Meeting with Arnaud Burgot, ex CFO of Ulule and current CEO
The battle for talent is a central theme among start-ups. At Morgan Philips Executive Search we attach a great importance on understanding the sectors, functions and needs of the new companies we are working with. In a fast-developing company, where everything is to be built, personality makes the difference! I want to tell you about the experience of Arnaud Burgot, CEO of Ulule, today the premier site of European crowdfunding and recently ranked 9th French Fin Tech (FrenchWeb 500 ranking).
Arnaud was recruited to the position of CFO in 2011, having worked in one of the Big 4 beforehand. Let’s take a look at his audacious and very successful journey, which proves that in addition to skills, it is essential to know yourself!
Even at high school, I already knew I wanted to focus on a financial and legal education. Entrepreneurs had explained to me that these functions were at the heart of starting a business and to try to start something without this background was like ‘entering Formula 1 without knowing anything about mechanics’. So, I decided to study at a business school and then I began my career at PwC. But, at the end of four years, I felt I had pretty much seen everything there was to see with auditing. I was more and more attracted by the world of entrepreneurship. In 2011, I passed a new accounting qualification and was hired by Ulule to the position of CFO. Today, at 32, I am the CEO. The route from CFO to CEO is not so common, but this can be explained by the versatility necessary in the creation of a company. I got involved in the business development side, and it has paid off!
I wanted to get out of consulting and auditing, where despite everything you remain a support function. I wanted to get involved in the real generation of value, of creating something. If well established firms have a big flaw, it is that decision making chains are too long and with too many obstacles. I didn’t feel I had much of a say, despite being ready to give 200%, on the condition of being able to ‘play my part’.
A lot of people spoke about ‘taking a risk’ about a ‘leap of faith’, etc. But personally I wasn’t afraid of the change. On the one hand, I chose the right moment; after another five years it would have been difficult to give up the benefits of big group – the psychological barriers and social contstraints would have perhaps made the choice a lot less obvious. As it happens, at the moment I decided to leave I hadn’t started a family, I didn’t have a mortgage, etc. I was free. On the other hand, having been to a business school and with an accounting qualification in my back pocket, I was still very employable. What I saw as the real danger was not so much the risk of being unemployed if the start-up didn’t work out, but having to go back to my previous career path and end up being bored. Finally, change seemed to me less frightening than boredom!
In auditing, I reviewed accounts for five years, without ever making a single entry in accounting software. Without claiming that this is the most exciting part of being a CFO, the learning phase of operational tasks had the merit of enabling me to understand the workings of all the functions which go to make up a team. I was then able to think about optimising the practices and, finally, analyse the results. I wanted to create and I created! Now, when I manage a team, I am in a good position to train each member, since I’ve already done his or her job. I also understand the difficulties that they can meet and we can discuss the potential hurdles in order to overcome them and make Ulule move forward. The most rewarding thing has been recruiting new team members. Recruitment is, in a way, the fruit of our (tireless) labours, the proof we are making the company grow!
I won’t lie to you, the salary in a start-up is less mouth-watering than in an auditing firm. The range for the position of CFO is somewhere between €50k and €90k per annum, depending on experience. Between five and eight years of experience and you can expect up to €70k and between eight and fifteen years the salary will rise to around €90k. As you have certainly understood, I felt the need to face challenges; the taste for which outweighed the lure of financial gains. As long as you know yourself and you know what you want, luck will smile on you!
Louis Espinassou, Deputy Managing Director – Morgan Philips Executive Search France