Xenia Muntean de Planable

Café du fondateur épisode 033

Xenia Muntean de Planable

Je suis Jeroen de Salesflare et voici Founder Coffee.

Toutes les trois semaines, je prends un caf√© avec un fondateur diff√©rent. Nous discutons de notre vie, de nos passions, de ce que nous avons appris, ... dans le cadre d'un entretien intime, pour apprendre √† conna√ģtre la personne qui se cache derri√®re l'entreprise.

Pour ce trente-troisième épisode, je me suis entretenu avec Xenia Muntean, cofondatrice de Planable, une plateforme de collaboration et d'approbation des médias sociaux destinée aux agences et aux grandes entreprises.

Xenia a créé une agence de médias sociaux en Moldavie lorsqu'elle était à l'université et l'a développée jusqu'à ce qu'elle fonde Planable pour résoudre l'un des problèmes de collaboration auxquels elle était confrontée dans son agence.

Sa startup a été découverte par un accélérateur en Roumanie, puis par Techstars à Londres.

Nous parlons de la raison pour laquelle il faut embaucher lentement pour créer une culture, de son enthousiasme à l'idée de donner une nouvelle image à Planable, de son retour à la poterie et à la bijouterie, et du long chemin vers l'adéquation produit-marché.

Bienvenue à Founder Coffee.

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Jeroen: Hey, Xenia. It’s great to have you on Founder Coffee.

Xenia : Bonjour, Jeroen. Merci beaucoup de m'avoir invitée.

Jeroen: So you’re the co-founder of Planable. For those who don’t know Planable, what do you guys do?

Xenia: So Planable is a creative workflow tool for social media teams. And what it does is it helps marketing teams create social media content together. It helps them work better as a team, to get themselves aligned around the content that they have produced, to visualize it and get it published in a very streamlined way. Everything in one single place. So it’s like a productivity tool for social media teams.

Jeroen : Nous parlons donc de grandes équipes ? Ou sommes-nous dans des grandes entreprises et des agences ? Qui utilise Planable ?

Xenia: So agencies definitely, because agencies collaborate by default, with a lot of people, with their clients. They are, by default, in a collaborative environment. They need to showcase their work to clients and get approvals. So this type of workflow is necessary for them, because of their business model. But it also applies to in-house teams that are bigger. You know, five people and more. Or even fewer people, but distributed, working remotely and needing something to communicate around the work that they’re producing.

Mais oui, en général, le problème devient plus désordonné et plus complexe lorsque davantage de personnes sont impliquées dans la production de médias sociaux.

Jeroen: How did you get started with making a solution for this problem? Is this something you’ve faced yourself?

Xenia : Comme vous, Jeroen, nous étions dans l'industrie. Nous avons vu le problème de nos propres yeux. Nous l'avons personnellement ressenti. Nous avons personnellement lutté contre ce problème. Avant Planable, j'avais une petite agence de marketing des médias sociaux et mes cofondateurs techniques travaillaient dans une agence similaire. Nous parlions des difficultés que nous rencontrions au travail et de la difficulté de recueillir les commentaires des membres de l'équipe en interne.

Nous établissions des calendriers de médias sociaux dans Excels, ou parfois dans PowerPoint, et nous les partagions par e-mail en interne, au sein de l'agence, puis en externe avec les clients pour obtenir des approbations. Nous avions l'impression que le processus était tellement inefficace.

We also have a background in graphic design, and we were always thinking, “Designers have InVision to collaborate around the frameworks and the design files that they’re creating.” It’s just so easy in InvVision to leave a comment and to share your work with clients and to share your work internally.

And it’s just such a beautiful process, and it’s very pleasant to work in InVision when you’re a designer. But marketers, they don’t have anything like that for social.

They don’t have anything as smooth and elegant and also as collaborative and visual as designers have with InVision. So that’s how the idea of Planable was born. We wanted to just make our work simpler and a bit more delightful. So Planable was born to do just that.

Jeroen : Vous avez donc mentionné que les programmes seraient essentiellement distribués sous forme de fichiers Excel et que les gens donneraient leur avis dans ces fichiers.

Xenia : Oui.

