Friday, August 20, 2010

My Interview at Innovatrs Blog

I was recently interview by the Innovatrs Blog on my entrepreneurial experiences. Innovatrs is crowdsourcing platform based in London. They are building a global crowdsourcing platform for entrepreneurs to develop their ideas and connect them to partners and investors.

Anyway, here is the interview, which you can visit directly here or just read below:

Eclipsing The Competition│Bernard Moon: Social & Web Entrepreneur

Bernard Moon is the co-founder and CEO of XS Groupe, and an Innovatrs entrepreneur. He is also the outgoing Managing Director of the Lunsford Group, a private holding company consisting of entities in research and consulting, technology, media, healthcare and real estate.
Bernard has worked in a wide array of senior positions in social media, business and tech companies, including GoingOn Networks, where he was both co-founder and Vice President of Business Development. His work there was recognised by Business Week in their 2007 ’Best of the Web’ list.

What made you do it? Why did you become an entrepreneur?

It was probably seeded from my parents who were consumer retail entrepreneurs. They successfully sold a coffee chain a few years ago, which was their fifth business. Anyway, I was in graduate school at Columbia University studying public policy during the first Internet boom and during my second year two groups of my friends pitched me to join their startup. A fair amount of my friends in investment banking and consulting would call me to bounce off startup ideas, so it was probably inevitable.

Towards the end of graduation, I choose to work on ViewPlus, a video-on-demand platform with my friends Jimmy and Peter. We were thrown into the fire, learned on the fly, and felt like we journeyed to Hades and back a few times. Rejected by investors repeatedly, begged from our parents for support and free food, and signed up for credit cards like they were lottery tickets. It was stressful, fun, depressing and incredibly exciting. We eventually raised $600,000 in angel money to build our prototype and later a significant institutional round. Since that first experienced, I’ve learned that I love the early stages of company building- from developing the concept - to building the operations - to launching the product.

What was the original @ha Idea and how has it evolved?

Well, my most recent startup idea isn’t that original. We’re taking the successful business model of France’s Vente-Privee and the U.S.’s Gilt and bringing it to Asia, which is the largest luxury goods market in the world. The top three of four largest luxury goods markets are China, Japan and Korea (CJK).

What were your first steps after you fleshed out your @ha idea ? What was your first crisis or hurdle?

After my friend Jai and I fleshed out the idea and did our research, we started to build our team and hunt down luxury industry advisors. We also continued to research the details of the operations and finances of Vente-Privee, Gilt and other leaders in the private online luxury sale space. Our first hurdle was securing some commitments from luxury brands since we didn’t know how they would respond to this business model in Asian markets. Luckily, most of our discussions went well and we were able to secure some big brands.

This isn´t your first business start-up. Which past experiences or good advice help you navigate the entrepreneur’s rough road?

This will be the fourth startup company I have worked on from concept to execution. My past experiences have been tremendous learning experiences. Probably the most important lesson I learned from my past is that trust is essential for a startup’s success. The lack of team chemistry and conflict within the founding team has been the demise of many startups even those with a great business model, star engineers, and world-class investors.

Another area is lessons from fundraising. One startup we raised too much capital ($7 million first round) for what was needed and we became less cautious with our expenditures. We built our headcount too fast and tried to tackle a wider market instead of focusing on one segment. Another startup we raised too little ($450,000) for our objectives and it became what some entrepreneurs call a “funding to fail” situation where you’re constantly chasing dollars to make the next milestone. Not fun. Failure is a great teacher and motivator.

Being older and hopefully wiser, I am excited about this new venture since it isn’t hoping for a trend to converge with our vision or evangelizing a new market, but taken a proven concept into markets that we know are mature and ready. Also we know how much capital we need, so our team wants to avoid raising too much or too little. We already turned down an offer that was less than half of our fundraising objective since it would suck us into the “funding to fail” vortex.

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