get yourself in position for growth before you take on the growth.
Best Quote: “If it is an idea where everybody says, “that’s great,” it’s probably not because most likely it would have already been done. But, if it is an idea where most people say, “That’s stupid or not going to work,” but about 5% of people are extremely excited about it and want it – then that is a good idea.”
Emmanuel's Misfit 3:
- Use your college and school years to do things that you would never do once into a career, etc. Learn things that you don’t think will be relevant to what you expect to in your future work. You’ll be amazed at how useful these things can be.
- If you have the opportunity, spend a few months abroad once in your life. Go live somewhere else in the world for a few months. It will give you valuable perspective for your life.
- When it comes to facing a hard choice, ask yourself this question, “If you will be successful no matter which decision you make, which one will you choose?” That will give you your answer.
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