Jeroen : Mais comment faisiez-vous, avant Planable, pour maquetter les messages sur les médias sociaux ? Aviez-vous quelque chose pour cela ? Comment l'avez-vous visualisé, ou s'agissait-il simplement de quelques lignes et les gens devaient imaginer ce que c'était ?

Xenia: Oh God, that’s such an interesting story. Especially when I had very important clients that were very serious about their grants – Coca-Cola, for example, in Eastern Europe. I had a Photoshop file where I was mocking up how their entire timeline is going to look like with all the posts that we were planning to publish in the next week or next month. So that was tedious work.

Puis j'ai été plus malin et j'ai créé une fausse page Facebook sur laquelle je pouvais simuler les messages, faire une capture d'écran et l'envoyer à mes clients ou en interne. C'était bien parce que c'était facile pour les clients de comprendre à quoi leur contenu allait ressembler à la fin.

But it was also good for me, because I could make sure that the post was looking like I intended. Because spreadsheets and Excels are just a terrible way of showcasing visual content. There’s no way. You’re just relying on everyone else’s imagination to guess what you had in mind when you were drafting that post.

So that’s how I was doing it back then. And with Planable, you can just create the post and it looks exactly like on its social media platform. It looks exactly like what it is supposed to on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook. So what you see is what you’re going to get in the end with Planable.

Jeroen : C'est vrai. Cette agence de marketing des médias sociaux, c'était votre agence ou vous travailliez quelque part ?

Xenia: No, I started it during my second year of university. I was in a student organization and one of the partners, one of the sponsors of that organization, was looking for someone to do their social. So there I was, young and hungry. And that’s how I started my agency.

I was studying PR and mass communication back then, so it was one of my dreams to work in this space. To work in advertising. And I actually never imagined I’m going to start an agency. It was a dream that I actually didn’t have, but it became a reality.

The agency was just me at the beginning, and then we were like about six, seven people doing, not just social, but also websites and branding work, and that’s how I learned more about the industry and the challenges marketers have.

Jeroen : Cette agence existe-t-elle encore ?

Xenia: No. When I started Planable, we left, together with my co-founders, we left everything we were doing back then. I closed my agency. My technical co-founder, Nick, left the agency he was working in. And my third co-founder, Vlad, he dropped out of college to do Planable. So we left quite a lot behind us. Our work, but also we moved countries. We started in Republic of Moldova. That’s where we are originally from. And then we moved to Romania to build the business.

Jeroen : Pourquoi avez-vous déménagé en Roumanie ? La Roumanie est-elle un meilleur endroit pour créer votre start-up ?

Xenia: Well, first of all, Romania is in the European Union, and it just has better economic opportunities, I would say. It has investors. It’s a growing, I wouldn’t say “strong”, but it is an upcoming start-up ecosystem, because it has angel investors and strong technical universities, accelerators, and quite a lot of events like the one we are going to speak at. Quite a lot of other conferences and platforms for start-ups too.

And it also has inspiring success stories, like the one that you’ve probably, quite a lot of people probably heard about, UiPath, the Eastern European unicorn. And all those inspiring stories that Romania has, just create a better environment to build a start-up than Moldova. Moldova is still trying to develop this ecosystem. But I would say Romania is a few steps ahead.

Jeroen : C'est vrai. Donc, lorsque vous avez voulu créer votre propre entreprise, vous avez pensé que la Moldavie n'était pas l'endroit idéal, et vous avez décidé de déménager en Roumanie ?

Xenia: Yeah. We were discovered, actually, by an accelerator in Romania. They discovered us in Moldova while we were having the idea of Planable, and they invited us to the accelerator in Romania, and that’s how we moved.

It’s really hard to start the company when you do not have the support of someone else, and I think that was a huge factor that helped us build the company. The fact that we had this accelerator that was confirming that what we’re doing made sense made all the difference. They were willing to put in the time to invest in us so that we could build the business and move forward.

I think without those things, you can definitely build a business, but it is easier if you have people that are validating what you’re doing.

Jeroen : Absolument. Vous avez mentionné que vous avez commencé parce que quelqu'un avait besoin de quelqu'un pour s'occuper des médias sociaux ?

