My new CEO role at Freespee

#1 conversation platform for digital businesses 

#1 conversation platform for digital businesses 

I joined Freespee, the number one conversation platform for digital businesses, on International Women's Day

"I am incredibly excited to be joining Freespee as CEO.

It’s always wonderful to lead a very talented team of many backgrounds and nationalities.

What perfect timing: I join on International Women’s Day. I have worked hard over the last few years to promote diversity at all levels of organisations: mentoring and financing female entrepreneurs, coaching women to join boards and helping men and women from all backgrounds and skills succeed in fair and equal environments.  Diversity is an essential success factor of any company. And anybody with common sense finally recognises that. But we still have a long road to equality of gender, ethnicity, backgrounds, particularly in the Tech and start up world.

I have a confession to make: I am a tech start up addict.

Over the last 15 years, I have helped lead 5 tech start-ups to profitability and IPO.

I don’t have a pension plan or big savings: I reinvest all my money into the next generation of talent and innovation. I have personally invested in over 25 new tech companies and set up and invested in 3 tech early stage funds. I mentor over 10 founders a year, as a way of giving back to our start up community. I am one of the few female executives in the UK to sit on 2 public company boards in the tech and gaming space.

I love it.

It’s as exhilarating today as it was when I started. In fact, its more exciting these days. AI, Bots, big data, UI/UX, virtual reality all enable us to create amazing new immersive and personalised experiences for customers in B2B and B2C.

I did not start up as a natural candidate for tech start ups. Both my parents were diplomats and far removed from tech businesses. But my brother was a child model and with his earnings at 8 years old, he bought our first apple computer. We played every game possible for weeks and then we took the computer apart out of curiosity. I was hooked from that day onwards. Our household was littered with decomposed computers and games over the years.

My mother always worked and made it to the top of her profession, having come from a very modest background where her schooling was stopped age 14. My sister and I had a natural role model at home. We never questioned whether we could be leaders. We thought all women were naturally designed to lead. My sister was fearless and left the house age 7 to pursue her career as a dancer. She became a prima ballerina and choreographer by the time she was 19.  Role models are so important. They drive our behaviour.

At 17, I set up my first company: a travelling theatre troupe whilst studying at McGill university. That’s how I made money to travel around the world and live my passion for discovery and new cultures.

Then I became a banker…Can you believe it? In fairness, it was a fantastic learning experience and I was surrounded by great mentors. One in particular noticed that I was always asking too many questions. He realised I was not fascinated by finance but by what we were financing. He transferred me to a new project and innovation financing division. It was amazing. Our role was only to finance things that had never been done or created before. I was surrounded by entrepreneurs and innovators in small and large companies.

I quit banking with his blessing and support and joined the camp of the MAKERS.

I have never looked back. It is very important to understand your true nature and your passions and to work in an environment where you can embrace them every day.

At Freespee, we are at the Inflection Point: when a company has found its market fit with a unique and superior product and is facing double digit growth. It’s such an exciting time for us.

Our challenges will be to manage this hyper growth effectively:

We must stay true to our company DNA.

We must continue to recruit only the best.

We must continue to innovate to stay ahead of the curve.

We must continue to have our clients at the centre of everything we deliver.

We must empower our clients to have greater conversations with their customers.

We must continue to foster a culture of integrity and impact, of innovation and risk taking and a culture obsessed with our clients and their businesses.

We must continue to grow the diversity within our business and promote young talent from all backgrounds.

We must push forward the best engineers, the best sales people, the best customer service teams through constant training and empowerment.

We must drive a culture of joy and success amongst our teams and our clients.

We must create a culture where extraordinary things happen.

This is one of the biggest trends in tech currently across the world, pushing the boundaries to deliver the unimaginable. It’s not about a specific continent or country leading the start up scene. From Elon Musk taking us to Mars, to Xavier Niel creating the world’ largest incubator in Paris: great people are making extraordinary things happen. They refuse to believe in barriers and limitations. That’s the next generation of tech start ups and Freespee will be part of that.

Extraordinary requires risk. Risk requires diversity. Surrounding yourself as an executive or founder by people who think like you, who look like you, who come from the same school and neighbourhood as you, who share the same skin colour means you will never push the boundaries. Worse – you will probably create a culture of exclusion and inequality, whether you wish to or not.

Creating true equality in Tech firms will require us to be courageous and bold, to stand up for what’s right, to make our common voices heard. Change won’t just happen. We men and women leading the tech world will make it happen."

You can find this article and their blog on their website here




Tea Talk: S’aventurer dans l’entrepreneuriat

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Je participe aujourd’hui à un TEA TALK à Mona (lieu de vie ouvert à toutes les parisiennes pour soutenir leur projet) sur le sujet de l’entrepreneuriat au côté de Clarisse Bertrand et le 13 Décembre au côté de Benoit Sellier

"Comment savoir si je fais les bons choix ? Comment être sûre de prendre les bonnes décisions ? Au moins celles qui sont importantes. Comment ne pas paniquer si j’échoue ou si je me trompe ?

Se lancer dans l’entrepreneuriat, c’est se lancer dans un océan de questions.

Sur ses réelles envies, motivations et compétences. Anne de Kerckhove et Clarisse Bertrand vous donneront tous leurs conseils pour mettre toutes les chances de votre côté.



Clarisse Bertrand est une spécialiste du changement de vie, de sa propre vie. Après avoir été athlète de haut niveau en hockey sur gazon, elle travaille pendant 15 ans dans de grands groupes de presse tout en menant une vie personnelle très épanouie. Et là, nouveau virage étonnant, elle quitte son job, son confort et ses habitudes pour devenir Agent Général d’Assurance AXA.

Anne de Kerckhove, c’est un tourbillon. Elle a eu 3 000 métiers, connaît 3 000 personnes et est branchée sur 3000 volts. Elle a fondé plusieurs start-ups, travaillé pour de petites entreprises et des groupes gigantesques et emporte partout sa formule fétiche des 3 R : « rêves, risques et rires».

Toutes deux vous raconteront ce qui les a convaincues de se lancer, de monter leur entreprise, de devenir indépendante, de tout bouleverser et de tout explorer. Un bon grand coup d’énergie à venir attraper lors de ce talk."

Vous trouverez plus d’informations sur Mona, la programmation et comment réserver sur ce lien



Qui sont les 5 femmes "business angels" les plus actives en France?

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Les Echos Entrepreneurs, 22/10/17

Chantal Baudron, Catherine Barba, Anne de Kerckhove, Angélique Gérard et Valentine Baudouin sont les investisseuses les plus actives en France. Un palmarès réalisé pour Les Echos par Angel Square.

Où sont les femmes ? Notre confrère Challenges a publié récemment le palmarès des 30 business angels les plus actifs en France... Tous des hommes ! Les Echos ont alors demandé à Angel Square, plate-forme de business angels à l'origine de ce classement, la liste des femmes les plus actives. 

La première d'entre elles, Chantal Baudron, fondatrice en 1980, et toujours présidente du cabinet de recrutement qui porte son nom, occupe la première place. « Mais, elle est autour de la 40ème place du classement général », estime Charles Degand, le fondateur d'Angel Square. Une faible représentation féminine qui est du, selon Catherine Barba, n°2 de ce classement, au manque de figures modèles parmi les investisseuses.

