Loïc Le Meur’s advice for entrepreneurs

Loïc Le Meur spoke at a conference in Instituto de Empresa (Madrid, Spain) yesterday. Loïc has founded four companies and is currently the General Manager of Six Apart Europe. He talked about his experience as an entrepreneur and started by defining passion as “doing what you like without feeling that you’re working.” He always knew that he wanted to work for himself and in something that he loved. And that something was the Internet.

Below are Loïc Le Meur’s advice for entrepreneurs:
(any inaccuracies are my fault)

Ideas and execution

Your idea is worth zero. The only thing that matters is carrying out the idea. Successful entrepreneurs are not based on revolutionary ideas but on execution. Share your ideas. Do you think that your idea is unique and that no-one else has thought of it? Worry. Do you want to keep your idea a secret? One million people are doing the same thing. Don’t protect anything, except your brand. In the Internet, everything moves so fast that, when you protect something, someone else has already carried it out. For example, Loïc currently invests in some projects as a business angel (around 100,000 euros?) and says that he never signs confidentiality agreements (a.k.a. NDAs) because an idea is nothing. If all that you’re worth is in the idea, he’s not interested in investing (this reminds me of the interesting business valuation method by Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby).

Another example is that Loïc says that he has even posted ideas on his blog that he knew he would never carry out (he’s not the only one ;) ). Loïc proudly stated that Julio Alonso from Weblogs S.L. acknowledges having started an idea that Loïc posted. Where can one find ideas? He tries to identify “empty spaces”: something which is not being done or which is being done inefficiently by competitors. Loïc is currently very interested (i.e. he invests) in podcasting and internet video (“They are empty spaces. There are no podcasting schools.”).

Indecision and fear of failure

The difference between entrepreneurs and “normal” people is that entrepreneurs carry out their ideas. Don’t wait. The more you wait, the worse it gets (mortgages, family, etc.). Dive into the water and then learn how to swim. When you start, 10 friends will tell you that you’ll fail. Don’t listen to them. They’re jealous (friends!). This idea reminds me of Guy Kawasaki when he says “Don’t listen to the bozos“.


Competition is good for you. If you’re in an “empty space”, the appearance of competitors is a healthy sign. Talk to them. You’ll learn. If you give, they’ll give. Loïc recommends sitting down with your rivals in order to share ideas and “increase the size of the market.” If you collaborate, you cut costs in communication actions, conferences, etc. Some examples: when he was at B2L, an advertising agency that sold BBDO, he participated in the Internet Advertising Bureau with its competitors. When it founded U-Blog S.A., a blog company that later merged with Six Apart, he participated in a “bloggers’ union”. Never publicly criticize your competitors. If one of them criticizes you, don’t answer back. He talked about RapidSite, his hosting company, which he defines as “putting a lot of websites in a machine to cut costs.” They obtained 10,000 clients in 18 months. France Télécom copied its service, its pricing and even its advertising. Instead of getting angry or suing them, he invited them for lunch. During the meal, France Télécom offered to buy RapidSite and Loïc accepted. He was 27 years old in 1999, the peak of the dotcom bubble… “I was lucky“. Moral: your competitors can become partners. Think of the long term, never of the short term. You think that the world is a big place but, in fact, it’s a village. Loïc recommends reading “The World is Flat” by Thomas L. Friedman.


When you interview your first employee, you are the first interviewee. Be over-transparent with your employees. Tell them that the company is you, that there is nobody else. Tell them that there are funds to pay them during 6 months, that you’ve only got one client, that it is very risky and that you’ll pay them with shares (preferably stock options if things go wrong). Transparency creates mutual confidence. Treat your employees as equals. The economy is increasingly based on individuals. Companies don’t matter. Diplomas don’t matter. Loïc tells of a case where an engineer sent him a blank CV and told him “I don’t have any diplomas but I read a book every night.” That engineer had also sent the same CV to IBM, Microsoft, etc. but none of them called him for an interview. Impressed by the engineer’s passion (I’ll work for free!), Loïc hired him with the minimum salary and offered him shares. Loïc says that he has been the best employee to date. He did not have any diplomas but his ability to adapt was more than plenty.


Never use your school’s or university’s alumni book. Calling someone out of the blue is not natural. Instead, he recommends going to conferences, i.e. networking. In his last conference, 10 CEOs approached him after his speech. “Plant seeds and let them grow.” This idea again reminds me of Guy Kawasaki when he says: “Let a hundred flowers blossom“. Loïc believes that it is very important for entrepreneurs to recognize their limitations (something which Martín Varsavski often repeats: “undertaking is a cure for pride“). He considers himself good in the creative part but not in the execution part. That is why Loïc “plants seeds” at conferences and lets other team members monitor and execute those business opportunities.