Xenia : Oui.

Jeroen : Est-ce la première fois que vous avez décidé de créer une entreprise, ou aviez-vous déjà cette idée en tête auparavant ?

Xenia: No. I’m an entrepreneur by accident. I was not dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur at some point. Because in Moldova, it’s this tiny, tiny, post-Soviet country in Eastern Europe, and people do not have entrepreneurial aspirations back there. It’s not a trend. Young kids are not dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur at some point. So that was not something that I was always thinking about. It just happened to me, and I didn’t even realize I’m doing it until a certain point.

Mais mon agence n'était pas ma première entreprise. Avant l'agence, pendant le lycée, j'avais une petite entreprise. Je ne l'envisageais même pas comme une entreprise, mais elle me rapportait de l'argent. Je fabriquais des bijoux à la main et je les vendais en ligne. C'était donc, si l'on peut dire, du commerce électronique de mode, si l'on veut exagérer un peu.

But it was my first attempt at a business that I had. It was a good one. It was profitable, as the agency was. So that’s how my journey started.

Jeroen : En est-il de m√™me pour vos cofondateurs, ou est-ce vous qui les avez entra√ģn√©s dans l'entrepreneuriat ?

Xenia : L'idée de Planable est d'abord venue à mon cofondateur Nick. Je pense donc qu'il avait lui aussi cet esprit d'entreprise, même si je pense que c'était la première entreprise dans laquelle il se lançait. Planable est sa première entreprise. Mais je pense que nous avions tous cet esprit d'entreprise en nous. Vlad, mon troisième cofondateur, avait créé quelques ONG lorsqu'il était au lycée.

Nous avions donc tous cette ambition en nous, même si elle ne se concrétisait peut-être pas dans les entreprises traditionnelles à l'époque.

Jeroen: Mm-hmm. Cool. And what is your dream now as an accidental entrepreneur? How do you measure success, let’s say?

Xenia: Wow. That’s a tough question. So, success, personally, in life, or would you say success in business?

Jeroen : Je pense que l'on peut couvrir les deux. Pour de nombreux entrepreneurs, le succès dans les affaires est le succès dans la vie. Ou, du moins, une grande partie de celle-ci, je suppose.

Xenia : Oui.

Jeroen: But it doesn’t have to be.

Xenia: Yeah. I wouldn’t put it at an equal platform.

Jeroen : Non, certainement pas.

Xenia: Because it’s a dangerous path. But success in business, for me, would mean actually transforming the way marketers work today. You could become a multi-millionaire business. You could actually drive a lot of revenue and have a lot of clients, but not change anything. Especially if you’re in the enterprise business. You could sign quite a lot of contracts, but a big majority of those licenses are not active, and people are not actually using the product and you’re not actually driving change in the way people work.

So I think, for me, the way I would measure my success is if we actually could transform the industry. Obviously that would come with bigger numbers in terms of revenue and in terms of contracts, but for me, change in the industry and actually making people say goodbye to Excels, Microsoft Outlook and Google Drive and all those archaic tools, that’s the way I see success in Planable.

And also, a big part of success in Planable is building a culture that makes you wake up in the morning excited. Like really excited to go to work. I think that’s a big, big part for me, both professionally but also kind of personally as well.

So that’s how I would define success. Having a really awesome team and helping the industry change.

Jeroen: So, on the one hand, it seems that you want to build a big company, at least serve a lot of clients, because it’s kind of a requirement to change how people work, I suppose.

Xenia : Oui.

Jeroen: On the other hand, you’re giving a lot of importance to building a company with the right culture. How do you feel you will marry the two?

Xenia: Yeah, it’s a good question. It’s really hard to have both, because the more you grow, the harder it is to keep the culture as you intended initially. It is tough, but when we recruit new people at Planable, attitude is the first thing that we look at. And if we do not find someone that we are, a “Hell yes,” about them, then we decide to start the process again.

So, for us, it’s really important, especially now that we’re still a small team, we’re only 10 people on board, it’s really important to make sure that every person that joins Planable is as excited about it as we are about them. It is hard, but I think it’s doable if you stick to your values and principles that you have in mind, and if you do not compromise. I have definitely compromised before in terms of recruiting, and it never worked out.

