Thursday, 19 April 2012

Expat Entrepreneur: Pierre Waters, founder of moving2madrid

Expat Entrepreneur is a brand new series on Expat Explorer that invites founders and CEOs who have set up businesses abroad to offer their advice and insight for fellow expats thinking of going down the start-up route.

The first in our series comes from Pierre Waters, the founder of relocation service Moving2Madrid.



Source: Creative Commons/ Fellowship of the Rich

Why did you decide to become an expat entrepreneur?

I first chose Madrid because I believed - and still do - that it's the best place out of the entire Spanish-speaking world that offers the best balance between quality of life and business opportunities for foreigners.

After 2 years working as a strategy and management consultant, I decided to launch my own business in Madrid because I did not see in the market what I needed to make my move to Madrid zen. I believe in challenging the status quo and bringing new simple and human solutions to foreigners moving to Madrid. 

If you could give one piece of advice to other expats setting up their own businesses, what would it be? 

It is often said that Spain is often a cycle behind entrepreneurial innovation and quality standards in the US.

My advice would be to leverage your experience from working in other countries with higher quality standards and innovation and aim to work with the highest ambitions here. That way you raise the bar naturally and prevent yourself from getting too complacent with the norm in your host country.

What challenges did you encounter when setting up your business and how did you overcome these?

The obvious challenge is the language. My recommendation is to go full immersion to truly pick up the language. Living with three Mexican flatmates, playing rugby with a 100% Spanish team and studying in a Spanish university and always trying to only work in the language, meant that within 6 months I was fluent enough to land a top consulting job at Accenture Management Consulting.

The less obvious, but most important challenge, is procrastination. My advice is do not delay launching your product just because you think you need more time. Just do it, ship your product and see what the real world feedback (sales) is. For me, that's the only way to go.

The other challenge I encountered was the administrative challenge. The administrative and legal framework may not be helpful in Spain for entrepreneurs but get over it! Remember that this is the barrier to entry for not-so motivated entrepreneurs.


What common mistakes do expats, in general, make when setting up their business?

I would say, don't say “yes” to all clients. Choose them because you have aligned values and expectations.

Listen to your gut feeling. Read “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell if you don't believe me. Of course, we all procrastinate some way or another, but if some part of your business is killing you, outsource or ditch it.

Do what you love. Read “Crush it” by Gary Vaynerchuk. Not because it is a great quote to say to friends, but because passion is the main fuel entrepreneurs work with. You have to love what you do, or you will not be able to really crush it.

In my case, 3 months after starting, I realised one part of my business was doing great and I was dreading the other part. What I learned was to change my assumptions of my business and “pivoted” to focus on what worked well. I'm now happier and more profitable. 

What resources did you find useful or tapped into to get your business off the ground?

I relied on these three essential sources to get my business of the ground. In fact, it will be more correct to call them sources, rather than resources, and these are aspiring leaders in the industry, fellow entrepreneurs and my partner whom I draw my source of passion and knowledge.

My entrepreneurial heroes, whose books and ideas fuel my passion and entrepreneurial practice include:

- Seth Godin author of Purple Cow, Tribes
- Gary Vaynerchuk -
Crush it
- Tim Ferriss - 4Hour workweek
- Simon Sinek - Start with why
- Eric Ries - Lean Startup
- Jason Fried - Rework

For me, instead of looking for a mentor, I have heroes and I read and learn from them!

Secondly, I tapped into my group of entrepreneurs. As you know, studies show you're as successful as the people of your close network. That's why you have to find a group with the same values, and see those guys often.

I was lacking such a group in Madrid, so like any entrepreneur would do when they want something that does not exist, again a bit like my business, I created it: The Guiripreneurs (Guiri means foreigner in colloquial Spanish) - www.guiripreneur.com

It’s been absolutely brilliant creating a close-knit community here. We now have over 160 members in the group and growing, have meetups every other week and obtained the backup of the economic development agency of Madrid, “Madrid Emprende”.

I also belong and help organize a group of French-speaking entrepreneurs: Franc-Risqueurs.

Both these groups bring me motivation, friendships, knowledge and business.

Finally, my partner in life, Florence, supports me in everything I do, gives me sound advice and reminds me why I became an entrepreneur in the first place.

What would you do differently if you could do it again?

Two things. I would test as many ideas as possible with side projects earlier and learn to design and code, instead or while going to business school. 

About Pierre

Pierre is a French and British entrepreneur living in Madrid since 2008.

He believes in challenging the status quo to enable expats and entrepreneurs to live the life they want.

That’s why he created Moving2Madrid, the first "human" relocation company in Madrid, the first one to propose an all-inclusive personal relocation package with transparent pricing to make your move to Madrid easy.

Pierre loves to play rugby 3 times a week and discover new places and foods. He shares his life with Florence, French also, also from Paris, also an entrepreneur, whom he met in Madrid dancing salsa!

If you would like to connect with Pierre, email him at pierre(at)moving2madrid(dot)cm


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