The Hunt for Customers — Foundation Episode 6

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

In this episode’s opening scene, Les Sherpas cofounder William Mievre is leaning against the wall of a phone booth-sized Station F workspace that seems designed for what he is currently doing: making sales calls.

The startup’s hunt for customers is the main subject of Foundation episode 6, which portrays the behind-the-scenes business operations that support that search.

Finding customers takes time. It’s one of many components of a company launch that can make it difficult for founders to strike a balance between their personal and professional lives. Oftentimes, there is no balance–professional needs frequently take over–as evidenced by the fact that at Station F, it’s possible to find people hunched over laptops at all hours.

Yet the ability of an entrepreneur to take a pause and step back from work can be the best thing for their productivity in the long run, because it can generate a more holistic assessment of their company’s direction.

Not one to be caught on camera taking a break, Jasmine Anteunis of Recast.AI keeps pace with an unrelenting schedule. We see her have a conversation with Recast.AI’s CTO about how to enter the U.S. market. She leaves that consultation for a second meeting, and then, immediately after, a third. As soon as that wraps up, she checks back in with her CTO, and then–you guessed it–another meeting. “Okay, what needs deciding?” she asks, urging the group to get right to the point so she can move on to working with her team upstairs. It’s exhausting just watching the progression.

For Anteunis, chasing potential clients has to happen at the same time as all her other work. She juggles calls with potential clients with interviews for new hires, all while managing the needs of her team.

That evening, Anteunis conducts a job interview with a developer. They’re sitting at a table that seems to be in a nightclub: perpetually thumping electronic music underscores their conversation. Anteunis talks over the rhythmic beats as she presents the developer with a thought experiment to test how he thinks through things. He doesn’t come to the correct answer immediately, but she guides him through it. Later, Anteunis’ marketing manager shares her own theory about how to solve the thought experiment. She gets pretty close to the right answer, but Anteunis tiredly counters, “There’s a better way to do it,” and gives her a patient explanation.

Meanwhile, in another part of Station F, the cofounders of Torq Labs oversee their designer’s progress on a product prototype. Julian Holtzman says everything about the prototype needs to be exactly correct because it will soon be the model for what goes into production. As we know from the previous episode, they’re running out of cash; they can’t afford to get this wrong. But they are confident they’re moving in the right direction.

We watch Holtzman study competing fitness tech products and find fault with all of them; washability, number of sensors used, and the quality of data are all areas in which Torq Labs feels confident that they have the upper hand.

The episode circles back to Mievre from Les Sherpas: he’s plugging away at more sales calls, though he’s moved to more spacious booth now. He’s on a call with a person who repeatedly cuts out–she’s on a train and the connection is bad–and William keeps saying, “Hello?” and trying to call her back. He chuckles at how ridiculous it feels to be doing the same thing over and over, calling her back when he knows it’ll probably drop out, especially after it took so long to get her on the phone in the first place. But he picks up the phone and tries again.

This Review was first published by All Turtles on May 18, 2018.