How and why I started my side-hustle in 3 months?

During the past 3 months, I acted on developing a side-hustle on top of my full-time job. In a nutshell, here is what I could achieve:

  • Discussed with 50+ people about their productivity communication in their jobs
  • Launched a landing page
  • Developed a software prototype without any prior coding skills
  • Tested this prototype with 12 users

I learned a lot, but I wish I could have been ten times faster.

First landing page of hellooo.io

It starts with a “thank you” 🙏

I want to give a big THANK YOU to all of those who helped me in my journey trying to shape (humbly) the future of communication for hybrid and remote teams. Learning from you is for me the best reward I could get in the past 3 months.

And more specifically, I am more grateful towards those who took time in the past few days evaluating my first prototype and to share with me deeper feelings about their experience around communication in their company. I know they are all very busy while working in successful places such as Algolia, Livestorm, MyJobGlasses, Numberly, Partech, Qonto, Spendesk, etc. I really appreciate this!

I spent the last 3 months on a mission to understand the communication issues in tech companies and trying to frame a problem that people are willing to solve.

Why is it important for me to launch a side-hustle?

Learning.

In my opinion, the incentive must go beyond making money because when you start to undertake such kind of initiative you don’t know where it will lead you. If you aim for the long shot, you need to enjoy the ride otherwise the chances to give up along the way are going to be too high.

Learning is one of my personal most important driver. And probably the most important one. It’s for me, the very engine that helps me to be a better version of myself in every aspect of my life. Ray Dalio, that some describe as the Steve Jobs of financial investment wrote an astonishing book compelling all the principles that helped him through his life to take better decisions and to have a better life. One of these principles is:

“Evolving is life’s greatest accomplishment and its greatest reward”, he even says, in a more brutal way, “Evolve or die.” — Ray Dalio

My copy of Ray Dalio’s book

I think it has never be so true, especially if you are evolving in the tech industry. Fifteen years ago the iPhone did not exist yet, today the global GDP generated by smartphones is equal to 4.1 trillion $. It’s almost impossible to guess what the 15 years ahead are going to look like. Assuming that our today’s tech knowledge will allow us to innovate in the next ten years is a mistake, Jack Ma says it in other words:

“No experts for tomorrow, they are only for yesterday.” — Jack Ma

In every job opportunity I had, I asked to my self the following question: “Am I going to learn?”, it started with my final year internship at Startsquare, as a business developer and right-hand of the founder, the experience was awesome!

Then, a bit out of nowhere, directly after my engineering school in photonics and quantum physics, I had the rare opportunity to be in charge of the digital sector in a startup incubator named Agoranov (Criteo, Doctolib, Dataiku, Shift Technology, Ynsect, and 400+ more) and to support entrepreneurs during the two first years of their company.

I met hundreds of entrepreneurs, sharing with me their business, financial, HR, product issues. This experience is still invaluable to me, and I met people that I admire for what they were able to achieve. The only thing that prevented me to keep working there that I was feeling frustrated for not being on the right side of the “barrier”, I wanted to learn on the field. That’s why, 3 years ago, I joined great entrepreneurs at Tilkal as the 1st ops of the company. Once again, it’s been an exalting journey.

There is currently no more natural path for me to start my side-hustle while enjoying my job at Tilkal, I recently discovered the great story of Casey Caruso: “For the past three years, I have had two jobs. I work full-time as an engineer at Google and part-time as an investor at Bessemer Venture Partners”. She explains the reasons and how she succeeded to manage it. I think we should all have our side-hustle because it serves a lot the primary activity and our long-term goals.

Why have I started it now and not earlier?

Well, I wish I could start it before but I was not ready to invest more energy and time that I was already spending.

Covid-19 dramatically changed many things in our lives and, for too many it changed it in a terrible way… It forced us to think differently: how we live, the way we work, to define a new set of objectives, to build a new work-life balance. We all have our very own experience of this crisis.

The 1st lockdown and the second one were very different to me.

March 2020, we were living with my wife in a 30m2 apartment in the very center of Paris mainly inhabited by tourists, under the roofs with 3 water leakages, the floor was tilted and my desk was my kitchen table, the streets were so empty that I could here my footsteps and birds! At the end of this lockdown my back was soaring because of the floor, I was missing social interaction and hoping for the better. It was necessary to act on this.

Picture of our living room in our first apartment in Paris

We moved out in a far less fancy district of Paris but a way more pleasant to live. We pick a more comfortable apartment (up to 45m2: WoW) close to friends of us, I set up a desk and a real chair! As Rodolphe Dutel (CEO of Remotive) says: it doesn’t make sense to work on a computer that worth a thousand of dollars and to sit on $15 chair.

