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Andre Lorenceau: Deeptech Founder Learnings, Mental Health & Sticking Fingers Into The Machine

· Podcast Episodes,Founder,Singapore,VR Art,VR

You have to sort of force yourself, and it's easier the more you're a repeated entrepreneur, the more you learn your limits and what you have to do, and there will be guilt where you're like, ah, man, I have this contract I've got to sign, I'm here playing a stupid video game. And you're like, no, you have to. You will die if you don't do it. You also can't leave stuff undone, but you have to manage both. And you haveto find where the equilibrium is in terms of, have to take time for yourself, and at the same time, keep your workload manageable. 

- Andre Lorenceau

Andre Lorenceau is the CEO & Founder of DiviGas. A serial entrepreneur and a "Forbes 30 Under 30" listmaker, he has built, funded and scaled multiple B2B companies. He grew startups to beyond series B with millions in revenue and raised over $15m in VC capital. He has worked in a variety of sector such as media software, consumer products and now heavy industrial hardware

This episode is produced by Kyle Ong.

Jeremy Au (00:00): 

Hey, Andre. Welcome to the show. 

Andre Lorenceau (00:02): Happy to be here. 

Jeremy Au (00:04): 

I'm so excited to have you on the show because you are another serial founder, someone who's also not only doing that, but also tackling some hard, deep tech problems as well. So you've done VR and now you're doing deep tech, and I respect the hell out of you. So we're going to go into why it's so crazy to do this, both times around to be at a frontier technology. So we'll go into that. But Andre, for those who don't know you yet, how would you introduce yourself? 

Andre Lorenceau (00:34):Company builder, serial entrepreneur, which I know I also hate that title, but I'm just a CEO guy that likes to get technical and likes to learn new stuff. 

Jeremy Au (00:44):Yeah. And so you grew up in the States, you went to the University of Texas. So how did the entrepreneurial bug first get started for you? 

Andre Lorenceau (00:52): 

I actually kind of didn't grow up in the States, it's a super complicated background, I'm not going to get into the whole shtick. But I'm actually from France, born next to the Eiffel Tower, lived 10 years in France, then moved to the US, bunch of times in and out, in and out. I actually super didn't want to be an entrepreneur in college. Loved business, loved University of Texas, business was great. But one of my worst classes was entrepreneurship, teacher was pretty bad. So I got started in VR, just working for another startup, actually very interestingly, these socialist communist experimental artists in France, but they made super good content and they were obviously awful at business, and I helped them out for free and they got spotted by Samsung in Korea and they flew to Korea. And literally the day after they land, they called me. They're like, "Hey, we need you here. We're getting killed out here." 

Andre Lorenceau (01:36): 

And I was like, "Okay." And they paid me almost nothing, didn't even pay for the ticket for me to go there. But I kind of got started with all these secret Samsung prototypes that hadn't really even been announced or released to anybody. And we were working on them, and I worked for them a few months in Korea. It was awesome. But I came back to France and I kind of showed this secret, it's the Gear VR, but before the Gear VR, I had this secret version of the prototype that looked pretty different. And I showed it to my brother, we kind like, "Let's do this, this kind of sports thing." 

Andre Lorenceau (02:04): 

We didn't try to start anything. We literally just like, "Oh, we could do something cool here," just tinkering. I posted on Reddit, found an engineer, and just built this little side prototype. And literally, I just kept kind of tinkering on it while doing my job with the artists. And one day I presented to this TV channel, this big public TV channel in France, called M6, and I got this panel of executives, all like gray suits, people in their 60s and stuff. 

Andre Lorenceau (02:29): 

And they were like, "You have to keep working on this." And I was like, "Okay, I don't know what I'm doing, but okay." And I go back to my desk and I looked at my to-do list for my job, and my to-do list for my little tinkering project, I was like, I can't do both. And so I just called my then boss and I was like, "Hey, I have to quit." And he's like, "What?" And yeah, the point is, I kind of just fell into it, because it was just, I like to say I got my finger caught in the machine. 

Andre Lorenceau (02:54): 

I was just playing with this thing, and I'm like... And it just kind of pulled me in, very accidental. But then company... I raised seed blah, blah. And after a while it was kind of like, I like this. This job changes every day, every month, every year, it's completely different. Especially when you go from pre-seed to seed, to series A, to series B. The sales changes, the team management changes, what you do on a day to day changes all the time. For somebody who has sort of life ADHD, like me, I don't have ADHD, but I have life ADHD, if that makes any sense, that was just super satisfying. So that's how I got into it. 

Jeremy Au (03:41): 

Yeah. Amazing. And you basically built that out to millions of downloads, building out this live social sports experience via VR. You built out to multiple million dollars of annual recurring revenue. What did you learn along the way of building this? How did you change as a person because of the experience? 

Andre Lorenceau (04:05): 

Oh, that's a big question. There's a lot of internal questions inside that question. How'd I change? So to start with, I had a totally life changing nervous meltdown at the beginning of this thing, I had imposter syndrome to a crazy heavy level, even though at the end I had 60 employees, and it was fine. But when we were like five or six, I had a meltdown basically because I was like, these people are more qualified than I am, they're following me, and I don't know what the hell I'm doing. And it just was this overwhelming thing. 

