Inside the mind of an entrepreneur: our founder of the week discusses the life project that keeps him motivated.
I graduated from engineering school only three years ago. I had chosen a very technical option and wanted to work in cyber security. Very quickly, I realized that just being technical wouldn’t allow me to fulfil myself, that I needed a dimension of openness and learning about the whole company.
This desire to learn and discover new subjects that I would not have been confronted with as a technician, such as HR, legal or particularly sales, pushed me forward.
It starts from a wish to discover myself, to surpass myself. Entrepreneurship confronts us with stressful situations with a different type of pressure than we have experienced so far. The stakes are no longer linked to an indirect factor but concern us directly. It becomes a question of survival for your company, what you do has a direct impact, you are no longer diluted in the mass of employees of a large company.
We are three co-founders who wanted to do a job that makes sense for us and who started a year and a half ago to fight against food waste.
Today, Savr is a logistic and technological solution to avoid food waste. It has two main dimensions: a curative logistic aspect against food waste and a preventive technological aspect. In a first step, we work with catering professionals to recover their food surpluses at the end of the day and deliver them to associations in need in compliance with health standards. This is made possible thanks to an application on which restaurateurs indicate their surplus, alerting a driver who will deliver the food in less than 20 minutes.
In a second step, we use the data collected on the application to have a history that will allow us to measure and identify trends for each professional (periods conducive to food waste, type of food regularly wasted). This allows us to give them recommendations to better manage their purchases and production and address the problem of waste at its root.
Concretely these are food donations, and we are the facilitators. In addition to the moral values and principles that make restaurant owners reluctant to throw away their surplus, making this type of donation entitles you to a tax deduction of 60% of the value of the donation at the end of the year. Some restaurateurs even benefit financially.
Even after a year and a half of work, there’s always so much to do, and that’s not about to change. In addition to the initial need to spend a lot of time in contact with customers to find the right product-market fit, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the situation and slowed the pace.
The first challenge was therefore to bounce back from this current situation, not to let ourselves be discouraged. We decided to take advantage of the pandemic to meet our customers, assess their needs and validate what we had learned. This enabled us to identify new needs, including that of collective catering (canteens, hospitals, etc.) for which, despite all possible recommendations, there is still an incompressible amount of waste.
The second, more general challenge was to keep the motivation to keep working every day, to think about how to create more value. There is no impassable mountain, but entrepreneurship is a kind of marathon and the goal is not to stop in the middle.
The third challenge was the fact that we had to train ourselves on technical issues such as the legislative framework of our activity. The transport of foodstuffs with the associated health risks and tax exemption are areas that are highly regulated by the law, which imposes numerous standards. This required us to find a reliable and transparent subcontractor to transport the foodstuffs, which proved to be more complex than we expected.
This kind of thing can create small frustrations that can be discouraging. The important thing is to make sure that we create value for the client. From there, you develop a kind of inner conviction that gives you the strength to move forward. Difficulties are smoothed out and forgotten fairly quickly since the more things progress, the more you gain in confidence and the more you reduce the risk around the project.
The three of us agreed on one thing: we had a personal life on the side and even though we all three wanted to give everything for the company, we didn’t want to sacrifice that privacy.
Where the experience may have differed was in the way our quite different characters made us perceive reality. Some people experience things more intensely, more personally. It allows for super dynamic periods with great ideas but also makes things more difficult at other times. On the other hand, other people have a more stable character and feel the ups and downs less emotionally speaking, which is quite complementary with the first type of character.
Of the three of us, I’m the most tech-savvy, so I took care of it. I met the founders of Cube during our specialized Master’s at ESSEC and this is when we discovered the Bubble platform. We tried it and in half a day, we had already grasped its potential. The ease of development and the reduction in lead times (by a factor of 10, as far as I was concerned) quickly made me realize that it was the tool I needed for the Savr web application.
The iteration made possible by Bubble allows more time for reflection instead of having to look for which comma is wrong in the lines of code. We can then focus on the product development issues of an entrepreneur, not those of a developer.
While I was initially interested in Bubble and Low-Code to make a simple landing page, I ended up developing the three applications that run Savr today. We are very satisfied with the result. I don’t think we could have been so prolific using more classical computer languages, which are much slower in terms of execution.
Although the learning curve on Bubble is fast, it is not easy and requires a minimum of technique, especially for the algorithm which is very logical and can become complex when it comes to managing data. Even if it can be a bit daunting if you’re not used to it, everything related to visual development remains very simple and within anyone’s reach. In any case, this makes it possible to succeed in making a product.
I am sometimes surprised to see how far Bubble has pushed the use of the application. After a year and a half of learning about Bubble, I feel ready to work on any subject. Not at a 100% level of perfection or finish (UI), but already at a good level.
I wouldn’t yet allow myself to give any real advice given my limited experience, but I find it interesting in hindsight that the reasons that lead you to entrepreneurship are not necessarily the ones that keep you there. At first glance, we tend to get excited about the fact that we don’t have a boss, that we really do what we want to do, whereas once we’re launched, there are a lot of constraints on a daily basis and we don’t always work on the subjects that interest us.
I have found and still find the experience very enriching on a personal level. You develop a lot of aspects and new facets of yourself. Even if there are always boring or unpleasant tasks to do, the relationship at work changes radically and it becomes a pleasure to get up in the morning.
Work is a very important part of our life (we spend more time at work than with our loved ones), so I find it interesting to change the way we see it if it doesn’t suit us. This is not necessarily for everyone: if you’re good at your job and don’t like risk, you may not find a fulfilling side to entrepreneurship. And in that case, that’s okay too. If everyone started to be entrepreneurial, society would be unbalanced, there would be no one to run the basic institutions.
To the few to whom it speaks, to those who want to put their hands in the dirt and feel the reality of the field (designing a product, finding a customer, selling it to him) and are ready to put aside their comfort, their routine and some of their beliefs, there is no need to hesitate.
As far as personal investment is concerned, I don’t think it’s necessary to give everything to your work when you’re an entrepreneur. You have to know how to lead your personal life alongside and to do so, everyone has their own formula. That doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice it for an evening if there is a professional emergency, but certain aspects of personal life are very important to me and will remain so, beyond work.
You have to be down-to-earth and aware of your limits, of what you are willing to sacrifice. Entrepreneurship is a game: you have to know the rules before you know what you are willing to bet on it. As for my experience, it’s not always rosy, but there are so many beautiful things to be found there that I think it’s worth it.
As far as the partners are concerned, I think it is important to be clear about a number of things before embarking on a partnership. It’s a bit like marriage: if you don’t have the same visions, the company is “condemned” to run out of steam very quickly. On the other hand, I think it’s better not to go on your own, in the sense that running ten marathons in a row without taking over with someone else is very complicated. In addition, I find that nothing beats a relationship with a partner, because no one will be as involved as you are as a partner. This is also what I was looking for with the entrepreneurial adventure: strong human contacts.
Finally, I would say that it is very important to communicate well with those close to you and to be frank with them so that they understand your initiative, your struggle and the reason why you have less time to give them.
Entrepreneurship is not as insurmountable as we think, it is simply a small climb that requires endurance and perseverance.
Interested in fighting against food waste? Visit Savr website: https://gosavr.io/