So you recruit people that are brilliant and super smart and super talented, but there is not a 100% click, and you think that the fact that they’re smart and the fact that they’re interested in the company is going to work out and everything is going to align in the end, but if there is no chemistry, it’s not going to work out in the end. Things are going to go and it’s going to be an issue at some point.

So I’ve learned that lesson, and now we’re trying to make sure that the people that join in are happy and we’re happy. And I think those things are doable. Having a big company and having a happy and awesome and cool culture are doable, but it is definitely a hard thing to do.

Jeroen : Oui.

Xenia : Alors oui. Croisons les doigts.

Jeroen : Un peu sur le même sujet. Vous envisagez de vous lancer dans l'aventure ou de rechercher des financements ?

Xenia: Well, we have already raised money, so we’re past that bootstrapping point. We were funded from the beginning, actually. So we had like a small family fund ticket investment, like an angel investment, of 20k, three years ago when we started the company. And afterwards, we went through Techstars in London, and that was 120k again. And we recently just closed our seed round. So we are definitely going on the easy path.

Jeroen : Je suis allé vous chercher sur Crunchbase, et au lieu de Roumanie, il y a Londres.

Xenia: Yeah. Because the company’s incorporated in London. We already switched now. It is a classical Delaware inc. So an American company now.

Jeroen : Mm-hmm. Que faites-vous personnellement chez Planable ? Qu'est-ce qui vous occupe ?

Xenia: I ask this myself sometimes. It’s a jumble to see. You would probably agree with me, or disagree. It’s just so diverse, and you do so many things at once. One of my focuses at the moment is our rebranding process. We’re not changing the name. The name is still going to be Planable, but we are changing our visual identity because, if you look at Planable’s logo now and the new Slack logo, you might see some similarities. Though our logo, I built it, I designed it three years ago. Slack is a big company so you don’t go against them. So yeah, we are changing.

It definitely needs an upgrade anyway, so it was a good opportunity to evolve the brand. So that’s one of the big focuses that I have at the moment. And we’re recruiting. Recruiting, I think, is one of my top priorities always. Recruiting and building the culture and making sure that I’m ticking all those boxes that we just discussed.

Oui, ce sont mes deux priorités du moment. Et je pense que la troisième priorité est la vente, l'acquisition de nouveaux clients. Ce sont donc mes trois principales priorités, celles que j'ai à l'esprit tous les jours.

Jeroen: So those are the three things you do when you’re in the office?

Xenia: Yeah. I mean, they’re high level. High level, that’s kind of the things that I do. But I think actually, they translate into writing emails, a lot of emails.

Jeroen: Yeah. Mostly writing emails. Actually, myself, I don’t write so many emails, which is sometimes a bit wrong, I guess.

Xenia: Wrong? Why would you say “wrong”?

Jeroen : Les gens attendent longtemps avant d'obtenir une réponse. Parce qu'il y a tellement d'autres canaux qui accaparent mon attention. Nous discutons avec les clients sur Intercom, par exemple.

Xenia : C'est vrai.

Jeroen: I mostly chat with other founders or so, in Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp. There’s the internal Slack chat. And the emails are really the last place where I go look.

Xenia : Int√©ressant. Les e-mails sont la premi√®re chose pour moi, tout simplement parce que je pense que nous utilisons Intercom pour les clients en libre-service, ceux qui viennent juste sur le site web pour un essai gratuit et tout √ßa, et pour les clients aussi. Ensuite, ma priorit√© est la client√®le d'entreprise, et cela se fait g√©n√©ralement par e-mail plut√īt que par le biais d'un chat bot. Ensuite, avec les fournisseurs et les recruteurs, tout se passe par email. Cela occupe donc une tr√®s grande partie de ma journ√©e.

Jeroen : Oui. Cela pourrait être vrai. LinkedIn aussi.

