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Marketing 11 min read December 7, 2017

Interview With Emeric Ernoult: How He Built Agorapulse From Idea To $5M ARR

Interview With Emeric Ernoult: How He Built Agorapulse From Idea To $5 M ARR

Elena K.
Editorial Head at Serpstat
Emeric Ernoult is a founder and CEO of Agorapulse — Social Media Management & CRM platform. At SaaS Nation conference Emeric shared top 10 lessons he learned from building Agorapulse from scratch.
I caught him up after his speech to dig a bit deeper into a subject. Hope that his experience may help lots of guys who are just starting their business journey to avoid making mistakes, at least some of them ;)

Thanks so much to Emeric for spending the time to answer all of my questions :)

Top 10 learnings Emeric shared:

1. Patience. If you are an entrepreneur, you have to wait a long time, always more time than you expected.

2. Persistence. Don't confuse these two terms. Patience is to learn to wait, not necessarily do anything but wait and accept the fact that you need to wait. While persistence is learn to do shit while you wait and keep doing it. Try again and again, it eventually gonna work. You have to be driven so hard that whatever happens, you'll eventually get to something.

3. VC Funding is NOT for everyone. Check Emeric's post to find 9 reasons why not to raise VC money for your startup.

4. Remote is NOT a fantasy land. Choosing remote is an utterly challenging path:

    • On-boarding new team members in a remote environment doubles or triples the learning curve;
    • Communication is much more complicated;
    • As a team leader, you have to be super disciplined, have clear process, document everything, it's counter-intuitive with early stage needs;
    • The high-velocity pace small teams need to win is near to impossible, everything takes a lot more time in a remote environment.

    5. Work/ life balance is a mirage. Because as a startup founder, you need to be great at lots of aspects, which takes a lot of time. Here they are:

    • Leadership;
    • Product;
    • Customer support/ success;
    • Finance/ projections/ accounting;
    • Business development/ growth;
    • Sales;
    • Hiring/ coaching/ mentoring/ culture;
    • Networking;
    • Analytics/ metrics/ KPI tracking;
    • Personal growth;
    • Staying in shape;
    • Taking good care of your family;
    • Keeping some friends around you.

    6. Leadership is tough and crucial. Here are Emeric's key leadership learnings:

    • There are no bad teams, only bad leaders;
    • As a leader, you are ultimately responsible for everything that fails;
    • There's no room for ego in a team;
    • A good leader empowers its junior leaders;
    • Your team will not follow you if they don't understand and believe in the mission;
    • Keep everything simple, always. Complexity and overwhelm are the keys to team failure;
    • Don't expect your people to come and talk to you, come and talk with them.

    7. Setting priorities is key (and hard), it's something that will make or break your startup. While setting priorities for your (growing) team is even more important.

    8. Hiring "right" is tough, very tough. Do the job yourself until you're almost dying, then hire. When you've done the job by yourself, you understand what it takes to do the job right.

    9. Reinvent everything, all the time. What worked 6 months ago is probably not working anymore. Try different things until you find something that works.

    10. The right tool can make a difference.
    If a 99/ month tool can save 1 hour a day to 1 team member, it's no-brainer.

    Questions and answers:

    — You launched Agorapulse in 2011 when social media marketing wasn't so popular yet. What inspired you to start Agorapulse?
    — In 2009, we started to build bespoke applications for Facebook, it was what the market was asking for. But we quickly realized that this was a service business and that was not the business we wanted to build. As we saw a need in the market for Facebook apps and no solution to get them at an affordable cost, we decided to industrialize the apps we had built and offered them in a self-service / low-cost way. Our apps went for $15k a piece to $49/month!
    — What would you be doing as a career if Agorapulse didn't exist?
    — I would have launched another business. I don't know how to do anything else than building businesses...
    — What has been your main career achievement so far?
    — Taking an idea and building it from the ground up to $5M ARR. Definitely the achievement I'm the most proud about.
    — For readers looking to become entrepreneurs themselves (or those who are already started their way), what's your biggest piece of advice for bringing their ideas to the next level?
    — Spend as much time as possible testing your idea. Do as much customer discovery as possible before you start building anything. The worst thing that can happen to an idea is to build it, invest a year of your life into it and all your savings just to realize that nobody needs it.
    — You emphasized that setting priorities right is the thing that will make or break your startup. Share, please, some tips on how to prioritize your work.
    — There are only two tips here: first, you have to constantly re-evaluate your priorities and your team's priorities. There's not "set and forget" priorities, you have to step back, Take a hard look at your business and constantly reassess what you and your team are doing. It's a mindset and a process. A good rule of thumb is to do that weekly for the coming week's small goals and quarterly for the quarter's big goals

    Second, you have to keep your priorities simple and limited. Having too many complex priorities is a sure way to fail. Force yourself to simplicity and to a limited number of priorities. Ideally, one person should only have one big priority at any given time.
    — During your speech, you mentioned that companies that let people work remotely face lots of challenges. In your experience, do all people need to work in the office or there are positions that can be worked both remotely and in-office?
    — A remote environment is very challenging for a product team. When you're building a product at a fast pace, have everyone in the same room as often as possible is definitely a plus.

    Marketing and support can operate in a remote environment more easily. However, big time zone differences will remain a challenge.
    — During your speech you shared more than 10 points, a successful founder should be good at. One of them was staying in shape. How do you think doing sport may help founders to succeed?
    — First, if you're in a shitty shape, chances are you will not be very efficient at work. More importantly, taking care of yourself allows you to "last" longer. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. If you exhaust yourself in the first 100 meters, there's no way you'll be able to sustain the 40km run you'll have to do to succeed.

    Taking time off to exercize and take care of yourself also helps with the need to focus and set priorities!
    — There is one topic left that I just cannot pass by. You probably you've already guessed that it's a social media marketing ;)
    Share some reasons why social media is worth the investment.
    — Your social presence is part of your voice and, when you're small, your voice matters. As a small company, you, the founder, will be the voice of your company and people will see you as being the company. This is a strength as people prefer to talk to people rather than organization. Social media is among the best way to build that tone of voice and show the human side of your business.
    — What type(s) of social media content people share the most? (if you think that the one type that works well for Facebook, i.e., but doesn't get any shares in Twitter, mention the best solutions for every channel, please.)
    — The content people share the most are stories. People love stories. They love it even more when they are personal. If your social presence can be built around your story, you're guaranteed to touch people and make them interested. Try to think about the stories you want to tell. Share less, but focus on the story telling.
    — Video content is now everywhere, seems that 2017 is the year of video content. In your opinion, do live videos work better than previously recorded and then published ones?
    — This is a "technical" question. If I tell you yes or no, my answer may be right today but will be wrong 6 months from now. Don't focus on the tricks, focus on the stories you can tell. If your stories can be shared in videos, live or recorded, do it. If not, don't chase the latest shiny object, it doesn't matter in the long term.
    — Let's speak of eating your own dog food :) Do you use Agorapulse for your social media marketing? What features are the most useful for you?
    — I do! The 2 features that I love the most:

    • The clarity in our inboxes. Agorapulse really makes it super easy to not let any incoming message slip through the cracks. I love how simple it is to reply to all incoming messages and how good it feels when you've emptied your inbox.

    • The ability to customize the content I publish to each social network and the ability to repeat my evergreen posts automatically. We've really nailed this feature.

    I also love our mobile app :-)

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