“Entrepreneurs are like onions”: UCL Entrepreneurship Guest Lecture Series
21 November 2011
This week’s guest lecture was held by Romain Eude, CTO of my-wardrobe.com. Romain lived for many years in Lille, France, where he completed a Master’s degree with thesis in IA from ICAM. Later on, his studies led him to move abroad to Pennsylvania for a Marketing course at Temple University.
Right at the start, we learnt two important things about Romain: firstly, that “he is obsessed with software”, and secondly that “creating something from nothing” is his greatest love. The lecture began with a very short video, an excerpt from Shrek, the children’s movie about the giant green ogre. Referring to this brief video, Romain worded the most important quote of his lecture: just like Shrek the ogre, “entrepreneurs are like onions”.
In fact, Romain believes there are common themes to all entrepreneurs which keep coming up throughout their work whatever they do. He calls these common themes the “layers” of entrepreneurs. One of them is, for instance, represented by what Romain defines as the foundation techniques for problem solving. These are the same, he claims, in basically every field, from that of finance to that of fashion. Once the methodology to solve problems is acquired, one can be an entrepreneur in anything, at any time and in any place. His very own story offers a good example for this line of thought. Romain started off as an engineer and soon after graduating joined the army. At that time he was faced with two options: either enrol as a soldier or work for the government as part of a company.
He chose the second option and worked as a junior project engineer in the phone smart cards production. In this context, Romain began to climb his ladder: from being a trainee engineer, he became project engineer and then project manager for the company. By the time he left, the company was making an average of 20 million cards per year. In 1999 Romain returned to France where he got involved in a start-up for software production and by 2001 he was responsible for the creation and management of its sister company in London. Shortly after, he started working for Touch Local, a start-up which bears much similarity to the Yellow Pages: “coding, coding, and more coding, all day, seven days a week” was what this job entailed, Romain explained. After being promoted from team leader to web manager and, finally, to CTO, he left the business for Gekko.com, a luxury hotels booking site of which he was named CTO as well. He settled down for this job for two years only, and having concluded the travel market was too hard to access, he left and joined my-wardrobe.com. He is now CTO of this online luxury fashion boutique.
Wow. The layers, in Romain’s case, definitely served their purpose. When asked what this variety of experiences and short-term jobs, start-ups, businesses ultimately taught him, he replies “to be super agile in every circumstance”. The skills he learnt are transferable, Romain explains, and for this reason they can be applied in different fields and to different tasks, allowing him “to change space”. This is something –in Romain’s opinion- healthy, cool and fun for an entrepreneur and what, in his own words, “drives me through all I do”.
Written by Carolina Mostert, UCL 2nd year student studying Classics