#1. Chantal Baudron

Neuf investissements en 2016-17 dans des secteurs variés : les RH, le commerce, la cosmétique... Son premier investissement Filapi date d'une dizaine d'années. La start-up a depuis été rachetée. Chantal Baudron choisit ses investissements avec soin et par relation directe, avec une attention particulière pour son secteur, les ressources humaines. ► Lire son interview

#2. Catherine Barba

Reech, Retency, So Shape, Pop Shop… ce sont les 4 tickets pris en 2016 par cette spécialiste de la transformation digitale du commerce. Catherine Barba préfère l'amorçage, « le plus en amont possible », avec un montant moyen de l'ordre de 50.000 euros, dans les solutions B to B du parcours d'achat, de la relation client et des marques. ► Lire son interview

#3. Anne de Kerckhove

Basée à Londres, la directrice générale d'Iron et de son fonds d'investissement a récemment réalisé 4 opérations dans Andela, Kazaden et deux autres start-up restées confidentielles. Elle préfère les projets avec une dimension techno avec des modèles d'affaires efficaces et rapides. ► Lire son interview

#4. Angélique Gérard

Elle se dit elle-même « joueuse » et a multiplié les prises de participation… La directrice de la relation client chez Iliad a investi dans 12 start-up en 2016 pour un total de 150.000 euros : RogerVoice, Pumpkin, NextProtein, Zelip, Chouette… Tous les secteurs l'intéressent, de l'agritech à la civictech. A l'avenir, Angélique Gérard ne s'interdit pas de prendre des tickets plus importants. ► Lire son interview

#5. Valentine Baudouin

A 35 ans, cette avocate spécialisée en structuration d'investissements a démarré l'activité de business angel tout récemment. Whyd et Hyperlex font partie de ses premières participations. Au total, elle a investi dans 4 projets pour environ 100.000 euros, mais espère être plus active à l'avenir dans les legaltech, les regtech et les fintech, les univers qu'elle comprend le mieux. ► Lire son interview



Female Leadership- how to make it happily to the top! — Managing Hyper Growth

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Managing Hyper Growth Successfully

I have been lucky to work in three super successful start-ups that experienced the famous inflexion point we all dream off, followed by HYPER GROWTH. It is absolutely exhilarating and yet very challenging to manage.

Many companies self-destruct after 1–2 years of hyper growth and it shocks everybody. How can companies go from such mega success to full implosion?

To understand this phenomena from a management perspective, it’s important to dissect the addictive nature of hyper growth and its impact on top managers.


The addictive nature of hyper growth

Hyper growth and meteoric career progression are all fantastic. For executives, they are the fundamental metrics of success that we and our peers measure ourselves against. They represent achievement, power and money. Success breeds success and we can often achieve more in hyper growth periods than ever before. During those periods, there seems to be no limit to our creativity, our drive and our winning ability.

Hyper growth is addictive. We receive positive news and positive reinforcements from our teams, clients, press and boards on an on-going basis. We become the embodiment of success. We feel invincible, unique, indispensable. It pushes our adrenaline to record high.

But hyper growth phases often come at a high price if we don’t manage them well.

At work, I am a superhero. At home, I am just normal or… inadequate

Typically, a disconnect happens between our work lives and our personal lives during hyper growth periods.

As human beings, we naturally want to spend time where we are most appreciated, where we flourish the most, where we get most rewarded. At a time of hyper growth, the stimuli received at work is often much more compelling than in our other environments.

A romantic night out with your partner seems pretty dull compared to opening up offices across 3 continents and hiring 10 people in a day. The kids’ school play seems unbearably long and irrelevant. The family birthday party seems tedious: you just want to go back on-line and generate more value for the company. Even holidays feel boring compared to the thrill of doubling our P&L in 3 months.

Typically, managers in these high growth periods grow more negligent towards their family, less attentive and more impatient. Your family immediately feel that you are distancing yourself from them (they know you better than anybody). They sense your impatience. They notice that you are constantly on-line, even during important family moments, even before going to bed and they resent you for it.

This can become a vicious spiral.

The more we ignore our families, the more our behaviour is reproached. The more criticism we receive, the more we want to avoid the environment where we feel inadequate or under-appreciated and go back to the one where we get praised. So, we spend more and more time at work and after work, celebrating with our colleagues and further ignoring all other aspects of life.

Other senior managers are usually going through exactly the same thing as you. As a team, you move from individual behaviour to group behaviour, further enhancing the addictive and destructive nature of high growth. The senior management team becomes disconnected from their families, reinforced in their feeling of super stardom and become insulated from the real world.

And that’s a disaster!


Insular behaviour leads to arrogance, blindness and self-destruction

Overtime, addictive group effect leads to a single insular view point.

We progressively stop hearing the opinions outside our company that challenge us. We downplay any negative information that threatens our belief in our success.

We become arrogant. We become blind.

We become a very united senior management team of mini dictators believing in their omnipotence and that of their company….

Inevitably, we stop listening to the customer. We start demonstrating predatory power-hungry behaviour. We progressively lose the respect of our peers, our community, our teams and our families. And then we crash and burn and drag our companies down. There are countless examples of this in business news today: from Uber to the Weinstein company. Out of control CEOs and executives burn down companies.


How do we surf hyper-growth positively?

I don’t have all the answers to avoid the pitfalls of hyper-growth addiction but over the years, I have learned several vital survival techniques:

1. Be aware of the hyper-growth addictive phenomena

2. Recognise it in yourself and be brutally honest about how it impacts your behaviour

3. Ask a mentor to be your mirror during this period and call you out when you slip

4. Disconnect. Literally turn off your phone, your emails, your whatsapp for an entire weekend! (the world won’t come to an end, I promise)

5. Spend time in nature with your family without any connection to work for 3 days

6. Do something kind and compassionate for your family and your teams every day

7. Do some sports, live your other passions as well as work and family time

8. Watch out for signs of hyper-growth addiction in the rest of the management team

9. Talk about it openly

10. Encourage teams to challenge you even when all the metrics are amazing

11. Ask a senior client to be your mirror

12. Celebrate your successes but don’t take them for granted

13. Remember: nothing matters more than your family, friends and health

Let’s be happy and successful!



My interview with Lafayette Plug and Play

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In addition to being the CEO of Iron Group, I am also a mentor @ Lafayette Plug and Play I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Dounia Agharbi from Lafayette Plug & Play where she collected advice that I give to start ups during mentoring sessions.

Have you met Anne de Kerckhove…💫

Anne de Kerkhove, CEO IronGroup & Mentor @ Lafayette Plug and Play

Anne has over 15 years of experience in leading some of the fastest-growing technology, media and entertainment companies in Europe. 💪🏽

She is currently the CEO of Iron Group, a company specialized in building and investing in digital subscription businesses. In addition, she also spearheads Iron Capital, its investment fund.

Anne is also one of the most well received mentors to our startups within our strong mentor network. We wanted to share with you the precious advice she regularly provides to our startups. 🤗


Anne de Kerkhove, CEO IronGroup & Mentor @ Lafayette Plug and Play

Previously, Anne was the Managing Director EMEA for Videology, one of world’s largest online advertising technology platforms, where she drove the company’s expansion in over 16 countries in just under three years. She was called the tigermom of Videology. 🐯

Anne is also an angel investor and mentor for early-stage startups and entrepreneurial funds including Metail, CRE and Daphni, and currently holds board positions with 7digital and WeMoms.

You’ve helped Videology expand to 16 countries. What are some of the best advices you can give to startups looking to enter new markets?


#readiness 🚀

The first thing, actually, is to be ready. International readiness is key to developing your product in a new market. Have an amazing product or service, Find the right team, secure the investment and have the right mindset of success which includes taking big risks. You have to be very open and listen to grow your business abroad and love a good fight against international competition.

You have to be bold in your approach, be focused and be sure your ambitions are tremendous.

