When a business angel joins a start-up

Stefan Kyora

17.02.2017 09:41

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In 2016 Olivier Beaumont joined the start-up évoé as part time CEO. We asked him about the challenges, his experiences and his advice for other business angels thinking of working in a start-up team.

You are an active business angel and a long-time member of Business Angels Switzerland - BAS. At what stage was évoé when you decided to join?
The startup just completed an investment round and looked for an experienced manager to complete the industrialization phase of the concept invented and tested before. So I joined the existing founder’s team of two people as CEO, on a half-time basis.

A lot of start-ups would love to have an experienced CEO but think they could not afford this – How are you paid for your work - with shares or options?
First, I was only working part time, which is a way to address the financial issue. However I was paid a salary, and I would receive shares if the company is a success.

Why do you think  évoé has good chances to succeed?
The feedback on our product is very positive. Our target audience namely wine cellar owners who care about managing their wines immediately understand the benefit offered and the price range is also considered as acceptable.

The évoé Kickstarter campaign was stopped in December. What was the impact for évoé? 
The positive impact was identifying potential partners, be it technical, commercial or financial, and this was one of the main objective of the campaign. We could not reach the financial goal however, demonstrating that our product could not find its audience through a purely digital communication and this was taken into account for our next development steps. All together the campaign was positive for the évoé project. We have now put the company in a sleeping mode to give us time to build the necessary partnership for going commercial.

What do you see as your major challenges when working for a start-up?
Compared with what I did before in larger organizations, the main challenges are (1) you must take care of many more details yourself as you do not have a large middle management team and (2) you have few internal resources, thus the challenge is to identify very rapidly external resources and to coordinate them into a consistent project. We finally worked with 12 external suppliers and I must say I was impressed by the professionalism and the dedication they demonstrated. As I did not have the time to test and compare several candidates for each service, I relied very much on reputation and word-of-mouth. I was 90% right, which seems pretty good to me.

Inversely, what do you think are your major contributions, your value-added?
My main value-added was bringing an engineer’s approach to the technical development side, meaning drafting detailed specifications for each service needed, following implementation and, above all, coordinating the different partners. At one point I had to organize the pickup of prototypes to move them from one place to the other which could save days. Our product design, electronic printed circuit, 3d printed casing, mobile app and backend structure was finished in 6 months, which was very good.

What is the time horizon of your work? When are you planning to leave the company?
In the next few months, we hope to finalize partnerships to ensure the future of the company. Depending of the outcome, I may or may not actively taking part of the next phase.

What piece of advice would you share with other Business Angels willing to follow your route?
First, I would strongly advise them to follow the Startup Board of Director Academy organized at the EPFL Innovation Park twice a year. Then discuss the founder’s strategy and composition of the team at the beginning. Finally be prepared by figuring out which kind of collaborative tools you would use for project management, IT infrastructure, cloud based ERP and CRM solutions if needed. There are many amazing and inexpensive solutions available that no large company is using yet. If you need some insight, come to me!

About évoé:
The technology of évoé offers wine lovers information on the research, purchase, cellar in- and output, wine tasting, rating and sharing of wines. The start-up was founded in 2013 and is based at the start-up incubator of the Ecole Hoteliere Lausanne

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