Andre Lorenceau (04:38): 

And I had a pretty serious mental... Well, not a mental breakdown. I got a obsessive compulsive disorder diagnosed that was... I kind of had this whole collapse, but it really changed me. If I talk to my therapist about this, I like to say, I kind of half joke about it that's it's kind of like I discovered what dying feels like, I embraced mortality around that time. So you can imagine there's a before and after version of me when it's something that heavy. 

Andre Lorenceau (05:05): 

As far as the job goes, for entrepreneurship, the most important thing is learning to do something quickly. And then learning that the second you can, to delegate it to somebody else that does it better, that's specialized. And entrepreneurship, every stage... At the beginning, you do all the stuff, you do the sales yourself, you do the product yourself, blah, blah. And the second you can get a salesperson and offload it to them, but still be good enough to be able to tell if they're being good, and so check up on, et cetera, you give it off. 

Andre Lorenceau (05:38): 

And you need to, not totally separate yourself from it but give it up. And then you're doing product, product, product, but the second you can hire a product person, you're like, okay, give it off. And then it starts being like, I got to become a hiring specialist guru, I've got to understand all the metrics, blah, blah. And the second you're good at it, you hire somebody to do the hiring and you give it off. And then it becomes, okay, how do I manage a board? That's maybe the only thing you won't be giving off, is managing the board. That's the penultimate level, it's the top floor penthouse of you should give that off, but everything else becomes, I have to manage my executives and I have to manage the board above the executives. 

Andre Lorenceau (06:12): 

But every topic you'll get into, the product, the sales, the engineering, the whatever, no matter even if you're doing a hard or deep tech project like I am now, versus the software life source media or stuff we used to do before, it's kind of the same structure. And it's sort of like, learn to do each of these things, and then the second you're good enough and have the money to be able to give it off to somebody, you do that. You find a specialist that's able to do that. 

Andre Lorenceau (06:38): 

And then you just kind of check in with them as you need the information. So you evolve really a lot as you kind of go through these steps all the time, and that'll never change, or I hope it never changes, or I'll get bored of this job. But it hasn't yet, and at this point I've been doing this, I don't know, six, seven years, something like that. 

Jeremy Au (07:00): 

Yeah. When I reflect about myself at my first startup, I just kind of like, it's funny because what I thought I was learning at that job, now that I've done it a few times now, when I look back, I'm like, wow, you said that pitch you did that? You wrote that email that way? 

Andre Lorenceau (07:22): 

I didn't know what I was doing. Yeah. You can't do that to me. I don't go back. I don't go back. I'm glad I don't go back, because I mean, yes, for sure. And three years, five years from now I'll look back to what I'm doing right now, and I'll be like, oh no, man. No. For sure. Yeah. Did you have anything in particular where you did that? Did you have one specific thing you did once that you were like, oh man? 

Jeremy Au (07:50): 

Yeah. I think I definitely walked out of an investor meeting once because they didn't get it. And I was just like, "You guys don't get it." And I walked out. And now I'm like, wow, that was very unprofessional. But you know? 

Andre Lorenceau (08:09):I don't know. I mean, I'm not going to lie, I was really mean to an investor two days ago. I actually find that I have way less patience for... I don't know if I can curse here, so I'm just going to say this, but 

bullshit investors. I have way less patience for them now than I do then. So then I would really be way more like, "No, no, we'll make it work." Now, when somebody I feel is wasting my time, I'm like, "Hey, you are currently wasting my time." And I've one two days ago that did something, I'm not going to name or anything, but did something that was really unprofessional. 

Andre Lorenceau (08:38): 

And I sent them an email and be like, "I should stop talking to you right now, we're going to keep this conversation going, because I like your teammates. But if you do anything ever remotely close to this again, this conversation is over, and you don't get to invest in my company." And he was like, "Yes, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry." And I would not have done this five, six years ago. I would've been like, "Hey, let's work together," and stuff like that. 

Jeremy Au (09:01):Yeah, that's actually a good point. 

Andre Lorenceau (09:03):You find that you're more nicer to them now or you were more nicer before, to the investors? 

Jeremy Au (09:09): 

Jeremy Au (10:00): 

I didn't know how to feel about it. So I just said, "You guys don't get it." And I walked out. Yeah, now in retrospect, I could of just called the meeting short and just say, I don't know, family emergency or dog or something, or some better reason than- 

Andre Lorenceau (10:15): 

I had that too for the live sports LiveLike, I had a guy who literally laughed in my face and quote said... While laughing, he went, "You'll never raise $5 million for this, are you kidding me?" And I was like, "Okay fine, prove you wrong. Fine." Then I raised 15. But at the time I was like, I am pissed. 

Jeremy Au (10:40):I always think to myself as a first time founder, how much of your motivation is driven by rage at people who don't believe in you, right? 

Andre Lorenceau (10:49):Yeah, chip on your shoulder

Jeremy Au (10:50): 

Chip your shoulder, yeah, exactly. 

