Leadership and Teamwork — Foundation Episode 4

Foundation is an eight-part documentary series about entrepreneurs at Station F–the world’s largest startup campus–and it follows the pitfalls and triumphs they experience while establishing their businesses.

At the heart of any startup’s success–or failure–is the relationships between its team members.

Foundation episode 4 follows the series’ four startups as they confront the innumerable challenges of launching their businesses, each one seemingly capable of making or breaking them. Navigating those hurdles requires a confident and adept leader to get everyone moving forward together.

The leader of Les Sherpas, Etienne Porche, has returned from his trip to San Francisco and is welcomed back with hugs from his team members. He checks in with each of them, sharing some stories of his American adventures before sitting down to go over some design concepts. This is a team that enjoys conversation and laughter while they toil away.

As a window into another kind of team dynamic, there’s a scene of a meeting between the Meet My Mama founders and their team as they go over their projected goals. Youssef Oudahman, one of the co-founders, says the company is doing ten times better now than they were six months ago, and he wants to keep that momentum up. He urges his team to evaluate the efficiency of their processes–if they’re going to onboard more people as they grow, they need to think about how to manage them. Oudahman speaks with urgency, commanding the room with his calls to action and infectious positive energy. His team hangs on his words, ready to work.

Jasmine Anteunis, founder of Recast.AI, has a gentler approach–she takes a phone call with a prospective hire with her feet propped up on a ledge, relaxed, telling the person on the other end to take their time in deciding on the job offer. After the call, Anteunis explains that a psychologist is evaluating each candidate to see if they’d be a good match. She needs someone who can keep up with the rapid pace of her company’s work and be flexible in the ever-changing environment that is working for a startup. Anteunis may have a calm demeanor, but the wheels are churning for her at the same intense speed as everyone else at Station F.

Later, the Meet My Mama founders are sitting in a small glass-walled conference room when Loubna Ksibi, co-founder, reports that they’ve secured a partnership. Oudahman calls for high fives all around, declaring, “What a win!” They play “All I Do is Win,” pumping the air in celebration, encouraged by Oudahman to enjoy their moment of victory.

Strong leadership is as crucial in the peaks as it is in the valleys, and the Les Sherpas team has hit a low. Porche and William Mievre, COO, fiddle with a pen and a coffee cup as they admit that they’re falling short of performance targets. Porche says, “We wake up in the morning with knots in our stomach.” But he’s laughing a bit as he says it, still leading his team with humor even while discussing their difficulties.

Episode 4 shows each Station F startup wrestling with leadership and team dynamics, abstract management terms that are suddenly living, breathing factors for success.

This Review was first published by All Turtles on May 4, 2018.