4 Minutes to read
Gilles Raymond, Founder and CEO at Letsmeet
Learning Inspiration 🌈 #61
Gilles Raymond is founder and CEO at Letsmeet. Gilles is a tech fan. He was the first to write a thesis on Artificial Intelligence in 1995 and launched the world’s first downloadable game in 2000. Gilles was the main founder of News Republic, which he sold in 2016 for $57 million.
Above all else, Gilles is interested in people, in the exchange of ideas, in dialogue, in travel. Although he currently lives in the U.S., Gilles has lived in Europe, Singapore and China. He is also a great adventurer! He has traveled to 42 countries, has crossed the desert, did parachuting in the army and the grand canyon, and has been dog sledding and kite surfing all around the world.
Tell us more about you:
I co-founded my first startup in 1996 with a super experienced, high-ranking guy. In the end, this adventure was like an accelerated MBA. I only know how to go from zero to one with startups. Whether they work or they fail, this is my favorite stage.
Everything needs to be built, everything needs to be created. You have a dream and you turn it into reality, which you’ll never find in a big company. After the failure of my company Infusio, I wanted to take a 6 month leave. I only lasted 3 weeks and ended up creating News Republic, a news aggregator for mobile devices.
In October 2018, I created Done, a mobile sequel. The concept didn’t work. We pivoted last summer to Lets Meet (letsme.et), which allows you to set up a meeting via email regardless of the number of people.
Who is your major inspiration?
I have been a huge fan of philosophy for almost 20 years. When I was in high school, philosophy was imposed on me but I didn’t have the maturity to learn it.
Then at age 30, I started asking myself existential questions and leaned into them. I am a huge fan of Nietzsche. I’ve read all of his books several times. It makes me laugh that we quote Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Tim Cook when what Nietzsche says is 100,000 times more powerful and philosophical. To me, quoting Steve Jobs in a philosophical context, would be a bit like asking Nietzsche to be Apple’s CEO. Nietzsche inspires me a lot on the meaning of life, the definition of happiness, societal pressure and human relationships.
What are your favorite books 📚?
Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche. If you’ve never read Nietzsche, I certainly do not recommend starting there. It’s complicated in form and sophisticated in substance.
Nietzsche’s The Gay Science is much more accessible and easier to read. Written in the 19th century, Nietzsche says in it that it’s possible to work and to have fun at the same time. We can practice philosophy, math and advanced research while having fun – hence the title, The Gay Science. It was kind of like when Google said 10 years ago, “Come work in jeans and t-shirts. We don’t care about the suit and tie. There is no correlation between wardrobe and professionalism. Have fun while learning.”
The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. This is the first business book I read that wasn’t bullshit. I find that we’re in a pretty funny world where, when an entrepreneur talks to another entrepreneur, everything is fine, when in reality that isn’t true.
In truth, setting up a company is hell; it’s super hard. Most companies fail. But there’s this permanent, almost Hollywood-like hyper positivity that says “everyone is beautiful, everyone is nice, and everyone is strong.” Meanwhile, everyone knows that isn’t the case.
In his book, Ben Horowitz says something like, “When I was an entrepreneur, I slept like a baby, woke up every 3 hours and cried.” He could’ve played it differently, could’ve only spoken about his success: he sold his startup for more than $1 billion and set up the biggest fund in Silicon Valley. Instead, he recounts everything he has learned to make a book that could practically serve as a Business Bible, both in substance and in form.
What are your learning routines 🧠?
The greatest source of learning comes from other people, assuming the relationship is real, not bullshit. The entrepreneur who tells me that everything is fine, everything is pink with their company, tires me. Intellectually, it’s uninteresting. When I started News Republic, my competitors told me that their company was doing really well. I thought, “shit, things aren’t going very well for me.
I have a lot of worries weighing me down.” And then, a few years later, their company sank while I was selling mine for $57 million, cash. I think that the moment you have enough self-confidence to drop the armor and share your real life, you can then establish fabulous, virtuous relationships with others and learn a lot from them in an intimate way, professionally and personally.
People can be an incredible well of knowledge. From issues related to building a product, to life philosophies, to marketing strategy, to building a team, there is so much one can learn from the experience of others. For me, this is the greatest source of knowledge.
Books are obviously a huge source of learning as well.
What is your favorite podcast 🎧?
I started out with audiobooks rather than podcasts. When it comes to books about business, I’m much more likely to listen, and non-business books, to read. However, here are a few podcasts I do enjoy.
In this podcast : Franck Ferrand Raconte, Franck Ferrand tells stories with acclaimed enthusiasm and talent.
Generation Do It Yourself by Matthieu Stefani: I love the professional and personal dimension of long formats. It allows people to engage. In this podcast, you learn about the host’s personal struggles, his path, his professional life and tips.
Exponent by Ben Thompson: In this podcast, Thompson performs strategic analyses of major tech trends.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome this year and how?
Clearly pivoting in my company; this is the really complicated phase. This is the moment when you set up a project based on an idea but then reality hits you in the head. On paper, it was beautiful, but now that I’ve had the courage to face the numbers head-on, I saw that in reality it wasn’t working at all.
You have to have the courage to look the truth in the face and admit your failure. You have to do it early enough so that the company can continue. It’s a challenge to find another idea, in terms of management as well because you have to reorient the team. It’s a time challenge because time is the nerve of the war. I announced in July: “The Done suite is going to be put on hold, and in 60 days a product called Meeting Monster will be released. It allows users to set up a meeting via email regardless of the number of people. The release date is set to October 30th and the resources we have for this project are the same ones we currently have. Now, let’s go!” It was a real challenge.
What would you tell the 18- or 25-year-old version of yourself?
Become what you are. That’s what Nietzsche says in Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
If you were to stay alone on an island and could only bring one item, what would it be?
A book: “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” by Nietzsche. I’ll be able to re-read it 200 times.
If there is anything else you would like to share, please do so 🙂
Becoming who you are is crucial. Understand your intrinsic values, what you like, independent of societal pressure, parental pressure, or peer pressure, to find your fundamentals and flourish in them. Give it your all, go hard but without harming yourself, because that may risk becoming pleasurable.
I enjoy moving in the direction that suits me. There is no other recipe for success than this. If we talk about success in tech, it is often measured by the amount for which a company was sold. But that’s actually wrong. The living proof of that is that all the guys who made millions selling their companies ended up building another one soon after.
It means that, that’s not a success. The “I exited, I have lots of money” is a myth. Otherwise, we would all be in a lounge chair on the sand. In fact, if you do that for two weeks, you get agitated. Success in life has nothing to do with what we’ve been taught. Jim Carey used to say, “I wish everyone were rich and famous so that they’d understand that it doesn’t help.” He’s rich and famous, and that didn’t prevent him from experiencing alcoholism and depression.
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