5 Questions with Arnaud Weiss, Mentor at Techstars Sustainability Paris Accelerator

Feb 21, 2023

Arnaud Weiss is an entrepreneur, and alumni of Techstars Paris. Former CEO and co-founder of HeyAxel, an HR tech startup sold to Lumapps in 2022, Arnaud is now Chief of Staff in charge of the "Journey" product line at Lumapps.

In addition to being an actively involved mentor at Techstars Sustainability Paris, he is also a lecturer at Sciences Po, helping students craft evidence-based public policies.

01. What are you looking for in startups when accepting to become a Mentor?

What I look for in the first instance is a strong team of founders working on a significant problem with an innovative approach. But I don't have much filtering to do, as these are the criteria that Techstars uses to select startups for its programmes.

02. What are some of the biggest learnings from your career and entrepreneurial journey that you bring as a Techstars Mentor? 

The first learning could be summarized with Reid Hoffman's quote: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late.” The only valuable feedback is the one that comes from paying customers. Relatives will always tell you that your product is awesome. Great products are made out of exposure to harsh feedback from paying customers. I’m pushing founders to release their product and sell as soon as possible.

The second learning point could also be encapsulated in a quote, from Steve Jobs this time: “Innovation means saying no to one thousand things”. As an early stage company, you have to accept that you cannot do everything. Your success depends on your ability to focus on what really matters, and say no to the rest. You cannot develop three different products at the same time with two co-founders and five interns.

Last but not least, I realized that the first quality of an entrepreneur is not being bold, or charismatic, but being disciplined. Great things come from constant investment. Building a community or SEO takes time and commitment. Building a good sales pipeline requires weekly efforts. I’m pushing founders to be as disciplined and implement the right routines as soon as possible.

03. What is your favorite thing about the Paris startup scene?

I like the dynamic ecosystem here, with founders from all over the world. In my opinion, great ideas come from difference, debate and the confrontation of different points of view. The Paris scene - especially the local Techstars scene - is very diverse. Every time I go to an event or to meetings with founders, I come out full of energy and enthusiasm.

04. Describe a situation with a startup founder or team where you felt like you made a difference. 

As a sales mentor, I help founders define their go-to-market strategy. It felt very satisfying to see new tactics come to fruition and generate opportunities for the startups I was mentoring. At the end of the day, your revenue is the true measure and fuel of your success. The current economic climate, with more challenging fundraisings, makes it even truer.

05. If you could have coffee with any entrepreneur who would it be and why?

I learnt so much from more experienced entrepreneurs, and I still have so much to learn. I often feel like “a dwarf perched on the shoulders of giants” as Blaise Pascal said. For instance, I would love to have a coffee with Marc Simoncini (founder of Meetic and other ventures) to understand how he balanced his personal and professional aspirations across his life as an entrepreneur. Or to ask him what is his “higher purpose”, now that he is very successful and considered as one of the most successful French entrepreneurs. I was also very inspired by Anthony Bourbon, the founder and CEO of Feed. He had a very inspiring life story, and I would love to grab a coffee with him.  

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