#awesomeproduct 💁🏼

The second thing is : you must be 100% sure that your product is awesome because you will be the second choice for customers in the new market. Local companies will prefer to work with other local companies except if your product is much better. You will not be the obvious choice therefore your product has to be ready and surpass the other available options. They will have to justify the risk they take to work with you. Be honest with your team and your prospects and be sure to be super stable and beyond the competition.

#Cash 🤑

Financial backing is a key asset. Be ready to invest when you go international. International Growth is risky, you will need a comfortable financial situation to go through the mountain of work and challenges.

#The perfect team 🤝

Mix local people who know the country with people who come with founding experience of your start up. The international team have to be part of the DNA of the company. Local knowledge is important but it needs to be mixed with people from the existing team who know the company and its product inside out.

#Energy ☄️

When you go abroad, you have to have a huge amount of energy. It can be scary and lonely and you are dealing with long hours and jet lag. You have a lot to deal with. So you have to be supported and trusted by your entire company. Trust and support is the key to keep working hard and staying motivated. That and good health. SO take care of yourself. Eat well and exercise even on business trips.


Last but not least : plan your international expansion like a military operation

You have to build a play book with all steps of the process and interdependencies to sequence everything effectively. Military precision is essential mixed with a lot of improvisation.

#nofailnogain 🏃🏼‍

Be aware that failure comes with international expansion. Stay super honest with your team and acknowledge that failure. Make sure you learn from your mistakes and adapt super quickly.

At Videology, we made loads of mistakes when we first went global. But those mistakes allowed us to learn and reduce the time to enter a new market from 6 months to 6 weeks by constantly learning.

And remember its all about connections. Keep charming people. Use your personality who you are to engage the people.

And laugh about the ackward moments.

At Inspired, I grew our business across 18 markets. Once in Italy, I was hyper prepared for a big pitch. I had researched the company inside out, I had got all key metrics right. I felt on top of the world before the pitch. But when I came to present to the board of directors I found out nobody spoke any English, or French or Spanish; just Italian. So I borrowed a local waiter from a cafe to come pitch with me and the board loved it. I connected with the client and won the deal. 😎 🏆

How you choose the startups you invest in through Iron Group ?


At Iron group we have 18 startups on our portfolio.

When you invest in early stage companies, you don’t have a track record or financial metrics to judge. So you must rely on something else: Your instinct and feeling about the product and the people and the alignment of the vision and the plan.

DO you feel you are meeting amazing entrepreneurs? If no don’t invest. Also Even if the startups have an amazing pitch, if the product/market fit is not clear, I won’t go ahead with the investment.

If the team cannot convey a vision with passion and conviction, I wont invest.

What are the technologies you identify as crucial within the e-commerce and retail industry over the next few years?

1.Consumer data

Data is at the base of consumer understanding. For any business, leveraging data to improve your communication and your customer experience is fundamental. We are lucky to live in a world with extremely rich data. Now we need to turn it into extremely rich insight.

2. Tech and Cyber Security

It is an obsession we are all going to have. There are so many security issues on so many fronts, from data protection to payments. We have to invest in it.

3. Ubiquity of experience

Connecting offline and online. The relay between digital and physical have to be more seamless and a reflex for all the retailers. They need to leverage on what people think to engage them in the product strategy and build a unique customer experience.

4. Technologies that remove friction

All technologies that make the purchase easier is essential. We must remove the friction from the ecommerce experience from discovery to selection to purchase to delivery. Make things easier for the consumer.

An example of this is Hotel Tonight or Deliveroo. We were always able to order food to our home or book a hotel online before they came along, but these companies have made the selection all the way to the payment for the services easier, thus significantly increasing user experience.

Our startups think of you as a queen when it comes to business strategy. As the closing of deals is one of the major issues for startups, can you give us 3 big tips ?

A real problem for all the young companies is closing and moreover it is very hard to move from trial to big deal.


The more meetings you have, the closer you get to actually closing the deal. Sometimes, You might have to have 10 meetings just for one trial. The thing you have to keep in mind is : how am I going to get the next meeting and progress down the funnel? You have to be proactive and problem solve for your clients to close the deal. You have to be on their team by the end of the process. You have to identify the link between each meeting and understand the needs of all the stakeholders.

Get to know the whole decision making eco-system and the right champion of the projects and then constantly focus on problem solving.

#Ask questions and prepare yourself

Stop pitching without listening. People love talking about themselves. Let them talk ! Leverage people’s information. Prepare well for the meeting, knowing the agenda, the topics you will go through and the ones they want you to go through.

When you close the deal, make connections. It is very important to connect with your client to secure your position and optimize the upsell process as well.

Make sure you pitch to solve a problem.


You are one of our mentors. What’s your feedback on the startups of Lafayette Plug and Play ? What do you get from these mentoring sessions?

The diversity is very impressive. The quality of the people and the passion these CEO’s have is fantastic, and most have identified a real problem. It is incredibly rewarding to share my experiences with them!

I know that being a CEO is quite hard. You feel alone, you have a lot of pressure on your shoulders. And during these mentoring sessions at Lafayette Plug and Play, during a few minutes, I like to making them feel like they are not alone. We share their difficulties and talk very openly. I can feel that it makes them feel reboosted.

Also, these mentoring session are making me more successful at my job! It opens my mind and makes me look at problems differently. Its really a two way process”

Please follow their work on social medias or send them a mail if you are interested:

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Female Leadership - how to make it to the top

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Kill The Bad Apple on the Team


Throughout my years of working in fast growth companies, I have been lucky to work with excellent female managers: Rigorous yet creative, passionate yet disciplined, empathetic yet focused on results. They generally had a fantastic bullshit detector, stronger than that of their male counterparts.

I did however identify a fairly systematic common flaw that I have myself: female managers tolerate the bad apple in a team for much too long.


Identifying the Bad Apple

A bad apple is the non-performer, whose work habits negatively impact a full team around them. The bad apple can be charming yet destructive or the bad apple can be downright political and destructive. Bad apples usually don’t realise their defects or if they do, they don’t see the impact of those defects on other people and the organisation.

A bad apple can be extremely competent at their job and yet negatively impact a company’s performance. This type of bad apple is usually the worse. Indeed, people will praise their competencies and often disregard their negative impact on the team.

Regardless of the type of bad apple, they are always contagious. Sadly, one bad apple has the impact of 30 great employees, when it comes to team moral and productivity.

One single individual can destroy a fantastic team.

What I find fascinating is female managers tend to identify the bad apple very quickly and yet they hesitate to remove it from the work environment.

In one of my companies, I worked with an extremely smart and competent HR manager. From a technical perspective, she could not be faulted. She was an excellent recruiter and talent spotter. She managed legal and compliance issues with calm and serenity.  And yet she fundamentally resented the company founders. Furthermore, she saw her role as controlling team members and what she considered to be their bad habits. In a very subtle way, every one of her communications via email or in team meetings or one2ones sent negative messages to team members. And yet when we got together at the board, nobody acknowledged the hugely disruptive impact of our HR manager. We would complain about it after a few informal drinks amongst ourselves or make jokes about it but we never properly acknowledged that the situation required dramatic action.


Don’t Indulge in Avoidance Techniques

Women, far more than men, will leverage many avoidance techniques to delay managing the bad apple out.

We somehow feel guilty and responsible for their failures, particularly when they are nice people.

We will find excuses for their shortcomings.

We will do the work for them to compensate for their shortcomings.

We will avoid them instead of confronting them.

We will rearrange work around them.

All this, of course, tends to simply alienate the bad apple further and enhance their bad behaviours. And we often lose the respect of our other team members in the process.


