Growing as a first time founder

I’m Louise, I’m 26 and one year ago I quit my first job to be a first time founder and build Hera.

I feel like people are building start ups younger and younger so I’m hoping my story of growing up as a first time founder can be useful to other people aspiring to take the plunge.

In this article, I’ll explain how my previous job helped me become a founder, but also sometimes held me back from improving. I will also share the areas I am currently working on!

My job as Customer Success Manager helped me become obsessed with customers’ happiness…

After graduating from my Business school, I joined Inato as a Customer Success Manager. I was very fortunate to join as an early employee because my scope kept evolving and I could experience situations similar to Hera today.

First, I learned how to be obsessed with customer happiness. Users were calling me on the phone to give feedback or get their issues fixed.

I think this customer centricity is an essential skill to have as a first time founder, to make sure you’re building something people want (cc. Y Combinator:)).

That’s how I naturally created a community around Hera : to be as close as possible to users and grow from them, with them.

2 years of work experience is not a lot, but it can be worth a decade of learnings in an early stage start-up. And I say this for 2 reasons:

1/ If I take my personal experience, I was given the ability to go out of my lane. I was able to try out acquisition, work very closely with the product team, participate in strategic workshops with the leadership team, etc.

When a problem arise, you don’t ask yourself “Is it my job or not to solve it” but rather “how can I help solving it” which is the mindset you need to have as a founder.

2/ Early stage means uncertainty and flexibility. After one year working at Inato, the company pivoted and decided to pursue a new strategy. In less than a month, my role changed quite drastically along with the organization of the company. You basically get used to these “overnight shifts”.

…But it also comes with counter productive blindspots…

I see 3 main pitfalls as remainders of my previous job that I’m trying to fight everyday to succeed in my role of founder.

1/ Feedback are not created equal

When you join a company, although early but with an established product and paying customers, you absolutely want all your users to keep using your product and be very happy. I used to spend my day prioritising each piece of feedback received and following up with the product team to make sure it’s addressed as soon as possible.

It’s different when you’re at step 0 of your company. You don’t have a big team, you don’t have an established product — so you need to focus on making a very small number of users very very happy otherwise you’ll loose focus and everyone will leave. It’s hard for me to process that.

2/ Automation does not mean losing the human touch

I’m struggling with automation. Just because I was not used to that in my previous job — most interactions were done over phone with low tech.

When I started working on Hera, I often pushed back when Bruno wanted to help automate interactions with users because I feared I would lose the human part of my job.

Although it’s still not 100% natural, I realized that technology can improve and elevate customer success. You can focus on having high value conversations with users instead of manually figuring out who to contact, when to contact them. Using tools like June.so and customer.io truly helped.

3/ Long term should not freak you out

Lastly, being an employee in a start up does not teach you how to think long term. You can have quarterly objectives but you wouldn’t think about what your role and the company will become in years from now. This is a bias I try to fight as much as I can. At Hera, we run strategic workshops every month to take a step back, see if we moved the needle and make sure we still follow our north star.

…and now I’ve 10 new jobs to learn to be a good founder!

Fighting biases from my previous job is not enough, I also need to learn 10 new jobs. I’m not listing them all here because there are so many things I need to learn, but here are the ones I’m actively working on.

1/ Content marketing

This is what I’m working on when writing this article!

I think that today, to be able to attract talents, customers, or even investors, you need to build a brand around your product. I don’t want people to think about Hera as a calendar app (well, not only 😅) — I want people to feel like they’re part of a community, a larger movement.

2/ Data analysis

I knew nothing about coding but when we started working on Hera, I wanted to immediately see the metrics, and the impact of our product decisions. I tried to build dashboards, step by step. Bruno would teach me basics of SQL (he is the best teacher 🙌) and then I learned the hard way, iterating over and over to get the results I wanted to see.

Analytics helped me become “independent” in my high touch customer success — I give myself the means to deepdive into the data to make informed reach outs to users.

3/ Hiring

I think the hardest there is how to give people the willingness to work with us and take on the challenge. I would say it’s almost like sales, but haven’t really done sales before, so definitely ramping up! 😅 It’s also probably THE topic where you can’t screw up so better get it right. We try to get advice from other founders and YC also has amazing resources on this topic. Then we go from there!

Overall, I think that getting help from people who are 10x better than me in a given field has been instrumental to growing as a founder. Special thanks to KP it simple for his build in public advice, Jérémy Goillot for his growth advice, Bruno Vegreville my co-founder of course for coaching me on product and data, and all the Hera community for helping me become better at my job everyday 🙌

I hope my own experience can resonate and, who knows, help other first time founders in becoming better at what they do!

If you have any follow up question, you can reach me at [email protected]
If you’re tired of having a bloated and not actionable calendar, sign up on Hera!

Thanks for reading! 👋

Louise

Louise Bayssat

Louise Bayssat

Co founder at Hera