Julien Coustaury has over 20 years of experience in manufacturing and services, much of it at the CEO level. He has worked in more than 80 countries across five continents and participated in over $1.7bn of purchase, sale, and financing transactions. He is no stranger to starting things: in his early career, he traveled the world building mobile phone networks from literally from the ground up, and as his career progressed, he ended up building whole mobile phone companies from scratch.
It was Julien’s inspiration that led to the formation and naming of Fil Rouge Capital in 2016, and he has been instrumental in its rise to prominence in the SEE region as a favored investor. He holds a master’s Degree in Telecom engineering. He is an avid skier and wakeboarder, cultivates olives for oil, and has an extensive cellar full of Bordeaux wine, which he generously shares.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Julien says:
Go big or go home! Don’t settle for small things. Aim high!
I don’t know. I don’t need to keep myself motivated; I love what I do, and motivations come naturally every morning when I open my eyes after a good night of sleep.
I don’t see myself as extraordinary (in the literal sense of the word) in a way that I d like to be remembered. I would like to believe that my family and close friends will remember me as a “bon vivant,” French expression equivalent to being an epicurean.
Read on to know more about Julien Coustaury and his journey.
What background and domain expertise do you have?
Julien Coustaury: My background is mobile telephony, buying, starting, turning the mobile operator around the world (80+ countries).
When did you first think about starting a fund?
Julien Coustaury: 2012
What kind of startups/ sectors have you invested in till now?
Julien Coustaury: Very agnostic, trying to go where a good deal might be, ranging from fintech, logistics, Marketplace, Agritech, Ecommerce, Travel, Mobility, Media, AI, Medtech, Robotics.
What types of companies do you look to invest in? And What’s your mental model for investing?
Julien Coustaury: First, I would always look at the team: how passionate they are about the mission they are about to embark on, then I like bold moves, so teams that are trying to tackle a big issue, then the rest does not matter!
What is your typical investment range, and how many startups you invest in per year in general? Additionally, can overseas headquartered startups get funding from you?
Julien Coustaury: We make approximately 60 investments of E50k per year and 20 investments of E500k average per year.
What would be the KPI that you usually check about the startups’ growth?
Julien Coustaury: It may be diverse in each industry like LTV, CAC, MoM, etc. but it will be helpful to understand more about your additional investment factors.
I always like to look at the usual KPI’s, but I always like to talk to customers and resellers to understand how passionate they are about using/reselling the product. A qualitative assessment of what the market says is always valuable.
How do you handle this COVID-19 outbreak situation for your fund’s survival in the future?
Julien Coustaury: Our accelerator program went fully online, and we stopped traveling – it is fine for a while, but I miss human contact.
Right after being an investor like in the early days, there must be some tough times in building up the first fund along with building up a second fund or giving back the good returns to those LPs. If there is any similar tough time like this, please tell us more about it and how you (or your team) overcome the difficult times?
Entrepreneur life is full of a challenge; whether you start a company or a fund, it is the same, you have ups and downs, good days, bad days, good news, bad news. We are in the same boat, and we did it before! There is no recipe for overcoming difficult times, as long as you believe that after the rain, always comes the sun!
Additionally, Do you have advice for anyone looking to start a fund?
Julien Coustaury: I think you need to have been around and done a few things before starting a PE/VC. Money is only just one (small) part of the value you can bring.
What mistakes do you see founders make when raising money?
Julien Coustaury: Founders always see fundraising as an end, whereas it is a means to an end but never an end!
What’s your advice to entrepreneurs who have a chance to meet investors like you? What are the top 3 questions that you always ask the founders?
- Tell me in one sentence the problem you are solving
- What is your secret sauce (on the product)?
- Why you, as a team is going to cut it?
What’s your general thought about the term “Global,” and What are the important factors (criteria) for local startups to consider for international expansion?
Julien Coustaury: There is nothing wrong with testing a product in your home turf as long as you always think about achieving global scaling. One key criterion to achieve this is that you cant achieve anything from your home turf. You need a presence, it can be small, but you need to be present in the region you are expanding into
What kind of startup or tech industry will impact the world in the future like 2-3 years locally in your view?
Julien Coustaury: I have the feeling that the arrival of 5G will bring some significant changes to our life with 2 main revolutions: IoT and mobility.
What are the top-three books or movies (TV series) that changed your life and why?
A book: I am thinking about the Alchemist from Paolo Coehlo. There is a part inside that talks about “accomplishing your legend,’ and I like this concept. Everyone should dig his grooves on earth.
A movie: I love the movie the Shawshank Redemption with Tim Robbins and Morgan freeman. This movie is very powerful and pays a high tribute to persistence, and I believe in persistence. Not everybody is talented, but everybody can be persistent and succeed in the end.
Lastly, I love to lay my eyes on a Francis Bacon painting. I cant never figure out an end to watching Bacon. It is worrying and fulfilling at the same time.
How do you keep yourself motivated every day?
Julien Coustaury: I don’t know. I don’t need to keep myself motivated; I love what I do, and motivations come naturally every morning when I open my eyes after a good night of sleep.
What are the top- three life lessons that you want your (future) sons and daughters to know?
Julien Coustaury: Only 1: Go big or go home! Don’t settle for small things. Aim high!
What would you like to be remembered for?
Julien Coustaury: I don’t see myself as extraordinary (in the literal sense of the word) in a way that I d like to be remembered. I would like to believe that my family and close friends will remember me as a “bon vivant,” French expression equivalent to being an epicurean.
You can follow Julien Coustaury here.
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