Andre Lorenceau (10:52): 

You need it. You need it. Because you'll have credible people that know what they're talking about, and tell you you're an idiot, and you have to just blow it off. They're just wrong. And smart people are wrong all the time. They're smart. They know what they're talking about and they're wrong. That's a possible eventuality. And when it's about you, you have to be like, ouch, okay. Keep going. I'll show that guy or person, whatever, and definitely 

Jeremy Au (11:21): 

So what's interesting of course, is that you don't make things easier for yourself, because you are building and being a founder, which is hard enough and people don't believe you, but you're doing this twice now in frontier technologies. So you were doing VR between 2014 to 2018, of course. It was still early, of course people were getting hyped in some ways for it. But so many people have been burned over the years on VR. So you made it double hardest for yourself, you squared the problem, right? 

Andre Lorenceau (11:55): 

That's half true. I mean, so VR in 2014, I kind of got into VR right before it was super crazy hot. It was before the Facebook acquisition of Oculus. And it was definitely starting to be hyped up. But at this point it was like this nerdy video game thing. Nobody had really heard of it. By the time I had my company, and it was, I think mid 2016, it started being the nuclear winter of VR. It was like the hype had collapsed. VCs were super not into it. But I'm not going to lie, our metrics were just getting better and better and better and better and better. We had more and more sales, even in 2018, we were still tripling revenue year over year, even when I left we or tripling revenue. 

Andre Lorenceau (12:35): 

And so, yes, when we were swimming downstream with the hype, it was super great and everything, but I had enough momentum to survive a good amount of the nuclear winter. And by the way, for those that don't know and want to look up the company, the company didn't die. I just left because of a difference with the board and whatever, hence my earlier statement with managing the board. 

Andre Lorenceau (12:57): 

But the company stuck around, kept doing well. They had a partial exit later. They actually sold off just the VR portion to this other organization, called Cosm, which is doing something awesome I'm actually so excited about. Can't talk about it, but Cosm, C-O-S-M, if you want to look it up, it's very interesting. 

Andre Lorenceau (13:18): 

And when I, because I think we kind of talked a little bit about hype and being in the flow of stuff here. I kind of joined hydrogen, and again, hydrogen hype had started here, but I didn't join hydrogen because I was into hydrogen. I knew very little about hydrogen and chemistry. I literally just joined up because my co-founder was working on a very... And we can talk about this in a minute, but on a very specific hydrogen, deep tech hardware thing. 

Andre Lorenceau (13:43): 

And I joined up just because he was convincing, his product sounded awesome. And I, again, knew next to nothing about hydrogen except that it was a gas and whatever. I'm a little nerdy in every way, so I knew a little bit about it, but I wasn't really buying the hype at all. And what sold me on it, is just because we kind of got together and I talked to a client with him, and pretty quickly the client, even though I knew nothing about this, was like, "Hey, I'm trying to give you like $2 million for this." And I was like, I have to do it. And I feel like I got my finger stuck in the machine again, just like previously LiveLike, I was like, I don't know this, but I have to do it because the machine's pulling me, and I'm like, okay, well, that's the sign just go for it, learn the thing, just get stuck in the machine. 

Jeremy Au (14:28): 

Oh, that's amazing. I think it's amazing, because I think for the first time you're a founder you almost like fall into it. I think so many first time founders they accidentally get into it. And then all the second time founders are almost like under search. And then suddenly an idea has that level of gravity to attraction. So I know that after exiting your first startup, you spent some time basically helping others, searching for new ideas, shifting geographies. So it was very much like a sabbatical or a search process. Could you talk about that process because there's so many founders who are thinking about how to structure that in between time, right? 

Andre Lorenceau (15:07): 

Sure. I'm not sure there's a recipe there, but sure. And it was a challenge for me, for sure. So I had like three and a half, four years experience at that point, and I had managed a team of 60 people. So I left LiveLike, and I was like, I'll take three months, I'll take a while, just taking a break, because I was super burnt out after LiveLike, and I was actually pretty glad to get that break. But after three months I was like, okay, I want to get back to it. And I was like, you know what? I want to work for big corporate just to try it out once. And every big corporate was either like, "You managed 60 people, I'm not going to give you a team of two people to manage because this is just not the same," right? You're a guy for a bigger company, but every big company that has a big team was like, "You have three and a half, four years experience, I'm not giving you a 50 person team, no way." 

Andre Lorenceau (15:52): 

And I couldn't find the in-between, it was a real big challenge. But what I did have, is I had a bunch of entrepreneurial friends and I would just help them basically for free. And we would just talk about their business, because entrepreneurs love talking about their business. And I'd be like, "Hey, you should do this sales process differently, your marketing campaign or your blah, blah, blah, blah," and pretty quickly, they were like, "Hey, I'll pay you to do this because you know what the hell you're talking about." 

Andre Lorenceau (16:18): 

And I'm like, yeah, well I obviously did it a lot. So I kind of went from one company, I did EGF, which was eSports and I was very much in charge of their, or part of their sales process. And I kind of changed how they did stuff in that regard. It was great. But then I got another opportunity for another friend, it's curator solutions. It's more of a ed tech, B2B education technology portal, interesting stuff. But specifically, they hit me up and they were like, "Hey, we're trying to build a branch in India of developers." And I used to have 25 people in India, in Delhi, and they were like, "How do you do that?" And I was like, "Well, you've got to send one of your execs, maybe you, but one of your execs, at least someone you really trust, to be on the ground for a while to take care of it." 