Speed is of the essence in dealing with the bad apple

Bad apples rot over the weeks and their negative powers enhance overtime at tremendous speed.

It is essential to deal with them as soon as they are identified.


 Recommendations when dealing with the bad apple

Trust your instinct.

Talk openly to the suspected bad apple about what troubles you in their behaviour.

Share your worries with other senior managers.

If nothing improves in three weeks, act and remove the bad apple from your organisation.

Don’t worry about the competencies you are losing, everybody can be replaced…everybody!

Explain openly your action to your fellow managers.

Manage communication pro-actively with the rest of the team.


The impact of removing the bad apple is instantaneous. The positive effect will ripple through the organisation in less than 24 hours and you will feel centered again in your own role.


Let’s be happy and successful!



Sharing Pledge : Quand le Capital Risque Francais devient Solidaire

By Forbes - 18/06/17 -
Lancé à l’initiative du philanthrope Alexandre Mars et de son « entreprise sociale » Epic Foundation qui se consacre, entre autres, aux jeunes, de 0 à 25 ans de tous horizons, nés « du mauvais côté de la barrière », le « Sharing Pledge » s’évertue à impulser cette notion de solidarité au sein de l’univers feutré du capital-risque afin que celui-ci s’éloigne de la seule performance financière.

« Nous encourageons particulièrement le « mouvement du pourcentage ». Nous allons à la rencontre des entreprises, sans distinction de taille et de chiffre d’affaires, en leur disant qu’il faudrait qu’elles donnent 1% de leur profit. Il ne faut jamais donner sous la contrainte, mais il faut donner. C’est tout le message porté par la Fondation Epic ». Fort de ce postulat développé lors d’un précédent entretien dans nos colonnes, Alexandre Mars joint, une fois de plus, la pratique à la théorie en annonçant le lancement du « Sharing Pledge », qui doit permettre à terme, à chaque entreprise, de prendre la mesure de son rôle et de sa responsabilité sociale en distribuant une partie de ses revenus selon des dispositifs adaptés à leur secteur d’activité. Ainsi, pour les entreprises de capital-risque – à qui cette nouvelle initiative s’adresse dans un premier temps-, les fonds de Private Equity et tous les acteurs du financement des entreprises en capital, cet engagement consiste à reverser aux organisations d’intérêt général de leur choix 1% ou plus de leur frais de gestion et/ou 1% ou plus de leurs revenus sur la performance financière. Cet engagement s’applique à tous leurs nouveaux fonds ainsi qu’aux fonds existants de leur choix. Telle est la « feuille de route » du Sharing Pledge auquel ont déjà souscrits sept acteurs de premier plan du secteur, en l’occurrence 360 Capital Partners, Blisce/, Breega, Hardware Club, Iron Capital, Serena Capital et Ventech.

Une initiative qui permet également de tordre le cou aux idées reçues et autres poncifs concernant la « mission » des capital-risqueurs et leur seule appétence pour le profit et la performance financière. Pour Alexandre Mars, le capital-risque hexagonal n’a pas vocation à se complaire dans cette posture et recherche, au contraire, un meilleur équilibre entre les objectifs de leur métier et l’importance de remplir en parallèle un rôle social — une tension qui nuit de façon croissante au recrutement des talents nécessaires à leur développement, et à l’accompagnement d’entrepreneurs en quête de sens dans leur vie y compris leur vie professionnelle. Grâce au Sharing Pledge, les capitaux-risqueurs français auront toute latitude de témoigner de leur attachement à une société solidaire au travers du financement d’organisations sociales. Une vision en parfaite adéquation avec celle de Ben Marrel, Founding Partner de Breega, l’un des sept signataires du Sharing Pledge.

« Entreprendre, c’est s’engager »

« Parce qu’entreprendre c’est s’engager pour avoir un impact sociétal, le don est pour nous une évidence depuis toujours. Rejoindre le Sharing Pledge, instrument indolore et parfaitement adapté aux entreprises du capital-risque pour contribuer activement au financement des organisations sociales, allait donc de soi. C’est par ailleurs une exigence exprimée aussi bien par nos clients et nos collaborateurs que par les entreprises que nous finançons ». Une manière de mettre en exergue le fait que « l’engagement social » n’est pas l’apanage des organisations mandatées en ce sens et que le don, sous la férule d’Alexandre Mars, peut et doit devenir la norme dans toutes les strates de la société comme il le prône depuis maintenant de nombreuses années.

« Notre société voit le fossé s’élargir entre ceux qui souffrent d’un véritable décrochage social et ceux qui réussissent extrêmement bien. Les acteurs de la société civile prennent la mesure de leur rôle et de leur responsabilité », abonde le fondateur d’Epic.

Car Alexandre Mars, fidèle à sa volonté de mettre la société civile face à ses responsabilités, continuera de faire bouger les lignes, et mettant en avant le sens du collectif, comme il le soulignait lors de notre précédente entrevue, en l’occurrence « Etre à l’avant-garde d’un mouvement qui veut faire collectivement plus. Dans un système comme le nôtre où les gouvernements n’ont plus le temps ni les moyens de répondre à tous les défis, j’estime que c’est à nous, société civile, de prendre les choses en main ». Toujours « armé » de son leitmotiv : « le succès ne sert à rien, s’il n’est pas partagé ».



Co-Creating with a Friend - Building on Shared Values and Passions

Safia and I met when we were 21 in Ottawa, Canada at a dinner at my house. We were introduced by a common friend. The connection was instant.

I was arrogant, know-it-all and super active. She was super smart, kind but full of doubt.

It could have been carnage. I had a habit in my twenties of destroying people who lacked self-confidence without even realising it. The opposite happened.

Her joie de vivre touched me profoundly….Both of us love laughing! We both seek joy and happiness in most situations.  We share a deep need for positivity despite adversity.

By the end of dinner, this perfect stranger was moving in. Seriously! The next day she arrived with her suitcase and invaded the guest bedroom.

It was the start of an extraordinary relationship: one without bullshit.  Our friendship is based on facing our inner evils, in order to laugh more. It is both very deep and very light.

I watched Safia struggle with food issues through her twenties.  She looked great and was externally very bubbly and sporty. But she could go for days living on Starbucks Frapuccinos. She faced in the same year a very bad breakup, addiction in her family and the cancer of her mother. She stopped eating. She lost weight, lost her hair and eventually had to leave work in full meltdown.

And then she turned it all around. She faced her fears and demons and rediscovered health. She started loving food and loving her body and loving herself.

That’s why Safia is such a good coach. She has personally been through hell and back with her relationship with food. She never judges the women she helps. She does not let them hide from their issues. Instead, she empathises and faces the issues together with her clients. She is not different from them. She is simply at a different stage of the journey and can guide them towards happiness. She is not a food coach but a lifestyle coach.

Nutrition and healthy living has been vital to my success. I was lucky enough to have Safia by my side as my mirror of truth when I slipped into workaholic habits, when I was not being quite honest with myself, when I was giving too much and not paying enough attention to my own needs, when I needed to be more tolerant towards myself. Or when I just needed to laugh and enjoy life.

I have always wanted to help more women discover the power of healthy eating and happiness.  I want to give more women access to Safia’s experience and guidance. I want to change lives by combining Safia’s knowledge and techniques with the best digital has to offer.

Last fall, we embarked on a mission to co-create I am delighted to see it launch in the UK and the US. I thank my team that has worked so hard in making this new adventure come to life.

I hope that together we will build a community of like-minded successful women who respect their bodies and constantly thrive for happiness.