Forget about traditional marketing. The rules have changed drastically. Doing the rounds is the key. To achieve this, you must make your first clients extremely happy. Do you prefer buying a car because the advert is good or because 10 friends have recommended it? He recommends reading “All marketers are liars” by Seth Godin. There are too many brands, too much noise. The mass media (newspapers, television) are losing power while Digg gains it. He sets out the example of Nabaztag. After a mention on CNN, the site experienced an increase in temporary visits but which did not transform into sales. A mention on Boing, Boing and the company ran out of stock.


Get beta-testers, users, clients that talk well about you and help you to improve the product. First show some “traction” (visits, favorable reviews, etc.) and then approach investors. Resort to business angels before venture capital. Based on his experience, a business angel will not give you any problems and will support you in everything. There is no single answer to the question of “do you want VC money?” Each business is different and has different financing needs. If you do accept money from a VC investor, the fewer investors, the better. In his third company, he raised 6 million euros from 6 investors and spent too much time drafting reports, PowerPoints, etc. to keep them informed. When dealing with venture capital, he recommends focusing less on the valuation and more on the term sheet (investment contract). More attention should be paid on the clauses of preferred shares and preferred collection rights by investors in the event that things go wrong or certain milestones are not attained (sales, customer numbers, etc.). In practice this means that, when the company is sold, the entrepreneur obtains a very small part of the sale value, despite having a large percentage of shares. He recommends hiring a good lawyer who knows about those issues even if the lawyer costs 10,000 to 20,000 euros. If anyone is interested in this matter, I recommend reading this post by Rick Segal, a Canadian venture capital investor.


The truth is that Loïc has a curious way of presenting. While he said “I hate PowerPoints. They are unidirectional,” he loaded in his blackberry and in the room’s projector an article he wrote a while back and used it as a script throughout the presentation. When he wanted a reminder of the next point, he consulted his blackberry. He always looked at the audience, never behind him.

At the start of the presentation, Loïc warned that he was going to say many obvious things and kept his promise. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed myself listening to the “obvious remarks” of a person who has set up four companies (some with revenues of 50 million euros per year) and who talks straightforwardly of what has and hasn’t worked for him.

At the end of the question round, I managed to talk in a group with Loïc, Enrique Dans (he has just blogged about the conference) and Julián Martínez. Julián, founder of adooS/habitamos.com, was accompanied by two members of his team. adooS are on the verge of closing financing, they have offers from very, very well-known US venture capital firms, and have to make some difficult decisions. I wish them all the luck.

By David Blanco
Saved in: Books, Entrepreneurs | 3 comments » | 20 June 2006

3 comments in “Loïc Le Meur’s advice for entrepreneurs”

[...] Loïc Lemeur’s advice for entrepreneurs. [...]

[...] Yesterday I debuted as a blogger. I was (and am) freaked out. The truth is I’ve always been more of a lurker. I hardly ever participate in discussions even though I read everything and keep an eye on everything. So much so that some negonators (Roberto, Israel…:P) call me “Uatu” in honor of the Marvel hero with clairvoyance and clairaudience powers and cosmic awareness beyond all scale. Although I suspect that it’s because how pigheaded (both physically and figuratively speaking) I can be (I hear laughter in the background). [...]

[...] Next Monday and Tuesday (11th and 12th), LeWeb3 will take place in Paris. It’s like the “Les Blogs 2″ conference last year but with a different name. The organiser is Loïc Lemeur, a French entrepreneur to whom I dedicated one of my first posts on the Negonation blog. There will be 1000 attendees from 36 countries. The event has a clear european focus but there will be entrepreneurs, bloggers and investors known internationally: Niklas Zennström (Skype, Kazaa), Gil Penchina (previously of eBay, now at Wikia), Danny Rimer (Index Ventures), David Hornik (August Capital), Dave Siffry (Technorati), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Ross Mayfield (SocialText), Hugh Mc Leod (Gaping Void), Mena Trott (Six Apart)… and Anina, a cool and beautiful model that blogs her life from a mobile (don’t miss her interview on NerdTV). From Spain, Enrique Dans will participate in the round-table discussion of “Education 2.0″ and Martin Varsavsky will present on “The challenges of getting Spaniards to build a global company”. [...]

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