Andre Lorenceau (17:06): 

I mean, there's super great ROI to have great talent for insanely cheap, but the infrastructure, legislative, the support stack is super crazy complicated and takes so much work and time to get it right. So I was like, you've got to send somebody. And they were like, "How about I send you?" And I was like, "For how much?" They gave me a good price. So then I just went, I went to Kochi, which is in the south of India. And I did three months there, building their team, incorporating, doing that stuff. And it was still pretty tough. But while there, one of my hobbies is geopolitics and sort of like histories, government, et cetera, and Singapore is super fascinating for reasons that I'm not going to get into here. But I had to leave the country, India, just for a second to reset my visa, just had to go out, go in. 

Andre Lorenceau (17:48): 

I was like, okay, I'll go to Singapore. It's not super far. And I came to Singapore and I found Entrepreneur First. So now this whole time I was doing these jobs, I wanted to do the next startup. I wanted to sort of start something new, but I had a few ideas at this recruiting software that I kind of had built for my own company on the side to help my company, that hadn't worked really well, but I couldn't find anybody interested in it. And it might've been that it wasn't powerful enough. I had a couple other projects that I was playing around with, but they all either kind of sucked or just, I couldn't get people hyped enough, or I couldn't find the right people for it. 

Andre Lorenceau (18:19): 

And Entrepreneur First, so this is where we met, or through that, that we met essentially, it fit exactly what I wanted, which is I wanted to meet a lot of, A, available, smart people with very varied background that would just talk to me about stuff and we can just brainstorm. 

Andre Lorenceau (18:36): 

And Entrepreneur First is this, so I came to Singapore, they have a branch in Singapore and they're originally from London. I'm sure you've talked about Entrepreneur First on this show before, but it fit exactly what I wanted, which is just high velocity, deep conversations. And on top of that, they paid us to sort of like be... Not a lot of money, but enough to sustain yourself and took care of the visa. And so it gave me just the necessary infrastructure. And I started at Entrepreneur First, working on a software machine, learning solution for security, that's now called Lyghthouse with a Y. And I thought that was great. 

Andre Lorenceau (19:10): 

I realized I didn't want to work in security in that industry, it just wasn't for me, even though the product was great and I was super into it, and the guy I was working with was great. And then, [Ali 00:19:21], my now co-founder, who... EF just goes kind of like, "You guys are both available right now, not in the team, just brainstorm, in 24 hours pitch me this thing." And I was like, I don't understand anything about this, but I was like, okay, fine. What the hell? It's 24 hours. And we got in the meeting room and we were like, "Explain to me your thing." And he gave me his PowerPoint presentation, which again, Ali's a great guy, no hate, but he's much more deep than he is broad, and his presentation was like, "Oh, the selectivity for me is data of my membrane is this." 

Andre Lorenceau (19:46): 

And anybody who's not a scientist is like, this means nothing to me. And I was like, okay, we erase all of this, and we go, what does it do? What's the value prop, right? He's like, "Okay, well this, this, this, he can do this. He can do this." And I was like, okay, so we're good. And I kind of reworked his presentation that I presented 24 hours later. And people were like, "This sounds good," not... There was a feedback questionnaire, people could anonymously leave you feedback. And overwhelming, the questionnaire was like, stick around with this just for a minute, it sounded pretty legit. And I was like, okay. I again, wasn't immediately convinced, I wasn't, let's do this. But I was like, okay, the guy's nice. I'll just stick around to it. 

Andre Lorenceau (20:25): 

And again, the ultimate validation is if clients are pulling at you. So at this point, I just started to understand it. Pretty quickly he was like, "Hey, we've got to go after..." He had a client in mind, this Austrian firm, we just reached out to them. And they were immediately... I mean, Ali did a lot of it, because the thing is, they knew what... If he shows up at they blah, blah, blah. They knew what he was talking about. And they were like, "It's awesome. We're super on board." So I didn't have to do a lot of work there, but I was like, we're a company that does this, and I just kind of did the veneer. And they were like, "We're super interested to work with you guys." 

Andre Lorenceau (20:59): 

And I was like, "Hey, so what kind of size are we talking about?" And they were like, "Oh, this volume of gas filter per day," or whatever. And after the meeting, I was like, "Hey Ali, how much money is that?" He's like, "Oh, like two, three million dollars, probably a year, something like that for us." And I was like... I mean, these guys were not a little interested. These guys were in. I've done some sales and I can tell when somebody's sold, these guys were like, we're waiting on you to give us this thing. And I was like, so I don't know what the hell I'm doing. Ali, as much as I think he's a great guy, he's not a particular salesman. He's much more a technical product guy. And I was like, if we're that inefficient and we're getting three million bucks thrown at us, I have to stick with it. 

Andre Lorenceau (21:36): 

And then I kept trying to do that more. I got better at selling it. Ali got better at understanding the client, and we kept snowballing that way. And so I just got my finger caught in the machine, and that's kind of the transition, right? Sorry, because your initial question... I know, I went a little past that, but the initial question is, what do you do when you're lost? And essentially, what you've got to do is find other entrepreneurs. You've got to jump between ideas and you've got to give them the time of day for them to make sure, you can't just do everything one person. But you've got to find a way to rapidly iterate. So meetups, like entrepreneur groups, anything that lets you meet a lot of smart people that are available as fast as you can. 