Why Co-Creating NurtureYou is Vital to me

Nutrition and Health is at the core of long-term success and happiness

I have lived in many ways, a privileged life.

I was born with a lot of big ideas and a lot of energy to execute them.

I was successful in my career from my very early twenties.

I made money, quickly and easily.

I had a lot of freedom to define my path in life.

And I have almost always enjoyed great health.

As a child, I was never sick.

I loved sports, dance and was always super active.

I was born skinny and small, but as a child I was a real tomboy, obsessed with strength and building cabins in the woods. I dreamed of beating the boys and girls in my class at arm wrestle.

I was lucky: I grew tall and strong through exercise and hyperactivity.

I have a metabolism that eats through food and a body that constantly wants water.

I have never worried about my weight. I have always been a good eater: I loved vegetables, fresh fruit, nuts and seeds from the age of 7. My favourite Easter treat was fresh asparagus with Hollandaise sauce rather than chocolate eggs. As an adult, I developed a passion for fine food and cooking.

It’s fair to say I grew up seeing my body as the ideal partner to my brain and a source of fun and pleasure. This is not the case for so many women.

In my early twenties, I had very little empathy for my friends on yoyo diets, low energy cycles and recurring illnesses. I did not understand their problems. I am sure I offended many by just suggesting they go for a run or stop eating fatty foods.

I never needed much sleep and I can do marathons of work and play and still have energy.

Or so I though… At 26 I discovered illness.

I was a consultant in London, working 16 hour days, travelling non-stop. I stopped exercising, sleeping and eating. I lived on coffee and midnight sushi at the office.  My body did not accept this new regime.  It just shut down: I got the worse stomach ulcer and for 6 months I was intolerant to everything. I could not drink coffee or wine (2 passions of mine). I could not have any spices, not even salt and pepper. I could not even digest tomatoes and salads. And any desserts simply burned my stomach and the doctors could not do a thing about it. I had punched holes across all my stomach lining!

I was absolutely miserable, incapable of working effectively and my brain was mush all the time.

I was forced to take a radical look at my life.

I discovered Yoga, meditation and Chinese medicine. I started realising the importance of regular meals and superfoods. I discovered the power of simple things like lemon and hot water in the morning. In 12 months, I did not just rebuild my health. I discovered a new lifestyle where respect for oneself had to be front and centre and never take a back seat because of a job.  I started hearing my body and understanding its needs.  I was truly in sync with my body. I felt great and extremely powerful.  It’s not surprising that I started my first business venture during that period.

I won’t pretend I never relapsed into bad workaholic habits but I changed radically that year.

Everybody should wake up feeling great in the morning: body and mind. Why do we settle for anything else? I have seen so many women (and men), colleagues and friends, disrespect their bodies in favour of work or other duties or simply out of lack of education or simply lack of awareness and connection with their bodies.  I have seen so many women, strong women, struggle with body issues and depression and insecurities.

That’s why Nurture You is so important to me.

I want to bring to life a brand that is not focussed on dieting and fitting into pre-conceived and unrealistic body images imposed by society. I want to build a positive brand focussed on long-term well-being, food awareness and education and most importantly happiness.  I want to bring together a community of real, intelligent women with all their faults and insecurities, hopes and aspirations, who can share a better way of enjoying food and life. I want to build a brand focussed on celebrating food, healthy choices, exercise and passions. I want to empower woman to be successful.

I was lucky to share these aspirations with one of my best friends and NY super coach, Safia Morsly-Fikai. She has gone to hell and back with her body image and her relationship with food and wellness. She is stronger than ever and one of the most empathetic women I know.

Together with our community of strong passionate women, we will build a new vision of health and happiness.


Let’s be happy and successful!




How to Conduct a Relevant Due Diligence of a Tech Company when you are not a CTO?

How to Conduct a Relevant Due Diligence of a Tech Company when you are not a CTO?

I have been an executive in the tech start-up space for over 15 years. I am also an investor in over 25 start-ups that all rely on technology and platforms. I have learned over the years that a bad tech platform or dysfunctional team can kill a high growth business really quickly. It can paralyze a company when the market moves faster and faster.

The variance in tech performance and productivity across companies is radical. 

How many times have we seen small teams of 10 breakthrough tech challenges that teams of 1000s have not mastered?

How many times have we seen large cash injection in tech teams result in abysmal delivery in high growth series Cs companies?

Being good at tech is about a lot more than good code. Here are some of the key questions that can help non-techies (which is pretty much any investor) deal with the technical due diligence on potential investments or M&A. They are my 6 show stopper questions. Clearly the relevance of them depends on the stage of the company you are investing in. These questions are most relevant for companies post-Series A. However, even from inception a good tech team is thinking about these 6 issues.

Question 1

Does the technology team have a common vision and approach to the technology roadmap? Can the team present the technology roadmap to you?

I recommend interviewing at least 3 people in the tech team during the due diligence: the CTO, the Dev ops lead or technical architect and a lead developer.  

All 3 should individually present the vision and roadmap of the next 6-12 months. The messages should be consistent. Ask about the architectural principals, the choice of coding languages, the approach to open source, the key milestones and how they track progress, their approach to development and deployment.

Show Stopper 1: If there is no written roadmap or architecture, the technology plan is bound to fail. Don’t Invest!

Show Stopper 2: If the 3 interviews result in very different answers, this is a dysfunctional team. Don’t Invest!


Question 2

Do the Business and Tech teams share common documented specifications? DO they work together on the start of new projects and features?

Show Stopper 1: If there are not written and detailed specifications across the business, the tech team is destined to fail even if they are awesome coders. Don’t Invest!



What is the deployment process like? Is there a staging environment? What are the roll back options? Can small elements of the code be deployed or must the entire platform be redeployed each time a new feature is developed?

Show Stopper 1: If the company does not have a clear documented deployment process with a secure staging environment, don’t invest!

Show Stopper 2: If the company does not have a component approach to their platform but instead have a single unique mega platform, the platform wont be agile. Don’t invest!


Question 4

Can the platform easily integrate components from third parties? Does it have simple API’s?

Show Stopper 1: If there are not simple documented API’s, this technology team will not be able to work with third parties or outsource work.  Don’t invest!


Question 5

How do the teams test their code, the platform, the ability to scale, latency, data integrity?

Show Stopper 1: If there aren’t clear test plans beyond basic code tests, Don’t invest!


Question 6

How do the tech team monitor the platform?

Show Stopper 1: If there is not monitoring of the systems, there will be massive downtime, Don’t Invest!


I hope this list helps all non-techy investors be comfortable to positively challenge a tech team for a future investment.



Turning Travel From A Necessary Curse to a Source of Balance and Pleasure

Travel is part of any executive’s life. When we reach a certain level of responsibility and seniority, it becomes essential to manage our teams across the world, to connect with clients, to manage shareholders and to expand our company’ global reach. 

Travel enables essential face to face connection, a great source of pleasure. After all, why are we in business if not to connect and build great projects with other people? Travel is both a great business enabler and the path to great connections. 

But it is also very disruptive in our lives on so many levels: 


Planes and trains all have terrible air.  

They are bug infested environments.  

They force us to sit in uncomfortable positions for hours.  

Plane/train food is dreadful microwaved CRAP with no nutritional value. 

Sleeping upright or at strange angles is NOT conducive to peaceful rest. 


You are away from your home base and loved ones. 

Let’s face it, no matter how nice hotel staff is, they don’t really care about you. 

In summary, travel is exhausting, sometimes very lonely and can be terrible for your health. 

So how can we fundamentally rethink business travel? Here are a few ideas I implemented at the worse of my travel in a fast growth tech company when I was at my peak of happiness in the firm and really balanced. 

