From Paris to New York City back to Paris and finally London, I chat to one of the graduates on the NEF programme, Joséphine Goube as she tells me her story navigating the entrepreneurial and corporate world.
Below is the full interview
Hi Joséphine, Its great to finally have you on YHP, how are you doing today?
Before we move on, could you quickly give us some background information about yourself so that the YHP audience can get to know you better?
French small town girl. Moved to the big city Paris at 18 to study humanities at Sciences Po. Fostered my love for European Modern Political History, philosophy and architecture.
Moved to New York City at 20. Worked in Press Relations for Healthcare companies. Unleashed my enthusiasm for Urbanism and fascination of big Western cities.
Moved back to Paris to complete a Msc in Urban Strategies in 2009 and relocated to London to complete a Msc in Urban policies in the South & Development Studies at the London School of Economics in 2010. Improved my insight on international development and urban development.
Along the way, I co-founded a Business Incubator for London students (LSE Inc). Still on the Management board of this student-led initiative, I started working at Springboard last October to run the next program starting April 2012 in London. Graduated in December.
How did you get into entrepreneurship, what was your inspiration?
I don’t know; I just fell into it, like you fall in love. It just happened. I was totally blind about what I was getting into. I just know it felt right for me, and still feels.
Yet - I don’t care about titles; I would not event care not to be called an entrepreneur.
As such, I did not choose Entrepreneurship as a clear conscious career path. I did not decide ‘I want to be a self made woman for life’. However I have always admired Madonna or Coco Chanel. They stimulate my vision of what I wish to achieve: disruptive business with courage, hard work and vision for a more open-minded world. But as I said, entrepreneurship just feels right for me now; I don’t know about tomorrow.
What was your first business, how the idea came about and tell your experience running that?
The business incubator we built at LSE just came as necessary and the next thing to do: nobody helped students that were building REAL businesses while studying. There were lectures on venture creation but I don’t believe theory help – (at least, it can inspire). I believe in action.
Aside the need, I was fueled by outrage from the way the School was faking to care about students doing stuff and frustrated to hear my friends willing to go to consulting companies because they were not confident in themselves enough. Schools are places where to learn, ideal spaces where to execute, create and learn from your failures. If you don’t do it while there, when do you do it: when it is even harder (aka in real life)?
Finally, there was also an element of pure instinct in building this initiative. I like to build new things, I like to help so the idea seemed natural and making sense; it sounded fun and exciting. In reality, it was not so much fun: lots of work and pain. I was very stressed because I had never done such a thing and I was stressing on things to be perfect. I could have done much better if I had been more supported by the School, also if I had been more relaxed, less fearful. But you can’t fight fear for every ‘first time’ things you do, can you?
The opportunities that it opened to my career and in my life – and they were and are amazing - appeared later, when running it. It has been a life enhancer but I could not know this before I did it. It was million times worth it.
You studied at Sciences Po in Paris? Tell us about your experience during your time of study?
Sciences Po Paris is the best ‘Grande Ecole’ I could have ever been to. I simply loved my time there. It fitted my personality.
First, entering Sciences Po Paris meant (for me) moving from my very small town to a 8 million-people capital city. I was on fire: millions of things became possible.
Second, it was a total surprise: I never thought I would be accepted to the School (to say the least, I did not look at the results the day they came out). Nor did I ever think I would make it to Paris before 30. I was on fire (even more).
Eventually, like a chapter 2 in my small life; nothing was to be the same again after. I had left home; would never return back to my previous life and friends. This gave me the strength to believe that I can go anywhere, make it anywhere if I work hard (though without forgetting how luck plays a big role). This also gave me this obstinate mind, determination and sometimes (naïve) arrogance.
And some of the key things you learnt from that experience?
Difficult to summarize what I learnt at Sciences Po. To be concise, I would say:
Sciences Po being at the center of Paris puts you in an environment were you are directly asked to act like adults. You are not in your protected bubble on a university campus.