Andre Lorenceau (22:17): 

Entrepreneur First was kind of perfect for that for me. Because it was just a ton of deep tech, computer vision, whatever the hell it is. And they all were legit. They do the filter of quality of people to media. EF has plenty of problems, I don't ultra glorify it. But as far as the quality of people that came through that program was really, really good. 

Andre Lorenceau (22:37): 

And it just did what I was trying to do, which is meet other entrepreneurs. It just did it 100 times faster than I could have ever done it. But there's other programs like that. Antler does this. If you go hang out with the Techstars people where they have happy hour... Techstars is in every city. I don't know, there's a lot of other programs or entrepreneurship vehicles that let's you encounter entrepreneurs and their ideas at a rapid pace. And just doing it, helping them out, not worrying about money, just finding the right stuff that puts your fingers in machines, unlike the doctor tells you, and see if one pulls you. 

Jeremy Au (23:17):I have never heard of entrepreneurial attraction being called putting a finger in a machine. That sounds 

like an industrial accident, but maybe it's a good industrial accident? 

Andre Lorenceau (23:28):It is an industrial accident. That's what it is. It is an industrial accident that I've done twice now. 

Jeremy Au (23:33): 

Yeah. Two industrial accidents that you've done. But I think there is something that is there, which is I think, you took the time to bounce a lot of different ideas and work with lots of different founders. Could you share with us a list, or maybe a sample of ideas that you thought of, but you threw away? You must have a list, right? Every founder has a list. 

Andre Lorenceau (23:57): 

Some of them are crackity crack out there, I'm just saying that right now. So okay, the first, most, I want to say legit one, is when I was at LiveLike, we had a big hiring crisis. Hiring software developers in New York, there's way... Or at least at that time, there was way more demand than supply. So the competition for good talent was crazy. And we were like 30 people, I needed to get to 60 in four or five months. So I needed to hire like 30, mostly developers, quickly. So I had two in-house, so one of them was a recruiter, one was operation people, I kind of put them together. And they were trying to hire people, and we needed product people. We needed software engineers of this kind and that kind, and back-end and front-end, and designers and blah, blah, blah. 

Andre Lorenceau (24:45): 

And everyone was fighting for the recruiter's time. They were like, I need candidates, I need candidates. And at the same time, some people were like, "I'm so busy because I don't have enough people that I can't come to the interview," blah, blah. And so I kind of built this software... Basically, it was so chaotic, I was like, I need order because everybody's stealing the recruiters from each other and they're sabotaging the process. And we had a bunch of people that were good, that fell out of the recruiting process who were messing it up. 

Andre Lorenceau (25:07): 

And so I started learning the metrics. I started learning what is a good churn rate. There's a lot of industry data. If you use ATS, ATS is a software for managing recruitment. It's kind just like a smart CRM, but designed for recruitment, and it's a lifesaver when you do big volume. 

Andre Lorenceau (25:23): 

And we realized we were doing like 400 resumes for each hire. We had 125 phone calls, first interviews for candidates. Then we had for in person first interview, we had like 40 people. Then second interview, we had like 20, then third technical interview, we had like seven. Then we gave an offer to three, and then one of them would accept, on average, right? Something like that. And we needed to do that 30 times. 

Andre Lorenceau (25:51): 

So 30 times 400 resumes, you're talking about, ridiculous amount of volume. And sometimes we totally botched it. We had to restart. And I'm actually shorter. Basically, I just built this thing, this sort of software system that told my recruiting team, you need to get me this many people at each step, you need to force through... You need to get 400 resumes and then you need to pick 100 of them to go through this. 

Andre Lorenceau (26:17): 

And the software was actually... I was actually happy how it was built because the more... It wasn't just a quantity thing. It told them the quantity based on historics, but it also told them, if you beat your number, as in, if you find a candidate with less than 400 resumes, with less interviews, blah, blah, the average would automatically go down. So it rewarded quantity and quality. 

Andre Lorenceau (26:38): 

And what was good is that it prevented any of my other executives from railroading, and being like, I need more people. I need less people. I could be like, you need to hire one person within this volume. And the volume wasn't low, but it sort of punished both over indecision, and it punished also people trying to make a quick decision. And it tried to pick a market standard with something. 

Andre Lorenceau (27:02): 

And we could always over railroad, if we really didn't have any good candidates, we wouldn't force a terrible one, but it was a really good addition to recruiting software. And I was actually thinking about doing this, and start plugging it into recruiting software for bigger companies. 

Andre Lorenceau (27:17): 

I had other stupid things that I went all over the place. Healthy, But Not Salad, because every day in New York we were like... This is a food play. It's literally, every day in New York we were like, "What do you want to eat today?" Go for lunch, whatever. And every day say, "I want something healthy, but I don't want a salad." Every day. And I was like, I wanted to make a food place that's like, whatever, avocado toast, eggplant on something, something, something, just healthy but not salad. And actually put way too much time into those nutrition plans and everything. 

Andre Lorenceau (27:48): 

I had some other crazy, crazy things. I did... Have you ever heard, so this is after I worked in eSports, have you ever heard of... Ah, David what's his name? So this ninja is one of the biggest personality, but Dr... Do you know what I'm talking about? Do you know anything about eSports? There's a guy, he was like the number three, number two biggest eSport celebrity for a while. Dr. Doom or Dr. Furious, or something like that, I forgot what his name is. 