Xenia: Yeah. That’s true. LinkedIn as well. I don’t know about you, but I have such an issue with the LinkedIn inbox. I just dream about a better LinkedIn inbox, one with reminders and a snoozing feature. It just feels so inefficient to work with. I mean, I’m forced to work in the LinkedIn inbox, but I’m dreaming about someone building a better client. The way there are email clients for email, I’m imagining something like that for LinkedIn. So someone should build that, if the API allows it.

Jeroen : J'espère que LinkedIn entendra cela, car je pense que beaucoup de gens aimeraient le faire, mais l'API de LinkedIn ne le permet pas.

Xenia : Oh, bon sang. Ouais, eh bien, je croise les doigts pour que LinkedIn le construise un jour.

Jeroen : Oui. La seule chose que vous pouvez faire, c'est de le pirater. Disons une bo√ģte de r√©ception c√īt√© client au-dessus de la leur.

Xenia : Oui.

Jeroen : Mais la question est de savoir combien de temps cela va durer.

Xenia: Yeah. That’s true. I mean, I’m not sure, but it’s always difficult to build something on top of others. I can say it from our own personal experience, with APIs there’s always an issue. So it’s difficult, especially with LinkedIn being very restrictive with their API nowadays.

Jeroen: Yeah. This is a totally off-topic question. Does that require a lot of work on your side? Because I’ve read some posts, for instance, by the guys at Quuu, that they spend a lot of 2018 catching up with all the different APIs and all the changes they made.

Xenia : Oui.

Jeroen: There’s also other apps that I’ve seen closing because Twitter closes whatever part of their API and then doesn’t allow them anymore, or tools on top of LinkedIn which are a bit more hacky, not using the API. How is that for you guys?

Xenia: It is a difficult job for us, working with the APIs. But because the problem we’re solving is more one of collaboration and planning rather than publishing, I would say it is not the core of Planable, but it is definitely a top five issues and top five priorities that we have.

For example, one of the biggest challenges that we have at the moment is direct Instagram publishing. There’s a lot of Facebook marketing partners that have direct Instagram publishing, like Hootsuite, for example. And we do not have it yet. So that’s an issue for us in terms of keeping customers and gaining new customers. It is by far the most requested feature that we are missing at the moment. And now with Facebook introducing direct Instagram publishing in their Creator Studio, it becomes even harder.

And it is heartbreaking when you talk with customers and they leave Planable because we don’t have that. It’s not something in our control. If it would be up to us, we would build it in a day, but it is the API again. So we are spending a lot of time working with Facebook to gain this enhanced API access. So APIs are just a bane to work with and to get access to them as well is difficult.

Jeroen: Yeah. So back to what you’re doing, actually. Like, if I had to see what you’re doing, what is exactly the next thing from your batch of tasks that you would like to delegate?

Xenia : T√Ęches que je souhaite d√©l√©guer ?

Jeroen: Yes. I mean, you are a CEO, co-founder, general management, and one of the things you probably want to do more. So what’s the one thing you do and want to delegate so you can focus on the company better?

Xenia: Yeah. So I think one of them is I definitely need to delegate a part of the hiring process, because now I’m doing it end-to-end. Now I’m going to involve my team into the first part of the hiring process, the full screening and the first selection of candidates. I think that empowers the team as well to have decision-making in who joins the team, who are going to be their new colleagues. I think that’s empowering for them as well, but it also helps me save some time and drop in the recruiting process in the middle and not do it end-to-end.

And then, sales. Expanding the team and growing the sales team so that it’s not just me focusing on enterprise sales, but having the team to support this function.

Jeroen : Parmi les choses que vous faites, qu'est-ce qui vous donne le plus d'énergie ?

Xenia: I’m very, very excited and terrified about our rebranding process. It’s just mixed feelings that I have about it, but I am enthusiastic about it, though I am also scared about it. But I’m excited to see how it’s going to work out in the end, how it’s going to look like. I think this type of change is a fresh breath of air and it’s long overdue.

The branding and the new website, I’m quite passionate and enthusiastic about it, also because it involves design, and I love design. And since I started the company, in the beginning I was doing quite a lot of design, but now I do not have the time, and I shouldn’t have the time to do design. But every time I get the chance to give feedback on design and our marketing materials, or do anything related to design, I’m very excited.

