Lancelot Council (X-HEC), co-founder of Ynstant

Today, Business Cool met Lancelot Salomon, co-founder of Ynstant, the new fast, simple and flexible carpooling platform. Between his studies at HEC Paris and the development of his business, he tells us how entrepreneurship changed his life and his vision of the world of work. Find all his advice to get started in entrepreneurship in this interview!

From your daily life as a student to the creation of Ynstant

Can you introduce us to Ynstant in a nutshell?

Ynstant was created by my partner and I in September 2021 and officially launched in early March 2022. My partner, a Polytechnique graduate, is currently CTO (technical director) and I am CEO (executive director) and a graduate of HEC Paris. In short, Ynstant is positioned as the first application that allows drivers to “carpool” in a simple way, without detours, and that at the last moment before departure.

Our long-term ambition is to be able to connect the driver’s side to GPS like Waze, and the passenger side to mobility apps like Citymapper or Google Maps. So far, we have a few thousand users and we are starting the growth phase. At the moment we are present mainly in the suburbs of Île-de-France, on the HEC campus and soon in a company CAC 40.

How did you come up with the idea to create Ynstant? Did it start from a personal need or did you hear about that need from the people around you?

It started from an observation. In fact, I realized that despite the many carpooling solutions out there, many people still use their car alone. And, as a driver, I realized that I rarely had the opportunity to organize my trips in advance and that the choice to change was often made at the last minute.

That’s where the idea of ​​offering a last minute carpooling solution at low prices came about. At first, we had the idea of ​​creating our own GPS, but we soon realized that it would be too complicated to set up. We therefore naturally moved towards something simpler that could later be integrated into the existing GPS.

Managing your studies and your business: a busy day to day

Is it difficult to embark on such a big business project when you are a student and, in fact, still have little professional experience?

In fact, this is the rather tricky part of beginnings. You have to find the right balance between humility and ambition. And at the project level, we know that to be profitable and have a real impact, we must reach hundreds of thousands, even millions of people! Our app works through network effects, so we have no choice but to plan in bulk.

On the other hand, we also have to keep that humility and tell ourselves that this is our first start-up, that there are companies that have already tried to do things in carpooling and failed. That’s why the first thing we did was take our phone and call all the people who already had experience with rides like Blablacar or other start-ups, to really understand what was tested, what they learned from their experience and how we could take a different approach. Today, we’re not sure it’s going to work, but at least we know what we’re doing is different and has never been tested!

Were you accompanied to assemble this project? How did you create relationships?

Yes, of course, we had support during the HEC Launchpad program. We then had the opportunity to meet a person who had an MBA at HEC and who had previously created 6 companies and sold 3. He was a great source of advice at crucial times for us and the company. For example, when we had to build our MVP (Minimum Viable Product), or find co-founders. He also invested in the project two months ago and has been with us for a year.

And indeed, it’s very important to have support, but for us, we didn’t expect it to come to us this way! It is usually necessary to seek advice, users and investors. And, in general, the people you know love to give advice and share their experiences, so don’t hesitate!

Launching your start-up: do’s and don’ts

Do you need to have money on the side to launch your start-up? How did we finance ourselves in the beginning?

For that matter, when you want to start a business, you either have money or you have capital. In this case, I didn’t have the money to employ people and I didn’t have all the skills either. So, from the beginning, I had an obligation to find partners and share the capital with them. At that time, we also had two other people working with us. We had, therefore, made a verbal agreement and then, one thing led to another, life saw them finally continue their journey elsewhere with a permanent contract, rather than continuing their entrepreneurship with us.

On the other hand, on a personal level, it is true that I was very lucky because I didn’t need to take out a loan to go to HEC and my gap year in consulting in Hong Kong allowed me to save some money. All these elements helped me, therefore, to start my journey as an entrepreneur being in a comfortable situation, I am aware of that. But anyway, as we have a network effect business, we’re going to have to wait a little while before we’re profitable and able to properly remunerate ourselves. So at the moment I pay myself 1,000 euros a month because that’s enough for me to live on.

How do you frame your days when you’re young, a student and your own boss? What motivated you not to give up?

My start-up has always been my top priority in my head. In addition to what could be offered in classes, in addition to sport, in addition to time spent with friends, with family. Today I don’t have many constraints but it happened to me, during my classes at HEC, to have to work while the teacher was teaching. In fact, there is a form of passion and I think this is the most important thing to keep your project going in the long run, first it has to make sense to you.

For some time now, many entrepreneurs have been speaking out on LinkedIn. Do you think CEO communication is as important as corporate communication? Do you have to expose yourself to succeed these days?

Ynstant’s communication is done on my personal LinkedIn account. For example, this morning I did a post on how to pay yourself as an entrepreneur because these are issues I think are particularly important for anyone looking to get into entrepreneurship. So, in fact, I think so, it’s very important to express yourself, but not just for the company. It is especially enriching from a personal point of view.

For example, I met a lot of people through my content on LinkedIn, but for all that, I never posted on the platform with the aim of reaching a certain number of subscribers. Linkedin is a real work tool and, proof of that, one of the companies we will be working with this fall got to know us through the platform. There are therefore many positive externalities, although fundamentally the aim is, above all, to share what we experience as entrepreneurs.

Ynstant Boss Advice for Getting Started in Entrepreneurship

What do you think are the mistakes that should be avoided when setting up a startup? And what have you learned from your personal experience?

There are 2 things that are particularly important, the first is to never give up, no matter what the project. Or there is already a market, so it will be difficult and there will be competition. Or it will never have been done and many people will find it strange and question what you are doing. In either case, there will be many moments of doubt, and when you’re young, it’s very easy to get thrown off balance. So you have to put yourself in a situation where you don’t give up and where you keep moving forward. The second variable, as stated before, is that you have to be passionate. For the simple and good reason that in the toughest of times, having a project you’re passionate about will give you the strength to keep going.

Could you tell us a somewhat complicated story about your career, but one that allowed you to bounce back and learn from it?

This was the week of the app’s launch at HEC, March 1st. 48 hours after launch we had 600 people signed up so we were very happy but no rides were booked. And unfortunately, it was the same for the next 5 days, no one was using the platform. It wasn’t until the following Monday that the first users started using it and we felt a little more relaxed. The first 5 days were very difficult for us because every minute that passed was a source of questioning. Looking back, I think we overestimated the students’ excitement at the launch of this project and the real impact it had on their daily lives.

What advice would you give to young project leaders who want to embark on entrepreneurship?

I think the first thing would be to not hesitate to talk to the people around you, seek advice and meet entrepreneurs. Also, on a personal level, Y Combinator’s Youtube videos inspire me a lot. They address the right questions of entrepreneurship. Also, if any have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly on Linkedin, I’ll be happy to discuss with them. There are many questions I asked myself and I always find it interesting to discuss!

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