“I would never have done this crazy project without JP”


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Posted Jul 13, 2022, 6:00 PMUpdated on Jul 13, 2022 at 6:40 PM

“In 2010, freshly graduated from Epita engineering school, I flew to New York for an internship at 24/7 Media, a digital advertising management platform. On this occasion, I met Jean-Pierre Ocalan, my internship supervisor for six months. “JP”, who graduated two years earlier from the same school, took me under his wing.

Both English expatriates abroad, far from our respective families and friends, a friendship was gradually forged beyond the professional framework. Very quickly, the American megalopolis seduces us with its bubbling energy.

Create software in 48 hours

In the office, we especially share the same vision in the way of coding. We are also very direct in work as in life. A first common challenge in the company tested our way of working in pairs and also our friendship. At 24/7, we are launching an internal project: creating our own software in 48 hours so that we no longer have to call on a service provider. Mission accomplished. This project was the foundation for the future.

Such an experience abroad is an accelerator of life and friendship. It undoubtedly structured my adventure as an entrepreneur. In total, we worked together three and a half years at 24/7. JP stayed in New York in advertising. Me, a year at Bloomberg. Then, I sailed towards the milder skies of Barcelona.

Even though our paths have gone separate ways, I've stayed in touch with my colleague-turned-friend. Tired of the salary, at 26, I tried the adventure of entrepreneurship thanks to Hugo Allary, whom I met during an evening in New York, thanks to a mutual friend. The latter puts my foot in the stirrup. He offers me to help him create a point-based home exchange site (since acquired by Home Exchange).

Friendship: a driving force for entrepreneurship

I take this opportunity to get into entrepreneurship. Always attentive, JP also gives us his advice remotely on the code and the functionalities of the site. Above all, I see a gigantic problem which will be the premise for the creation of my second company: the hassle of accounting with documents scattered in different databases. As a good “geek” who seeks to automate everything, I tell myself that we could create a tool for companies that would simplify this accounting.

In 2016, still from Barcelona, ​​I decided to create the online accounting assistant: iPaidThat. The planets are aligned, as JP returns to London and is looking for work. Of course, I immediately suggested that he design this new platform with us.

We start at three with JP and Hugo (who has a more marketing profile). For this, we raise 100,000 Pounds in funds from a Business Angel and friends, an amount that we double by taking out a loan from the bank.

Complementary friends (and colleagues)

Before becoming friends with JP, we were colleagues and we knew very well that our understanding of the code and the taste for challenge was our strength. We are also complementary and delighted to finally undertake together. JP is a perfectionist and I like to launch and sell products quickly.

With that in mind, we take turns coding to move faster. Like sailing at sea, we take turns day and night to build our tool and get the boat to port. It's a relationship of trust where everyone does their part to create “techno”. We speak the same language, which saves us precious time on technical choices.

This is the essence of our friendship: when a problem arises, we talk to each other frankly and put everything on the table to move forward. We have two strong characters. There are no things left unsaid.

From Barcelona to London

iPaidthat was created in June 2017. We have our first client at the start of 2018. As we mainly target the English market, working in Barcelona seems less and less appropriate to me. So I decide to return to London and join JP, since we have to structure the company, make it grow and hire new talent. It is also the moment when Hugo leaves the adventure.

In 2021, during our first fundraising (8 million Pounds), we are looking for a CMO (Chief Marketing Officer). During the recruitment process, we meet Anne-Sophie Laignel. A woman experienced in entrepreneurship and driven by a taste for travel (co-founder of the commercial site The Hobo Society, which became Milk decoration). It's a real thunderbolt!

Anne-Sophie is the “quiet strength” of our trio. She structured the company and now manages operations. His emotional intelligence also made it possible to understand how we envisage the recruitment of the “living forces” who were to join us. In 2021, she was appointed CEO then partner.

Think “friend skills” rather than “soft skills”

If our friendship helped put iPaidThat into orbit, we asked ourselves, beyond technical skills, with whom we would like to work. We tell ourselves, perhaps benignly, that we would like to recruit people who could be our friends. It has become our common thread for HR.

We have built a company of 30 people with young and international profiles. Unconsciously, we recreated what we had experienced in New York: being a foreigner in a country to open up to others and create a bond.

Our company has become a melting pot where “friends melt together”, to use the words of comedian Jamel. Lebanon, Italy, China, Morocco, the UK, Peru, South Korea… A dozen nationalities in all. A community of young talents who have become friends. Every Thursday is a ritual: company evening. No one deviates from it. There is a fraternal, even family spirit.

In my opinion, friendship works in business because it involves honesty and openness in human relations. In retrospect, entrepreneurship is an incredible adventure that also tests one's friendship. I would never have done this crazy project without JP. I don't think you can start a business with all your friends, but starting a business with a friend is probably easier…”

To note

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