In attempt to keep its incubated entrepreneurs inspired and motivated, Turbine organizes Entrepreneur’s Talks. This is an opportunity for founders of new start-ups to learn about the journey of seasoned entrepreneurs, to ask them for advice and to exchange ideas with them.
Julien Faliu is the founder and CEO of Expat.com. On January 15th, 2020, he shared his journey as an entrepreneur with us.
Expat.com is a support network for people who have embarked on the life abroad journey. Julien explains that today, the company operates on three axes:
(i) Country guides for expats.
(ii) Community building around
And these first two are completely free for anyone who would like to use them.
(iii) An online marketplace for services/ products catering to expatriates.
Motivation to start:
As an expat having worked in many different countries himself, he found that wherever he went in the world, there was a lot of information available about the country to tourists but not to expatriates. Furthermore, it is often difficult to find the right and qualified professionals in a country if you are not from there.
He got his initial business idea in England in 2003 where he was selling health insurance to people online. He was in London and was selling insurance to people all over the globe. He was fascinated by how he could be selling a product to someone in New Zealand and be making money even while he was sleeping.
At the time, Julien was still employed, and he had a brilliant idea that he pitched to his boss at the time. The idea was simple; instead of buying clicks online through different websites that would post the ads, they would implant their insurance calculators on various websites. They would pay the websites that they had identified as strategic partners and would be buying leads instead of clicks.
Around the same time, he started targeting individuals with similar needs and pains by means of a blog that would post relevant content for those pain points.
When he arrived in Mauritius, he started working full time on his project. At the time he had less than half a million rupees to get started but he did it anyway. He knew he could code, and he knew he could work hard.
Resilience and the growth of the company.
These were early days when he had launched expat-blog.com and he says that what got him through everything was having a network of friends that supported him and a girlfriend at the time, now wife, that understood his work to drive.
He was honest with himself about what he could and could not do, but he also knew where his shortcomings lied. And that for him, this was graphics. He says that design and branding is an important aspect of a business. This is the reason why he started looking more into his branding and his design. At the time the expat-blog.com logo looked like this:
Today it looks like this:
The process of rebranding his company in this way was painful for him. Especially re doing the logo. The branding was so close to his experience in starting off the business that there was a sense of loss when he decided to give up the original logo. Re-branding from expatblog.com to expat.com also came with its challenges for Julien. He shares that when they had first changed the domain, it had certainly cost him a bit but not just in the bank.
Making the switch also brought about a loss of about two thirds of the traffic to their website. This had seriously threatened the viability of expat.com, the only plus side of this was that Julien found a way to deal with the stress by working out. During that period, he lost almost 10Kg.
Julien says it is important to surround yourself with people that you trust and can depend on. He also says that having a healthy coping mechanism when it comes to stressful times is very important. As a founder, he finds it very effective to be a counsellor/ advisor to his customers. This builds trust with them and it is the reason why they will keep coming back to your service when compared to others.
A word of caution:
It is important, he says, to become weary when big chunks of your revenue come from one client. He learnt this the hard way. He says dependency, whether it is on clients for revenue or whether it is more internal in that there is a lot of work that depends on one person. Beware!
If you have a staff member whom a lot of work relies on, they become a threat to your business, unless you can find a way of aligning your interests towards the company.