Start the day with warm water and lemon followed by a healthy smoothie.

When I first started traveling, I followed the lead of my peers: "take the first plane available departing at 6 am to arrive for the first business meeting at 9 am". That means: 

1) Wake up at 4 am (which is really the middle of the night and you get so nervous about not hearing your alarm that you start waking up at 3 AM or even earlier); 

2) Rush in the dark into a taxi to make it on time for the 5 AM security check; 

3) Get on the plane and eat a terrible tasting microwaved pastry, the worse instant coffee, and immediately get a terrible stomach ache; 

4) Land with an acid festering bloated stomach, exhausted, cranky and confuse. Grab a muffin and latte at the airport to give you energy.  

In those conditions, you are supposed to be in top form to meet a new customer or motivate the troops! But your performance is on par with how your body feels.  And your body is feeling terrible! It's full of processed food and bad sugar. It's deprived of sleep, of water, of essential nutrients, of pleasure and of exercise! 

How many negotiations, business deals have suffered due to physical deprivation and lack of focus on their business executives?

Isn’t it better to start the day at a normal hour with a warm water and lemon, followed by a healthy smoothie? Why not share breakfast with your family, then go to the airport, ignore the plane food entirely and arrive at 11 am for your first meeting? Will the 2 hours lost not actually be a productivity gain? My experience has proven so. 

Enjoy your time abroad  

Another accepted practice of business travel is to pack 18 hour days since we are not with our loved ones. We typically work twice a normal work day and book a hotel as close to the office as possible so that we can leave at 11 pm (having woken up at 4 am that morning), walk 5 minutes and just have room service whilst finishing emails. 

The impact: no time off for your brain or body and food digested whilst sleeping which will guarantee another bad night sleep. 

And then we repeat this experience until we rush to the airport to get home. We inevitably get sick on the flight and spend the weekend "recuperating and surviving”  because we are completely worn out. 

The business results are often equally disastrous.  

We send signals to our teams abroad that we are complete workaholics, with no respect for downtime or family life, which inevitably communicates to our teams that the same is expected of them. Our discomfort and lack of sleep turns into impatience and snappiness which is really destructive because they have been expecting our visits and really been looking forward to the shared experience and yet all we can focus on is the next cup of coffee to stay awake. 

Why not treat business travel as an opportunity for me-time? 

Why not leave the office with all the other local employees (and leave the computer in the office), take a stroll, have a run, visit a gallery (wow do something cultural), have a nice dinner on a terrace at a normal hour and then go to bed at a normal time? If you feel like you need to catch up on email, the plane will give you that opportunity. 

It's imperative that we respect our bodies, our brains during business travel and let it become again a source of inspiration and shared experiences rather than optimized slavery. 

Let’s be happy and successful!



Female Leadership - Practical Tips to combine family life with CEO responsibilities

In my thirties, life as a female executive was easy: work hard, play hard; work harder, play harder. Then in my mid-thirties, I took THE leap and had children. Suddenly, there was a lot more to juggle! Being a mother and a female CEO can be overwhelming, without a doubt. Here are a few simple tips to make things easier.

1.     Create rules, tell your colleagues and stick to them

 Decide what hours you are willing to work and which ones are no-go zones.

These will probably change overtime as your children get older.

When you still have babies, making it home on time for the bath and story time is vital. Later other things take priority like dinner and homework.

When I had my first son, Sebastian, I explained to my CEO, my assistant and our office manager that it was imperative that I leave the office at a fixed time. I would not be available from 6.30-9pm for phone calls or meetings. We also informed all my direct reports. I left the office at exactly the same time every day and then picked up on urgent work after 9 pm. My CEO understood immediately as he was also a father and had a working wife. My assistant became my vital fortress to respect my commitment and to push back on any requests for meetings within the no-go zones.

One of the key learnings was: if I personally deviated from the rule, then the rule became obsolete.

Full and absolute discipline is the key to success!

2.     If a colleague repeatedly breaks the rule, make a case out of it (kindly :))

 When Chloe was 2, I started working for an American start up as MD EMEA based out of London and Paris. Time zones made things complicated and it was a lot harder for my assistant to control incoming calls from my colleagues during the no-go zone. One colleague repeatedly broke the rule and kept on calling during story telling time.  Several times, he broke the rule and I abandoned my storytelling to talk to him. Oddly, it was I who ended the calls apologizing for having to cut short.

One day it happened again and I realized it would not stop until I put my foot down. So instead of interrupting my story telling, I put my phone on speaker, introduced my colleague to my children and asked him to continue the story. He apologized profusely and tried to hang up but I refused: he had to tell a bedtime story. He laughed, accepted the “punishment” and invented an awesome story on the spot. He was a really good sport about it and told the entire office about the event, further legitimizing my right to family time.

3.     Make your life as a mother easier: take the short cuts and do things when it’s convenient to your schedule. Nobody is judging!

During the first few years as a new mother, you feel pressured to drop everything the second it involves your children. I was no exception. I tried to juggle everything and be a perfect mother, organizing great birthdays on the same week as my board meetings, travelling back and forth between countries 4 times in the week just to meet childrens’ obligation. Some weeks were a nightmare without any downtime.

Over the years I have learned to chill out. My kids’ birthdays for example used to be super stressful as they are close together, in the dead of winter and during Q4 which is usually the most intense period workwise. One day I decided birthdays did not need to be celebrated on a specific date. Obviously, we celebrate their birthdays as a family on D day. But for the celebration with friends, the kids and I jointly pick a date during the spring and space the dates out so I am less rushed. The kids love deciding when their birthdays will take place and getting involved in the preparation.

 4.     Learn to delegate things you hate

 I hate making cakes and I am terrible at it! I hate the taste of them, even their smell as they bake. I used to force myself to make cakes for birthdays and special occasions. Not anymore! I have learned to trust the coolest bakery and cake designers to make spectacular looking cakes for the special occasions. Now my kids even go to the bakery every Sunday to choose their own sweets for Sunday lunch whilst I indulge at the cheese shop.

As much as I love literature and reading, I am really not a big fan of poetry. And coaching my kids to learn the mandatory poetry for school is pure torture. I have no patience nor tolerance for it! I now delegate this task to my super home COO and nanny Bernadette. She loves it and she is so kind and patient with my children as they butcher incomprehensible sentence one after the other. I take on all the rest of the homework which I love such as maths, literature and creative writing, sciences and history.

I have learned to not feel guilty in my role as a mother. We are all doing the best we can and we do an awesome job of it. I would love to create a community where all working mothers could share their tips and demystify the role of the perfect mother.

Let’s be happy and successful!




Female Leadership - Be Yourself in your work environment


Female Leadership - how to make it happily to the top!

Be Yourself in your work environment


In our series of posts, we explore 4 factors to combine professional success and happiness:

1) Learn to be at one with yourself in your work environment

2) Create environments where honesty and risk-taking prevail

3) Maintain a healthy mind in a healthy body

4) Create a new ecosystem to support your work/life balance

Today’s post focusses on the importance of being yourself in the work environment.

 Throughout my career, I have experienced many pressures to “fit in and blend in” to male dominated environments.

After a brief entrepreneurial venture running my own theater company, I took a job at the age of 20, in international finance and was assigned to the international transport and aircraft leasing division. Whilst the managing partner was a man, the 35 people team was surprisingly diverse. I guess Canada has always been progressive. My direct boss was an extremely conservative and driven lady. She was excellent at her job. Whilst she wore really ugly three piece suits that my grandmother would have refused to wear, I admired her a lot. She was a great coach, always going the extra mile to teach me the inner workings of a deal. She gave me a lot of autonomy and guidance.