Jeroen : Pourquoi pensez-vous que c'est le cas ?

Xenia: Well, I learned Photoshop when I was in seventh grade. We moved with my family from one part of Moldova to a different part of Moldova, and I didn’t have any friends, so in the summer I learned Photoshop. My mom, she’s a painter and she has these aesthetic skills and she taught me how to see the world visually. And I think I miss that. I was doing a lot of design in my agency back then, so I think that’s something that I miss a lot.

And it’s also because when it is visual, you can almost touch it, right? With other things like sales or marketing, it’s more of a process rather than an end result. With design, it’s the closest thing it can get to an actual, physical thing. And I think that’s related to my first venture as well, when I was crafting handmade jewelry. It’s also a physical product.

So I think I miss this entire part of building beautiful things and designing beautiful things, and I think that’s why I enjoy it. I enjoy doing it whenever I get the chance.

Jeroen : Oui, j'étais sur le point de dire que vous aimiez probablement construire de belles choses, et puis vous l'avez dit.

Xenia : Oui.

Jeroen: Cool. I’m supposing you are quite busy, considering all the different things you do, from the hiring to the design process to the sales. Through all these kind of things! How do you keep that all in balance with your, let’s say, personal life next to that? What is the limit between your work and the rest?

Xenia: I don’t know if I keep it in balance. I remember when we started Planable, we didn’t have a weekend. I think we were so, so excited about building it. We are still, obviously, very excited, but back then we didn’t have any limits. We were working Saturday, Sundays, up until 11:00 PM. And then we gradually started making time for our personal lives, and we started taking the Sunday off and then the Saturday off.

Now, I am trying to build some hobbies and other stuff to keep my life in balance, but I’m not sure I’m doing a really good job yet. What I’m trying to do now is go to the gym. I think that energizes me and helps me put a bit of balance in life, and it helps me rewind. But I’m still struggling to do that regularly, as quite a lot of people are. Gym is hard to maintain.

Jeroen: Yeah. If you’re looking for hobbies, I suppose you don’t have kids?

Xenia : Non, non. Les enfants sont-ils un hobby ?

Jeroen : Non. Ils tuent les hobbies.

Xenia: Oh. Yes. I don’t have kids, no. Not that much personal life. Or at least not that interesting.

Jeroen: So it’s mostly a few hobbies you’re developing and going to the gym?

Xenia : Oui.

Jeroen : Quels sont vos hobbies ?

Xenia: Well, I was thinking about something physical again, like some things like crafting, doing something with my hand. And I was looking at lessons on Skillshare or something like that about crafting ceramic pots and painting them and stuff like that. I would like to do that, but then you need like this big oven where you can bake those pots, basically, out of ceramics. And I didn’t find any. They’re like super, super expensive to buy, so you need to find one, and I didn’t find anything in Bucharest. But I would like to do that because it reminds me, again, of what I was doing in high school with the jewelry. I imagine that would be super relaxing to just paint them and craft them with my own hands. That’s something I would like to do.

But yeah. I’m postponing it until I find a solution to actually making them.

Jeroen: Yeah. And that’s in Bucharest, or is it in London? Because we had a discussion around the two places.

Xenia: No, I’m based in Bucharest at the moment. The company is incorporated in London and we have a lot of business there. Investors and customers, so I do spend a lot of time in London. But I consider Bucharest my home now.

Jeroen : Mm-hmm. Pour conclure, vous lisez aussi des livres ?

Xenia : Oui, mais pas autant que je le voudrais, pour être honnête.

Jeroen: I usually ask what the latest good book you’ve read, and why you chose to read it?

Xenia: Ah, yes. The latest one that I read, I mean, I’m still reading it is 21 Lessons from Noah Harari.

I read his Sapiens book as well. I like a lot of what he’s writing. And I think especially if you’re working in technology, 21 Lessons, is a good book. And it’s also just easy to read. It doesn’t require a lot of mental space and effort, so it’s also, I would say, a relaxing read. At least for me.

Jeroen: Yeah. What’s the main take away you had from the book so far? Like what is a lesson that has stayed with you?

