“Why I left the investment bank to join entrepreneurship”
At the end of my studies, I started my professional life in finance. Focused on numbers, I made this choice by default in a way, with largely extrinsic motivations. I focused more specifically on mergers and acquisitions, attracted by the elitist nature of this sector. I felt the need to prove myself after I landed on my feet in extremis after adolescence rock’n’roll. This is how I joined an American investment bank in London, in the City.
The first days filled me with enthusiasm, especially the two months of training in New York. I had the exhilarating sensation of finding myself on the other side of the blanket of the Wall Street Journal and to have joined an elite corps, made up of brilliant young people from all over the world, strangely proud to work weekends and evenings until undue hours; sometimes up to making all nighters, namely staying at the office for two days in a row without going home.
It was a great human experience. I have made lifelong friends. I opened up internationally, which is an asset if not a necessity at the present time. However, the angelism of the beginnings quickly dissipated. I have always had a hard time devoting myself to any worship. All these young people from various backgrounds who had joined the bank at the same time looked more and more alike: same neighborhood, same outings, same language. The cultured nerd read only the Financial Times, the marathon runner was gaining fat from business trips and dining on his thumb nailed to his computer screen, and the one who played in a rock band before saw his guitar dusting day after day.
One day my VP (vice president) left the office in a hurry to find his wife in the hospital who had just given birth to their first child. A quarter of an hour later, his assistant arrived at his cubicle (semi-closed workspace) and picked up his laptop to send it to him express by taxi. And he sent emails that day until late at night.
I have always believed in a balanced life: sporting, artistic, intellectual activities. So I was on my guard. I didn’t want to get lost humanly, lose sight of my dreams and what I believed in. I organized my resistance by developing a file Excel entitled Life Goals Control System where I wrote down all of my goals in life, carefully broken down into specific and measurable sub-goals (SMART goals). I gave in the wake my resignation to pass on the side buy side, namely that of investors rather than advisers.
I got back to sport by running my first triathlon. I bought a guitar and started writing songs again. In my first job, it was rare to finish before midnight. In my second job, the typical day ended at 7:30 p.m. unless we were in the middle of a deal. In the third – carried to the Middle East by the wind of the financial crisis, my days ended at 6 p.m. Having more and more time for my hobbies and my personal life, I thought I was on my way to happiness! But no matter how much I cut my schedules, work, which without being unpleasant did not fascinate me, remained the center of my life.
This is how my entrepreneurial project took shape. It was about putting my passion at the center. My passion is precisely this quest for a balanced life, for self-fulfillment through the methodical pursuit of personal goals. The quantified self (or self-measure) was taking off and I was following it closely. The time had come to democratize my Excel spreadsheet for managing objectives and to share this innovative method developed over the years. This is how was born goalmap, a mobile application to set goals and achieve them, in all areas of life. We launched the app in November. We are still new to entrepreneurship. There is still a long way to go, but the journey has already been rich in lessons. I would like to share the main points here, contrasting the life of an entrepreneur with that of a profession corporate more classic.
Taking the step of entrepreneurship is not a binary approach
It is too often because we believe that this is the case that we ultimately never get started. We dream of slamming our dem ‘, of not being anyone’s slave anymore, we will do it next year and then we will launch our box, but the bonus this year is not so bad, let’s wait to cash in one more the following year, I still have a loan on my back, and then how am I going to give up my lifestyle, trendy restaurants or vacations on exotic islands? If we are in this perspective, we risk constantly procrastinating, bathed in bourgeois comfort that makes us doze off. We must get started – now!
For my part, I started at the same time as work, working 25 to 30 hours on my side project. Evenings, weekends and holidays are spent there – but to your heart’s content. At the start, you have to prime the pump, clarify your vision, build a prototype and above all a united team. Once the dynamic is in motion, the project comes to life, each step calls for another. It’s the first that matters most.
Less is more
In finance, we spend a lot of time reviewing the same PowerPoint slides. The analyst prepares them for theassociate who reviews them and sends them back with their comments to theanalyst who makes the corrections and then submits them again to his associate who shows them to the VP who reviews them, etc. In the end, the format is impeccable, the font is the right size everywhere and there are no double spaces between characters! All that for that… In a start-up, this mentality can be fatal. You have to take a 80/20 approach – 80% of the result with 20% of the efforts, and launch even if it is not perfect, then iterate. For the first version of goalmap, we had created a gas plant where the user could define his own objectives with all the possible choices of recurrence, comparators (> =,>, <=, <), decimal and integer values, cumulative values or not cumulative, etc. We were quite proud to have done something complicated, it showed that we were smart! Big mistake… Result: nobody understood anything.
In developing the application, we changed our approach by simplifying the definition of objectives as much as possible, by limiting the choices. It seems to have paid off: today 90% of users who create an account on goalmap create goals and they create an average of 5 each.
The simpler the product, the better. Instagram in its early days was called burbn and presented itself as a location sharing system with the ability to add notes and photos to places visited, with a whole bunch of features. Eventually they came back to a Minimum Viable Product by removing everything except photos, comments and the ability to like. Instagram as we know it was born!
Damien catani began his career in investment banking. He quickly becomes aware of the value of life balance and then develops a method so as not to lose sight of his personal goals. Then, a little over a year ago, he set up a small team and founded a start-up to share this method and this passion thanks to goalmap, a mobile application for setting goals and achieving them (available for free on ios and Android).