My first 6-month review was very strange. My female boss spent the first 30 minutes congratulating me on the quality of my work and giving me hugely insightful feedback. She then spent 30 minutes telling me that I had to radically change how I dressed and behaved at work if I wanted to progress in my career. My skirts were too short, my jewelry too flashy, my turtlenecks too tight. I made too much noise when I walked. My voice projected too much and my laughter was simply inappropriate. I also challenged my top bosses too much in team meetings and asked too many questions and showed little respect for hierarchy.

I was completely shocked and, for once, speechless.

There is no doubt that I have a really loud walk (people still comment on it: It’s a fast yet heavy masculine military-like walk). There is no doubt my voice projects (blame the first venture in theatre J) and my laugh is quite uniquely loud. As for my outfits, I have always loved bold colours and striking looks.

I could lie and say I reacted with maturity and dignity. I didn’t: I walked out and went home…The next morning I walked in to work with a very short leather skirt and a T-shirt I got custom-made overnight that said: “I am too sexy for my boss”. I wore a sweater over the t-shirt but at the pub after work, I proudly showed my t-shirt to all my work friends. My boss lost a lot of credibility and I was transferred to another part of the team. It was destructive for both of us. I genuinely believe she wanted to help. But her feedback fundamentally said “Don’t be yourself at work, if you want to be promoted”.

My next boss in finance, a woman again, was a revelation. She was a mother of 4, back from maternity leave, often with a shirt covered in bit of baby vomit from the morning breakfast, super smart, kind and soft spoken.  She was different from me in every way.

She thought my loud laughter was infectious and positive and my 1000 questions an hour healthy. She put me forward for a special program which promoted emerging leaders in the bank and gave me a 6-month assignment to radically change how the bank operated. She knew that my differentiation was an asset to create change. I thrived under her watch and eventually moved to project financing where I discovered my passion for innovation which led me to my career in start-ups and tech. She had found a fit for my exuberant nature and my desire to challenge everything. She also taught me to adapt my style as needed in more conservative environments. I accepted her feedback with ease because she was not trying to change my nature, my core but rather just to adapt the veneer.

Being true to yourself in the work environment is essential. If you are not genuine or if you mask who you are, your teams will sense it immediately and you will lose their trust. We often feel slightly alien as female leaders (or at least quite unique due to our low numbers).  We often make the mistake to mask our personalities to fit in more. But we shouldn’t as we then become fake. My philosophy is simple: Since I stand out anyhow as a woman in the board room, I might as well stand out fully and be myself.

Let’s be happy and successful!


Female Leadership - Creating a New Eco-System of Support: Redefining Family

Creating a New Eco-System of Support - Redefining Family

Last week, in our first post focused on female leadership, we identified 4 essential factors to combine professional success and happiness. 

1) Learn to be at one with yourself in your work environment 

2) Create environments where honesty and risk-taking prevail 

3) Maintain healthy mind in a healthy body 

4) Create a new ecosystem to support your work/life balance  

Today we will tackle the new eco-system needed to support working female executives. 

There is no doubt that no matter how successful we are as female executives unless we have stay-at-home partners, we will still take the lion share of family management and administration. We are still seen by our loved ones, and other men and women as the primary caregivers. We probably see ourselves in that role as well and are not ready to let go. 

Teachers will always call the mother of the children to sort out a problem at school. Mothers will call other mothers to organize play dates.It is expected that mothers will go to the doctor’s appointments with their children. And we tend to organize after school activities, house care, dinner parties and holidays.

Even when we choose to outsource a lot of these tasks, we will remain as the heads of the household. As a female executive with children, you will constantly battle scheduling conflicts and organizational challenges.

If you want to manage both career and home, the traditional notion of a family needs to be rethought.

You might have a great partner who steps in, but you are going to need a lot more than one support. It’s not politically correct to say this: but you will not make it alone!

First: you need a great family COO; someone who is your childminder, your house minder, who looks after you and is an extension of yourself on most levels. Someone 100% focused on running the home: someone who keeps it all together and understands all the interdependencies of the family.

Try not to have a classic employer/employee relationship with that central person. The new family COO is a person that you truly partner with on all levels and that you trust 300%. They should share your values and agree with your lifestyle choices.

Bernadette has been with us since I moved my family to Paris 7 years ago. Chloe was a new-born, Sebastian was 2 and I was starting a new job as Managing Director with 150 staff and a P&L over several hundreds of millions, 2 months after giving birth, in a new industry, a new company and a new country.

Bernadette has been instrumental to my success and not a week goes by that I don’t remind her. We have chosen to intertwine our lives in many ways to form an extended family.  She also has a husband and children.

The children all come to my house after school, almost as one set of siblings which ensures Bernadette can manage my challenging diary without impacting her family negatively.

Every week I take care of her family as she takes care of mine. We have different skills and experience which we leverage to optimize both families. I manage all banking, education and legal matters for both families and she manages all our day to day activities.

We trust and empower one another fully in each area of responsibility and never feel threatened by the deep impact we have on each other’s family.

 Second: Ask for help and surround yourself with people who you can depend on. I don’t know why we are so shy when it comes to asking for help and yet how giving people are. Friends and extended family have been so generous in contributing to my children’s lives and helping out. And I do the same for all my friends.

I consider my close friends as part of my family and integrate them in my life. My kids have multiple unrelated “uncles and aunts” as one would in an Asian culture. They always have my back when at the last minute a business obligation pops up or I need a different perspective on a problem.

Third: Talk to your children about your work. No matter how wonderful your eco-system might be, there will be nights when you are across the world and cannot attend the school play. It will disappoint your children. But they will understand, as long as you talk openly to them. My children have always known that I am a business executive and that I travel a lot for work and that many people depend on me for their well-being. They are proud of it and understand that it will mean small sacrifices along the way. Recently I was featured in Challenges magazine for my work as a business angel and mentor to young entrepreneurs. My 7 year old daughter was extremely proud, read the article end to end and even brought the magazine to school to show her friends and teachers. She embraces my career.

I also impose downtime even during the working hours to have quality time with my children. I accompany them to school outings. I have a long breakfast with them on a Wednesday morning when they don’t start school until 10 am. Nobody at work has ever reproached me those moments. They think it’s awesome.

I will never pretend that it is easy to be a female executive and an active involved mother. But it is absolutely possible and hugely rewarding if you don’t sacrifice yourself along the way but rather surround yourself with the right support.

Let’s be happy and successful!

Why digital subscription is a win-win model?

Once largely confined to newspaper and magazines, the subscription economy has gone digital and expanded from online entertainment - think Netflix,Spotify and Apple Music - to a fast-growing number of sectors, from education to retail.

Why is digital subscription becoming so ubiquitous? Because it serves both customers and businesses. This is why we at Iron have made subscription our business.

Female leadership - 4 key factors to making it to the top and being happy

So much of our focus as business executives and particularly as women today, is about making it to the top, leaning in, achieving that C-level equality, making it to the board room. However, so little of our focus is on happiness, balance and joy in our workplace.

To make it to the top of the career ladder, we need to dedicate countless hours and make countless sacrifices.

How can we ensure these sacrifices are worth it?

Increasingly, women are opting out, stepping back because they are not finding their true place in the top echelons of corporations. They can Lean In and succeed but they don’t feel happy or fulfilled. Yet happiness is imperative. 

So is there a way to make it to the top whilst being happy and fulfilled?

