From Accelerator to Acquisition
Interview with Florian Cornu, Alumnus of JFDI.asia
Interviewed by Anita Chan
Tell us about yourself
I was born in France and later relocated to Singapore, following the hint given by 23andMe that my ancestors are Asian.
It’s been a fantastic journey, from starting a company to joining the first startup accelerator of Southeast Asia (JFDI), building partnerships, raising funds, and selling the company.
Could you tell us about your startup that was in JFDI?
During Startup Weekend in 2011, I pitched this idea that finding getaways should not fall into the paradigm of the search fields widely used by travel websites, but by beautiful maps that show you where you can go. A map is very convenient for this kind of information, such as showing where a city is. From there, Flocations was born.
I was lucky that the idea interested several people and we worked on it and stuck to it. Afterwards, we became a team of 4 co-founders (with 5 nationalities, as it should be, for a travel company).
Why did you decide on JFDI?
Partly, and rationally, it was the first and only accelerator in Southeast Asia at the time.
Also, we had the wish to work with inspiring teams (Meng and Hugh had been strongly involved from their start in Hackerspace, helping the community at large) and the network of mentors.
As first time founders, we also wanted the framework offered by JFDI to guide us to an early stage product that was started during Startup Weekend to a real company.
What was your experience like at JFDI?
They helped us refine our product, reach partners and raise funds. JFDI achieved all we could expect from it!
How can people best leverage their experience at an accelerator?
Go all in. It’s a few months where one should make the most of the opportunity provided, leveraging the mentors, the publicity, and the other participants. You should aim to get the most out of it during that time, and by building strong relationships for the future. The accelerator period is just the start of the journey. Then, once the accelerator period is over, keep working on the business as if the accelerator was still going on, and avoid the “slump” the follows the completion of an accelerator, as mentioned by Sam Altman of Y Combinator.
What are your thoughts about accelerators in Singapore? How has the scene changed since you were a part of it?
Obviously, the number increased from one to about 50 now. The good thing is that it provides more choices and allows accelerators to have specific focuses so that one can choose their accelerator based on the industry they are working in, the network they need, the terms they provide, etc. Now, it’s not so much about whether you should go to an accelerator or not, it’s about picking the one which matches your needs and profile.
Do you think that accelerators are suitable for everyone? Are there certain personalities/traits more suitable?
Accelerators usually have the ambition of leading the team to a significant fundraising round, so entrepreneurs should want to run a VC-backed company, not a lifestyle business. With the diversity of accelerators now available, different personalities will be able to find the one right for them.
At what stage should people consider applying for an accelerator?
There are YC alumni going back to YC, revenue generating companies joining accelerators, so one might join an accelerator if they believe the value provided will be useful.
What have you been up to since JFDI?
After JFDI, Flocations raised funds with Singtel Innov8 and TNF Ventures and got acquired by Venture Republic.
Since then, I have then been working with several other companies, helping entrepreneurs get visibility into their business and telling their stories to their teams and investors through my consulting firm We are CxO. I’m lucky to work with some of the best startups in the region and to help them grow fast.
I’m also turning people into Google Sheets Magicians through Epic Sheets, a training program for users to spend less time while getting more value of their spreadsheets.
Do you feel your experiences in JFDI have helped you in what you have been doing afterwards?
The frogs (the mascot of JFDI) are still going with me on a daily basis, whether it is the stuffed toys hanging in my office or the entrepreneurs and mentors we met during the bootcamp and with whom we meet regularly. It is an invaluable network!
Our audience is mostly people in the startup community. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Whatever you might see or read in other companies and media, stay true to your own values and vision, and make sure what you do makes sense. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the front page of a newspaper if you’re bankrupt tomorrow.
Florian helps entrepreneurs to run their business, through financial management, data and metrics intelligence. Florian launched his venture, Flocations, a map based travel inspiration startup in Singapore. Flocations was admitted in the first batch of JFDI.asia, Asia’s first startup accelerator, and raised funding from SingTel Innov8 and TNF ventures. Flocations was later acquired by Japanese company Venture Republic. Florian then founded We are CxO which works with CEOs, COOs and CFOs, expanding their ability to monitor their business and guide the strategic decisions needed to grow to the next level.