#70 Why startups fail with Denis Duvauchelle

Over the last decade, Denis Duvauchelle has launched more businesses than anyone I know. In fact, he’s never had a real job! So when it comes down to understanding the impact running a business can have on your health, your relationships and on your head space, I couldn't think of a better person to speak to than Denis.

His businesses include Twoodo, the productivity app for teams that was featured on TechCrunch and successfully accepted in one of Europe's most sought after startup accelerators and raised two rounds of funding. (You can watch their impressive pitch during demo day here)

But then along came Slack.

And Denis had to face one of the toughest experiences any entrepreneur and CEO must one day face: failure.

In today's episode Denis opens up about the ups and downs of his decade long entrepreneurial journey and shares why he believes 99% of startups fail and what you can do to be part of the 1% of who succeed.

And it's not what you think...

If you enjoy today's episode, share it with a friend who could benefit from hearing someone else share their lessons learned.

In this episode, you will learn

  • How Paul McKenna led Denis to NLP

  • The biggest things Denis learnt from his first failure

  • Denis’ experience of being in an accelerator programme

  • Who he bumped into whilst living in Silicon Valley

  • How lean startup methodology works

  • What advice Denis would give his younger self!

  • How to manage working with friends


What do you think?

I really enjoy how honest Denis is about the reality of startup life and the toll it takes on your personal relationships and your own health. Something we rarely talk about.

What stood out to you about this episode?

Maybe you’re thinking about starting a business, or you’re already growing - let me know if this has changed your mind about how you might do things differently.


Don’t have time to listen? Stand Out Snippets


On how to build a company:

“If you really want to build a company, you have to be full time on it, because if you’re not, the chances diminish even more. You just need time to build it and sell it and so on…” [18.41]


“Build it and they will come is really not true.” [19.39]


“There's a certain pattern in coding that you can apply in lots of other fields… As an example, if you’re writing a word document and you would select manually a 24 font, or if you’re in marketing you always have to do a presentation or landing page. There’s where I think having the tool in your kit where you can do a bit of coding gives you a massive advantage.” [25.41]


On what’s it like to be in an accelerator:

“It was very exciting and motivating. You’re surrounded by people who do want to change the world, they have a big idea they want to execute it and build on it.” [38.07]


“It’s good but it can also be risky. People saying yes all the time is not always the right thing to do.” [38.47]


“It was a big change from being in my office room by myself all day to being in an office surrounded by people having to do things I’m not comfortable with like presentations and social interactions.” [39.42]


“There was a lot of competition... Asana, Yammer but the main one is Slack which just invaded the whole space. They’re actually the fastest growing company in their history...They were also helped by the fact the founder is very famous. Oh, and having millions helps!” [44.44]


On lean startup methodology:

“It does take out the whole gut feeling, it becomes very scientific… But it also increases your chance of success.” [49.06]


“If you find the right riskiest assumption at the beginning then you know right away instead of wasting hours and money.” [49.30]


On the realities of the startup world:

“It was very hard, everyone had different pressures in the team. We cut salaries, I didn’t pay myself for a whole year and a half, almost two years… Then we all started having kids as well so that was another stress. It was really horrible to be honest. I learned a lot and I loved it but it was really hard.”  [51:55 ]


“You’re basically working and thinking about it from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep... You’re always in it. It can break your relationships because you don’t think about your partner, your only focus is this company or this project that your building and you forget everything that’s around it, including yourself You don’t do sport, you don’t eat right, you don’t put any priority on your relationships. And all that for something that has a 99.99% chance of failing!” [53:02]


“I put my heart and soul into these things and I think I am of sound mind…. And when you put yourself there and you put everything in it and it doesn’t work, you’re like is my whole logic and rationale actually not right?” [54.06]


On closing a business down:

“We never hid any information, everything was an open book, there were no surprises.” [55:12]


“(When telling the investors) It’s like breaking up but even worse - there’s a lot more at stake.” [55.50]


“It definitely has put a damper on the whole startup scene.” [56:23]


On if he would start another business:

“From the experience of my last start-up, I don’t mind joining another team but I don’t want to be in charge of everything because that mostly involves things I don’t like: accounting, setting up companies, paperwork and doing presentations etc.” [59:58]