Andre Lorenceau (28:13): 

I can't believe I forgot his name, but anyway, his whole thing is, he's kind of a character. He's not the best eSports player in the world. He's not bad, but he's not the best ever. But he had this ridiculous mustache, sunglasses, I'm too cool for my own self, et cetera. 

Andre Lorenceau (28:25): 

He built a character, and he's fun to watch and popular because of that. And I was like, you know what? That's exactly like the WWE. WWE wrestling is all, they're characters, right? It's not real wrestling, it's all fake in a super scene. But the character's super fun. It's like, this guy came back from the dead and blah, blah. I don't really watch WWE because it's a little too over the top, but it's all about the narrative. 

Andre Lorenceau (28:46): 

And I was like, man, what if... And I knew all these guys are represented by agencies. I was like, what if we created a bunch of character eSports people that were streamers that each had characters that played with each other that were built to be a narrative? And thing is, my little brother writes... Went to one of the best screenwriting schools in the US, NYU, for screenwriting. 

Andre Lorenceau (29:07): 

And he's amazing at writing comedy. And I was really trying to sign him on board to be like, please write me a few characters. I'll find some streamers that'll adopt these over the top personas. And I'm not joking. We'll build a league of WW nonsense eSports players, and we'll sell them as characters and sort of mini brands. And I actually talked to this about some serious eSports lawyers and they were like, "This is awesome. I would super invest in this." And anyway, I ended up not doing it because I couldn't get... My brother was not into the idea enough, if he was, I really needed him to do this because I couldn't write the talent myself. 

Andre Lorenceau (29:45): 

So anyway, enough stupid ideas. But the point is, I went all over the place. Some of them were technical and legit, so software engineering stuff. Some of it was nonsense, it was consumer plays, some of it was otherwise. 

Jeremy Au (29:57): 

What is your advice, how would you go about a process of saying which of these ideas that I have, how do I prioritize them? How do I choose which one to go for? So you kind of mentioned it a little bit. If someone's throwing money at you, then you're kind of like, wow, that's pretty hard to avoid going for it. But how do you go about prioritizing, sorting, deciding, because you also said something earlier, which was like, you decided some ideas were not for you, even though you thought it was a good idea as well. So how do you go about doing that? 

Andre Lorenceau (30:34): 

I feel like this episode is just going to be... If you named the episode, just call it, finger stuck in a machine. I mean, so you said it well, if somebody's throwing money at you, it's obviously a good sign. That doesn't mean you have to do it. There's plenty of time people throw money at you, and they're... Like this WWE thing, this guy was like, "The second you do, do it, let me know, because I will help you find cash for this." It's your motivation. I mean, this is true for me, but I think it's probably true for a lot of people. When you're really into something, your work output is awesome. You won't have no problem putting ridiculous amounts of time for it. You'll have all these crazy ideas swirling, et cetera. So just when you feel inspired, work on it, as much as financially you can, you have the time, and blah, blah, blah. 

Andre Lorenceau (31:18): 

But then after that, it's how much also you can get other people to buy in on it. Because again, I couldn't get my brother in on it and I was like, this is going to be difficult to figure out. I think it's very much, you've got to give it your energy and then see if other people get infected with this stuff. Or yeah, if you kind of get stuck in it. For me, the big test was like, can I walk away from this easily and without regrets? And the eSports thing, sure, and Healthy, But Not Salad, I put a significant amount of time in it. I mean I put weeks worth of work, build these all meal plans, thought about the supply chain infrastructure. Do I do it as a delivery service with a ghost kitchen first? 

Andre Lorenceau (32:00): 

Or do I actually build a restaurant? Is it a fast food or is a restaurant? Is it just a delivery service? And I did the unit economics, put real time in it. But at the end of the day I was like, okay, do I feel like I'm missing the gold opportunity of the millennia if I'm walking away from this? No, or at least not yet. I feel like it would work, totally. I'm super convinced, but I don't feel like I have the opportunity I could just grab, versus again, this hydrogen thing, I'm like, this guy's throwing two million dollars at me. I don't have a choice. And he clearly knows... The thing is also with Ali, this guy's a fricking genius. And I hate the word genius, because I think it's totally like a mythical thing that I don't like. 

Andre Lorenceau (32:40): 

See everybody as human, everybody's fallible. But I was like, this guy knows this science to a ridiculous extent and he's deep, not broad. I'm like, oh, in one day of work on his presentation, I'm going to really change how he does things from a business standpoint. I was like, I have a tool that I can contribute, and me and him together, we're going to be killer. 

Andre Lorenceau (33:02): 

And so that, plus the sales point, I was like, if I walk away from this, I'm stupid. I'm just stupid. Even if I don't know hydrogen at all, he's going to teach me, I'm going to learn. But if I walk away from this, I'm stupid. And that was the test. I guess, me walking away from the software stuff, I didn't feel like I was stupid. I felt like there is a good product there and I really want to do it. Same with eSports. Same with the food startup, great product, putting a lot of work on it, but I can walk away from it. This hydrogen thing, I didn't have a choice. 

