I recently interviewed serial entrepreneur Morgan Hermand-Waïche on his latest venture, VisitorsCafe. VisitorsCafe is a feature that transforms any website into a cafe, allowing visitors of any site or blog to talk to each other, while being relevantly matched. It's "Chatroulette meets eHarmony" according to Morgan. Chatroulette lets you video chat with random strangers; but where’s the middle ground? VisitorsCafe connects people who don’t know each other but who are like minded, therefore creating meaningful interactions.
I asked Morgan 13 questions about his experience as an entrepreneur and he was generous enough to share his wisdom.
1. How did you get started with Visitors Cafe?
I got the idea for VisitorsCafe while attending Harvard Business School, as I met students telling me "I have this passion (or pain), but I can't connect with anybody like me...". I then realized that many like-minded people visit their community or news websites without having a simple solution to socialize around the content they share. Skype lets you video chat with your friends, Chatroulette lets you video chat with random strangers, but there is the middle ground? That's when I decided to start VisitorsCafe and enable any site to easily embed it.
2. Is this your first business? If not, what were the others, and what happened to them.
While I was a student in France I started an internet company that connected students to short term housing available in the area. I was accepted in the finals of a contest organized by McKinsey. They ended up offering me a position I accepted, thinking this would build up my experience before jumping into entrepreneurship.
3. How did you finance your business and what was the process like?
I raised money from angel investors as a student and started VisitorsCafe upon graduation in May 2010. Fund raising was indeed challenging but very rewarding, because I had to make investors believe in my idea as well as in me as an entrepreneur. I think the fact that I truly believe in meaningful connections and that people are ready to embrace them really helped me when talking to investors.
4. How many employees do you have? Full- or part-time?
Our team currently comprises of 7 people, developers and marketers working full-time. We will soon add one to three new members to the team.
5. What is an average workday like for you?
Talking to the team, understanding the market needs, talking to investors, networking within the industry space, etc.
6. Who are your customers?
Our potential customers are virtually all site owners who want to enhance their visitors' experience by adding interactivity through a smart and safe chat. VisitorsCafe is currently getting a lot of traction among bloggers who use it to talk with their readers, community sites (related to an interest, to a life challenge etc.), dating sites and even commercial sites.
7. What are the most crucial things you have done to grow your business?
Repeating the items of question 5 many times! :)
8. What plans do you have for expansion?
Building partnerships with platforms to increase the distribution and reach of VisitorsCafe.
9. What outsiders have been most important to your business success? (e.g., bankers, accountants, investors, customers, suppliers, mentors, etc.)
Definitely the company's board of advisers, which comprises of famous university professors and successful entrepreneurs.
10. What has been your most effective marketing tactic or technique?
Word of mouth really brought us interest among a great deal of site owners. But the most effective part of our marketing strategy so far has been public relations.
11. What’s the worst business advice you’ve ever received?
I don't recall anything particular. Many people have opinions about many things. As a CEO, you have to listen and make sure you don't go into any direction.
12. What three pieces of advice would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
Believe in what you do, learn as much as you can from your or other people's mistakes and take the time to listen to your users.
13. Do you have an “exit” strategy for getting out of the company?
We will think about this in more details later. Now it's time to grow.
Well that was a lot of insightful information into the life of a serial entrepreneur. If you have anything to add, don't hesitate to leave a response in the comments or simply contact us.
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