I believe happiness in the workforce is determined by 4 key elements:

1) Learning to be at one with yourself in your working environment and not letting the environment determine who you are

2) Creating positive challenging working environments where honesty and risk-taking are valued instead of politics

3) Maintaining healthy mind in a healthy body

4) Creating a new ecosystem to support your work/life balance

I also believe these 4 elements are within our control not in the hands of our bosses, boards or shareholders.  Taking control of these elements and driving change in our working environments is a must. It’s our responsibility as individuals, as successful women leading the next generation of female talent.

In a series of blog posts in the coming weeks, we will explore each of these 4 key factors.

Let’s be happy and successful!

The Joy of emails... Seriously?!

When I left my last startup, I had to purge my email system before returning my computer. I had to do a total clean up to ensure no HR or confidential information got leaked. I discovered I had sent or responded to over 76,000 emails in 2 years. That’s 172 emails per working day. That’s insane and yet very typical of our current working habits: way too many emails! 

Let’s face it: Emails are processing time, and not thinking time. We have very few creative email moments or deeply enriching email moments. We have very few touching email moments. So we know that when we are sending or receiving too many emails, our work environment is not healthy anymore.

If inundated by email, our teams and our leaders are task mastering and not driving the business forward with great creative ideas.  We all know excessive email is a problem but what do we do to change this business destroyer. And I say this as one of the most prolific email writers of all times. I have been guilty of excessive email throughout my career. Emails became so constant in my working life that they started running by downtime. 

A year ago, I experimented a radical morning routine change following the advice of a good friend and very successful business executive. My friend asked me to resist reading any emails between 11 pm and until I left my home. Why not wake up with cuddles and kale rather than emails? I used to wake up at 7:30, read emails and respond to overseas emergencies from 7:30-7:45, wake up the children, get dressed, make the kids breakfast and then leave for the school run at 8:15. It was all extremely efficient. When my friend challenged me to break free from morning emails many awesome things happened. Other much more pleasant activities replaced email. My mind was entirely focussed on my spouse, my kids and a healthy breakfast. I started waking up slightly earlier to enjoy mornings even more. I was totally focussed on the morning conversation and exchanges rather than problem-solving in my head the issues raised in the night emails; it had no negative impact on my productivity.

Guess what: the USA was asleep at 8 AM Paris time. They were not doing an all nighter waiting for my answers. In fact, it had just the opposite impact on productivity!

Why not wake up with cuddles and kale rather than emails?!

I arrived at work in a good mood and relaxed. I had not yet been bombarded by the problems and crisis to be resolved that day. My team enjoyed the more relaxed me and I could attack the problems in a more constructive way rather than sending rushed answers between 715-730 before my morning coffee. I looked back at my emails from those mornings and they were often not well thought through and not very constructive. They sounded angry... like someone who has just woken up and has not had her coffee yet and is forced to deal with things in a rush. Imagine that!

I think it is imperative to reconsider how we start our working days. So much is influenced by our first hour after waking up. We need to harness the first few hours with creative broad thinking before plunging into to do’s or we never get around to the broad thinking. And we need to push our teams to have that same email discipline.

Another tip a fellow executive gave me during my series of interviews for this book really resonated with me and I have been following it religiously since.  Kill all email trails of more than 4 response emails with a phone call!

As soon as an email turns into a discussion or argument, this very successful CEO kills the email trail with a standard answer: “Let’s take this off email, I am calling you now (or just walking over to your desk). “ She would call the person immediately to discuss the issue offline or face to face. Her simple (and non-negotiable response) sends a very strong message to her entire teams: get off email and start talking to each other. She has "iron will" discipline in this regard, something I greatly admire. 

Let’s all implement these rules and be more productive and happy! :) 

Blending Heritage and Innovation

Today, I had the immense privilege of being invited by the House of Chanel to a private lunch with 8 great business women in Ms Chanel’s private apartment rue Cambon in Paris.

I have been a fan of Chanel since my early teens. Back then, I spent most of my pocket money on l’Officiel and Vogue and I would review and dissect all their collections. My dream was to own an Iconic Black Chanel Jacket. 30 years later, I still wonder at the beauty and creativity of each piece created by the House of Chanel. I love the energy of Karl Lagerfeld and his ability to combine innovation with a deep respect for the workmanship of the artisans that are unique to France.


You can imagine how excited I was to go to lunch.

Apart from being blown away by the beauty of the location, the graciousness of our host and the amazing female leaders I shared lunch with, I realised how Innovation and Heritage finally go hand in hand.

When I started my career leading digital start ups, we were all about the big D’s: Disruption, Displacement and Destruction. No wonder traditional industries like high fashion, arts and Culture felt threatened by us.

Now I am delighted we have moved to the big E’s: using digital to Empower, Enhance and Enable. We are no longer separate worlds. We combine physical and digital, old and new. We leverage good UI and UX to enhance knowledge and wisdom from traditional mentors and experts. Digital is a platform to showcase and amplify traditional talent as well as new ideas.

We are at a new equilibrium.


How do small businesses graduate and scale up?

Advancing from start-up to a fully-fledged scale-up is still a subject of much debate and confusion for many business owners. Small business owners grapple with many questions while planning their next strategic step.

Understanding the distinction between start-up and scale-up is the key ingredient to a successful graduation. However, the risk of losing the identity built as a start-up and the associated pressure can be off-putting.

How do business leaders grow a sustainable and enduring company?

Know what you’re good at, and what you’re not

The first step in any new strategic phase is to establish an honest diagnosis of the status of your business. It’s useful to understand the realities employees are facing in all sections of the business. For example, I became an intern in each department for a week to get hands-on experience and figure out what we were uniquely good at, and where we could get better.

Understanding flaws is highly valuable and will motivate teams in the right environment to constantly innovate.

Growing and learning require transparency and honesty: you must acknowledge weaknesses, mistakes and challenges, so you can focus on solutions and keep improving. Collaboration should be part of your DNA. Sharing - internally and with the outside world – will help growing your business.

Be consistent with your identity

The next step is to be clear on your ambition and your vision. Make sure your values, identity and branding are systematically consistent, otherwise you run the risk of becoming lost, confused or even forgotten.

Values and culture drive your vision forward. Are you about action, speed and experimentation? Do you pride yourself on testing and backing your innovative ideas with hard data?

Implement a ‘entrepreneurial’ staff mentality

Making a quantum leap means scaling up dramatically, which in turn requires leverage, cash and resource. I have worked at a range of organisations that scaled up fast and industrialised processes so things could be done better and faster.

What’s the real trick to success? The answer is simple: it’s people. Creating a culture of entrepreneurs encourages the creative freedom needed to succeed. After all, a business starts and ends with its people.

Build a training ecosystem

Great ideas happen everywhere, not just within the four walls of your business.

Sharing hands-on knowledge demonstrates the desire to include others in the development and success of your business. Creating exchanges, partnerships and joint training with other players in the eco-system will enhance everybody’s creativity and success rate.

Ditching the start-up label isn’t easy, but is very manageable if armed with the right tools and the right attitude. Understanding the business’ strengths and weaknesses, solidifying brand identity, treating employees as entrepreneurs and encouraging co-collaboration will take the business to its quantum leap.



Sommets du Digital 2017 (Event)

This year more than 300 tech CEO's, founders, CD0's, start ups and marketing directors driving change across the industry came together in La Clusaz (France) for the Sommets du Digital event 2017. I had the opportunity to talk about the new digital consumer and how the subscription business model is disrupting just about everything.

"Booming of subscription and the new digital consumer" presentation

"Booming of subscription and the new digital consumer" presentation

The lovely view showcasing the beauty of La Clusaz

The lovely view showcasing the beauty of La Clusaz



La Clusaz

La Clusaz