Jeremy Au (33:29): 

Oh, that's great advice. Well, starting to wrap things up here a little bit, so for you, obviously you've gone some crazy ups and downs, right? Lefts and rights. Could you share with us a time when you faced down some adversity and had to choose to be brave? 

Andre Lorenceau (33:49):I have a big thing... Even though I know I'm very braggadocios, I'm very high energy personality, extroverted, blah, blah. I really... This is a very personal matter to me. I really don't want to be overly arrogant. And so I don't think of myself as brave. I kind of actively reject that notion. Having said that, so bravery is not, not fearing fear. Bravery is having fear and still sticking through it, and dealing with it in a healthy manner and not giving up. 

Andre Lorenceau (34:24): 

And I've had a couple times, man. So when I had the bad mental break, the first time, it was, just to explain how bad it was, to simplify it, one day I got my first ever panic attack, which I'd never had, and this was at like 24 or whatever, and it lasted a few months. 

Andre Lorenceau (34:42): 

And then one day the panic attack stopped and it got replaced by, it's not literally a voice, but almost like a voice. It's an impulse. But to make it easier, imagine you had a voice. And I had this little voice in my head that was like, "You're going to kill yourself right now. Right now you're going to kill yourself." And I was like, what the hell? And it felt like an outside thing. And it was like, you're going to jump out this car right now, or you're going to take this knife that's on the table, and you're going to slash your wrist, or you're going to jump off this ledge. You're going to jump off this building. You're going to... Whatever. And every time there was something that could kill me, my brain would look at it and be like, "You're going to do that right now." 

Andre Lorenceau (35:14): 

And I never did it because I was terrified, but it felt almost I was possessed by. By the way, this is a typical obsessive compulsive, it's a real obsessive compulsive disorder. I went to see a specialist... Thankfully my mom's a shrink, not specialized in this, but she was like, that looks like that. She sent me documentation. I learned about it. I went to see a specialist, and I worked on it. But for a second I was like, I have to intern for my own safety. And I have to stop my job, stop this thing that I love because... And I worked through it and I fixed it. I didn't quit the job. I didn't give up on it, I told my co- founders. I was like, "Hey guys, I'm a little messed up in the head and I have a real problem." 

Andre Lorenceau (35:51): 

And they were pretty cool about it. They were like, "Okay, well, we'll do what we need to do, you know? Tell us what you need." And I was like, "Nothing except be nice to me, and help me deal with this thing." And I really sort of visualized having to give up everything I ever wanted, because I broke. 

Andre Lorenceau (36:08): 

Another time I got PTSD from something and PTSD is very different. It's like the fear center of your brain doesn't turn off. So imagine if you watched a scary movie and there's a scary part, and you're like, ah, like that, imagine that never turns up. 

Andre Lorenceau (36:37): 

It just stays on. And you're like, why am I scared? I don't know, but I'm terrified. Why am I scared? And it just stays on. And it stayed on for like six months. And I mean, awful. Because at some point you're like, I'm so tired. I don't want to be scared anymore, so tired. Anyway, I went to see a shrink and I took care of it, and I kept going with my job, and it was okay. And I kept going with my job. I kept working on it. 

Andre Lorenceau (37:04): 

So to come back to initial the bravery thing, it's just like, the only thing is, you have to deal with it, you can't repress it, and you have to get help, with your loved ones, if you have any. I don't have a girlfriend, which it's particularly tough on me, but I have a super awesome mom, even though she's not here, she's super helpful because she's a shrink. 

Andre Lorenceau (37:25): 

And I have a therapist that I like, even though I was broke, it's the one thing I couldn't give up on financially. And I talk about it with friends and I work on it, and I make it work. And if you have to take a break, you have to take a break. There's no choice. And if that kills your business, that kills your business, before it kills you. 

Andre Lorenceau (37:47): 

But yeah, at the end of the day, it's just like, you have to be human, and you have limits. And I tried to push beyond my own limits several times in terms of stress and everything. I think I have a really bad system for detecting stress too. It's an advantage because I can do super stressful things without realizing. But when my stress level overflows and causes literal mental damage, I don't notice the alarm signs, which is really bad. 

Andre Lorenceau (38:19): 

But thankfully, I'm good at, or I understand that you have to work on fixing it after, and that's going to be true for any founders, better that if you go get massages or take care of yourself before it overflows. But you've also got to realize that you have to take care of yourself, even if you're like, no, I have to work 18 hours. No, no, no. Actually, I'm dealing with this right now. So not this PTSD stuff, but I know I have too much stuff going on right now, and I'm doing this podcast because I think it's interesting. I think it's fun. I think it's nice to talk to you. 

Andre Lorenceau (38:51): 

Yesterday night, I did kind of like a 12, 13 hour day. I started at 11 AM, I finished at midnight-ish, but I played video games a couple hours, even though I really didn't have the time. I'm overwhelmed in stuff, but I was like, but if you don't do this, you're going to have a break after. And that's what you have to do. 

Andre Lorenceau (39:11): 

You have to sort of force yourself, and it's easier the more you're a repeated entrepreneur, the more you learn your limits and what you have to do, and there will be guilt where you're like, ah, man, I have this contract I've got to sign, I'm here playing a stupid video game. And you're like, no, you have to. You will die if you don't do it. You also can't leave stuff undone, but you have to manage both. And you have to find where the equilibrium is in terms of, have to take time for yourself, and at the same time, keep your workload manageable. 