My current desk set up

I discovered that the most important thing to be prioritised through my day was sleeping. Since the last lockdown I can wake up every morning (even in the weekend) without any alarm at 7:30am straight. It literally blew my mind how it changed my day, it directly impacted the way I feel, I decide, react to events I can’t control.

There is no mystery in achieving this:

  • Go to bed every day at the same time (even in the weekend, it’s tough, I know).
  • If you yawn in the morning take a 20 minutes nap before 3 pm. Your nap should never be longer than 20 minutes.
  • Stop drinking coffee after 2 pm (I personally completely stopped).
  • Set up a no-screen rule in the bedroom.
  • If you don’t fall asleep, get up, go read a book in your living room (do not touch your phone) and try again 30 minutes later.

On top of that I started to run more regularly, 3 or 4 times a week. I meditate when my mind becomes blurry. I avoid heavy meal or meat.

You might think that I’m living like a monk but I have never felt so right in my shoes probably in my entire life. I think I’m twice as productive as before. I really tasted the urge to maintain a very strong physical and mental health.

In the mean time, my wife worked at the hospital up to 12 hours a day and regularly the weekend, especially during the sanitary crisis.

February 5th, I stopped playing a (very addictive) video game played by +200millions of users. I was spending so much time on it that I reached the top 1%. My friends use to say I’m too extreme when I undertake something. I guess that we are all wired very differently.

I used to say that playing video games was my way to relax but I was wrong. It was sucking up all my remaining energy, I was stressed and I was suffering from sleep deprivation.

All of that to say that I came up with a huge amount of energy and time that I needed to convert into something new without jeopardising my job at Tilkal. This is where starts hellooo.io.

Why developing a communication software in a very crowded space?

I needed to find a topic that I knew and meant something to me. As a project manager deploying a software solution across many countries, I experience a high number of Zoom meetings and many instants messaging with Slack.

It’s also important to know that communication is something that is quite personal for me. The funny story is that I didn’t say a few words until I was almost 5 years old. Apparently it was like I did not feel the need to speak because my 3 elders were able to understand my needs. Kindergarten was so much pre-occupied, at some point they wanted me to repeat a year. I didn’t even know this was possible at that age.

Afterwards, it has been the beginning of a very long journey to learn how to be more expressive, to feel inner emotions and to be able to communicate them. Meditation and writing have been two methods that helped me to go through this, even if it’s a lifelong trip.

In 2014, during our entrepreneurship program in our engineering school, we met the co-founder and CEO of Jumia. At that time it was Rocket Internet biggest success and Jumia was becoming the first marketplace in Africa. He shared with us his key insights about entrepreneurship, I was 21 years old, my ears wide-opened, I wouldn’t miss a word about this talk. He suddenly said something that stroke me and never left me in my professional journey: “95% of problems in companies are communication issues”. I must admit that every time I could verify this, it was true. It’s always about something unsaid, information that was lost during meetings, or simply a misunderstanding.

And yet, the need for overcommunicating has increased with the advent of remote work and hybrid teams. Communication has to be more transparent, and companies should be able to create a safe place for failure and learning.

The communication tool space in the tech industry is very crowded, but we still all face meeting issues: there are too many of them, there are not as well prepared as we wished, we sometime pray to remember what has been said and it needs to be organised to do the follow-up. The opportunity is so large that I don’t believe that it will evolve in a winner-takes-all market. Of course I tend to be an optimist 😉

What’s next?

The first problem I was trying to solve is the 2 minutes issue. It’s when a teammate come to you and say: do you have two minutes ?

“Hell no!” (Never happens)

Usually, it sounds more something like: “Yes sure! What is this about?”

Here comes the struggle: it never last 2 minutes but most likely 10 minutes in the best scenarios. Then it takes an additional 20 minutes to refocus according to Gloria Mark who studies digital distraction at the University of California, Irvine. Distraction is a big pain in our daily digital lives.

Nonetheless, interviews that I made revealed that it’s not the most urgent thing that people are willing to solve, but they rather wish to improve their experience with meetings.

The things that surprised me the most is that we all know for decades how to correctly manage meetings and yet everyone complains about it.

This leads me writing this article and here are the activities that I will lead in the following weeks:

  • Start and grow a community around meetings productivity and managing a side hustle.
  • Develop a MVP based on the new inputs I get and iterate as fast as I can.
  • Launch a new landing page.

If you want to read more about my side-hustle journey and meetings productivity, you can subscribe HERE.

Thanks for reading the whole story and feel free to tell me what you wish me to write about :-)

Resources

  • Launch a website: Webflow
  • Develop a prototype: Bubble
  • Domain name: Gandi
  • Illustrations and mock-ups: Sketch
  • Meditation app: Calm
  • Book about sleep: Why we sleep from Matthew Walker
  • Writing: a notebook and a pen

Project Manager @Tilkal, Starter @Hellooo.io, Write about productivity and launching a side-hustle