Xenia: Data is going to kill us all. Yeah, he’s talking a lot about how this accumulation of data on humanity, on society, if it’s not properly regulated by governments, in the future it could lead to authoritarian technology regimes, and how it can go badly if the data is not regulated, because people who own it might develop technologies that are not necessarily in our interest.

So we could go in a very Orwellian world. So yeah. I said it is a relaxing read, but now, when I’m saying it, it sounds scary.

Jeroen : Oui. Y a-t-il quelque chose que vous auriez aimé savoir lorsque vous avez commencé avec Planable ?

Xenia: It’s an interesting question. Yes, I wish someone made it more clear to me that it is going to take a lot of time to get to a product-market fit, and that product-market fit is a very uncertain thing. You might think you have it, but it’s always a question if you actually achieve it or not.

So I think just the amount of time it takes to put the product on the market, to iterate on the products. I think I probably was a bit naïve and expected things to move a bit faster, and I wish I knew that. I wish my expectations were set more correctly. So I think that’s one of the things that I wish I knew. Yeah.

Jeroen: Yeah, thinking about it, I feel the same way. I remember it was in April 2014, having this great idea and then thinking like, “People are going to love this and we’re going to be successful so fast. We just need to build this thing.” I mean, we had an approach about it, like to do it step-by-step and to test the idea.

Mais nous avions imaginé qu'il irait plus vite qu'il ne l'a fait.

Xenia: And I think one of the issues around this is that I was imagining it all depends on me, right? On how fast I move and how much I work. But it doesn’t. There are things that are out of your control. And you just need to wait for those things to happen, and time needs to pass. So I wish I knew that it doesn’t depend only on me and my team and how much we work and how much effort we put in this. That it still depends on so many other criteria out of our own power.

And I think if I knew that, it would have helped me not feel guilty in some instances, feel a bit more relaxed around how fast things are moving. Because if you put all that pressure on you, and if you think it’s just up to you on how the business is going to go, when it doesn’t go well, it’s also all your fault.

Jeroen : Oui.

Xenia: And it kind of is, because you’re doing the business, but not 100%, right? There are some criteria outside of your control and you need to be aware of those.

Jeroen : Oui. Avez-vous quelques exemples ?

Xenia: The APIs, definitely. Working with external partners is hard always. And also, just talking with customers and signing new contracts, it’s also an external factor that. I mean, you can push it. You can speed it up. But in the end, it’s again, outside of your control. I think in sales, there’s a lot of those things that don’t depend on you entirely, right? I mean, you know better probably than me. But I feel like that’s what I’ve learned so far.

Jeroen: Right. Final question. What’s the best piece of business advice you ever got?

Xenia : Le meilleur conseil en affaires ? Laissez-moi réfléchir.

Jeroen: It could’ve been from one of your investors, co-founders, Techstars?

Xenia: Yeah, so I think it was from one of my investors recently. It is a good piece of advice about creating our own category. So I think it’s very important to define a new category, build it with your own product. That’s what we’re trying to think at the moment about Planable, like what product category does Planable create? And that will probably be creative content collaboration.

Je pense donc que créer un nouvel espace et se l'approprier, y placer un drapeau et se l'approprier, stimuler la croissance dans cette catégorie spécifique que vous avez créée, est une approche intéressante des affaires. C'était donc un bon conseil

But general advice is just how important the team is. I think that’s something that I learned very early on, from my mentors. And because it was just us, the three co-founders, in the beginning, one of the best advice that I got was just to not hire in the beginning, if you know what I mean? Like, postpone hiring as much as you can. And that’s important because it gave us, the co-founders, the chance to build a culture between the three of us and align ourselves in terms of values and everything and be more mature as a business when we started hiring. So I think that was some good advice we got.

Jeroen: That’s definitely some solid advice. I would advise people to do that as well.

Xenia : Oui.

Jeroen : Merci encore d'avoir participé à l'émission Founder Coffee, Xenia. C'était un plaisir de vous recevoir.

Xenia : Merci beaucoup, Jeroen, de m'avoir invitée. Mon café vient de se terminer à l'instant même, ce qui tombe à pic.

Jeroen : Joli !


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Jeroen Corthout