Jeremy Au (39:39): 

Yeah. No, thank you so much for being so open about your own journey here, and in the spirit of open disclosure, I mean, for myself, one of the things I've learned as a second time founder, is that if... I used to have these, I call them procrastination loops. So if it's a very tough email, and so I'll delay doing it. 

And then what I end up doing is I start cleaning the house. I start actually binging on food, and I start watching a lot of YouTube. And then, that makes me feel more procrastination. And then that drives it further. And I think it's a very simple thing, which is, I'm worried about the consequences of this email in that sense of communication, and how do I articulate that back? 

Jeremy Au (40:26): 

And I didn't know how to do that, but especially because, I think when I was like a more junior person, you could always collaborate with someone on that problem. But when you're the CEO or the founder, you can't collaborate. So it feels painful. And then it grows. And now, because I'm aware of it, if I see myself watching too much YouTube, I will pause myself and I'll be like, wait, am I watching YouTube because I want to watch YouTube? Or is it because I'm avoiding something. Right? And then what I do after that is, I do something more interesting, like go for a walk or go to sleep actually, or get a massage, or talk to my wife, or walk the dog. There's a bunch of stuff that if I just do something, then that loop, then I realize that I'm procrastinating something. And then I solve it. 

Andre Lorenceau (41:13): 

Totally have this exact same thing for me, and even YouTube, that is the same thing. But for me, it's doing the dishes and doing laundry because I'm like, okay, I'm doing something productive. And then I'm like, I'm in productive mode, and then I can segue into my email or something like... But totally, 100%, you explained it super well. This procrastination loop, I'm not as good as being like, hey, am I just watching YouTube for procrastinating? I'm not so good at stopping that. But if I manage to be like, just do the one little thing, just do this easy email, don't do the big scary email, just do the easy little like, okay, cool. I read this... Then it's easier to segue into a productivity loop as opposed to a... But yeah, totally. 

Jeremy Au (41:53): 

I always tell people... Well, I kind of know this is like, if I'm watching a StarCraft match with commentators, look, I enjoy it, but it's not that So if I'm watching that, or even if I'm watching community or something fun, that's probably a good sign, but if I'm watching like StarCraft matches, I'm probably just trying to kill time. Right? Okay, now all the StarCraft gamers out there are just angry at Jeremy right now, just like, how can you say... But that's me, that's my tier two entertainment. Right? 

Andre Lorenceau (42:24): 

I'm very similar. I'm very similar. For me, it's usually, if there's new videos by the top 10 YouTubers that I watch, which for me is a lot of like history, geopolitical stuff because that's my hobby. If there's new videos, yeah, and if I start either re-watching old ones or I start digging for new ones, then I'm like, you're just.

Jeremy Au (42:42): 

Exactly, exactly.. My tier one is exactly like that, history, analysis, some good stuff. It makes me smarter at least, and it's not a waste of my time, anyway. So, well starting to wrap things up, Andre, thank you so much for sharing. And let me just kind of paraphrase back to you the three big themes I saw. I think the first theme of course was, thank you so much for sharing your personal growth as a founder, both during the good times, from scaling it from the zero all the way to figuring out what the heck is going on, to raising capital, to eventually selling the business. 

Jeremy Au (43:23): 

So really appreciate you sharing about how you see yourself differently in terms of skills, but also your attitudes of being a founder. And I also love the shared humor that we both have over recognizing how much we've grown and how much more we will regret what we're doing today in five to 10 years time. 

Jeremy Au (43:44): 

And the second thing I really enjoy of course, was I think I love your advice on the fact that when founders leave their first company, they're thinking about the second company or the future, and how to think about brainstorming, obviously new ideas, like the WWE for Twitch, or ATS optimization, or anything but salad, yet healthy, dynamic. And thanks for the tips of not just the founder market fit dynamic, which we talked about, what actually makes you happy to do, but also I think you talked about the market signals about it, about it being actually a good idea as well. And lastly, actually about the co- founder, that you have someone that you're excited to work with. And I think that's a great point. 

Jeremy Au (44:29): 

And the last thing that I really appreciate you sharing, of course, was obviously you sharing about times that you've been brave on your personal journey, but also thank you so much for being brave about sharing about, I think the fact that being a founder is super stressful, because we're doing something that has never been done before by anybody else. That's why this company doesn't exist. And we're going to do that on the clock with limited time, resources and people. And I think you've raised some really good tips about how to not only be self-aware, but also self-manage that, and hopefully it normalizes the conversation for other founders out there who are dealing with stress, but also points them in the right direction to get some help along the way early, and at whatever stage they're at. 

Andre Lorenceau (45:18): 

I really want to hit the last one because it's probably... The rest of it is fun, whatever, but that last one is the most important. And it's important for just anybody that you can go and be like, "I'm getting messed up," and be like SOS. And they can help you disarm your stuff and you can just talk about it, and it won't fix it overnight. It never does, but it avoids you sort of exploding. It's a pressure valve. 

Jeremy Au (45:50):Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Andre, for coming on the show. I really appreciate you. And definitely- 

Andre Lorenceau (45:56): Thanks for having me. 

Jeremy Au (45:56): Thank you so much. 

 

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