At School, I met with like-minded people. I was not a freak talking politics or philosophy. I was not mocked using serious words. People had something to reply; they were not just raising their shoulders. I developed my critical thinking and grow intellectual relationships.
Movers and shakers of this world would come to conferences at school. Being able to see, meet and talk to them, I started believing that I could become part of the clique. This is silly to say but I realize they were humans after all. As much as everyone.
There is a chinese proverb that says: When you work in a coal mine you cannot stay white. That is what happened with Sciences Po, and in a very good way.
I guess there’s been a lot of talk about going to university, the value of having a degree, entrepreneurship becoming a viable option, what made you realise that this was the right choice for you?
I never studied to get a job. I never thought a degree would get me a job. I thought it might just help get in touch with the people in the industry.
I went to university to study what I am passionate about Politics, Geopolitics, Philosophy, Art, Cosmology, Architecture, Sociology, etc. I spent my time talking about these subjects with fellows at school. In some ways, I am a nerd, in some others, I am not: I never aimed at being the brightest student in the classroom but always did my best in whatever I was passionate about. In other terms, I was average and sometimes far behind on school grades but I did not care. I did not see the value of grades compared to making friends with people and do things that I would remember forever. I was not the one staying long hours at the library. I was the one organizing dinners and parties to get the smartest of the school become my friends; I liked their brains. I like the things we could create together.
So I guess, I never though: get a degree versus starting my own company. I never saw entrepreneurship as an exclusive option. I was being “entrepreneurial” in my daily life. I set up a student association for European Movies with friends in my second year. I was setting up “Movie Wednesday’s”. I was setting up regular parties. I was giving classes to students taking their A-levels. I could do both: study and do things. I never compromised choosing between school and business.
You decided to come to London to study for your Masters at LSE? Why did you feel you needed to do this especially since you already done a Masters in Paris?
As I said, I am passionate about Urbanization and Architecture. I am thirsty of knowledge. London School of Economics is ranked first for this matters; it has one of the best Geography Department. So I applied for a loan (reluctantly) and a Msc (with enthusiasm).
How did you find it changing countries, cultures, friends - the adaptation process?
I am a social-bee that has been constrained to 18 years in a small town. I let you imagine how liberating it felt for me to live in Paris, New York and London.
Regarding the adaptation process: I am not just good at adopting new settings, I beg for these circumstances to change all the time.
This love for challenging the ‘status-quo’ can be perceived as a typical fear of boredom and a fear of being trapped somewhere for a long time (again). It can explain my radical stands on feminism or capitalism. Or maybe it is just an age/generation thing: the very impatient youth and the immediacy of technology that make us become ‘I want to be entertained now’ individuals.
You were very involved in LSE’s entrepreneurship society, you even started incubator program during your time there. Tell us about that experience and some of the key things you learnt from that and opportunities that it has given you?
I got in touch with LSE entrepreneurs Society during the summer prior moving to London. I wanted to get involved with people to do fun things to do – the other societies looked boring.
LSE Entrepreneurs’ President needed help for Fresher’s Fair: I raised my hand automatically. Wherever there is a need for help, I am here. Especially for nice people: Arthur is an awesome energetic guy with the heart at the right place.
It started like this: I asked what they were doing with actual students that were building REAL businesses. He said nothing. I said it is a pity. He said you should fix it.
It’s been lots of work and pain. It’s been stressful (but that is just me being stupid, stressing for details). I had so many fears because I had never done anything like this. The big lesson was: stop being scared, just do and fail so you will do it better.
It went very well: better than we would have ever expected. But I was never satisfied, always pushing to do better. I have been hard to live with the team I worked with. The handover happened this October and the new team taking over the initiative is just awesome.
As I said, the opportunities that it has opened to my career and in my life are awe-inspiring. It was million times worth the pain. It has been a life enhancer; I am more confident and happy in life. I saved two years of my life at McKinsey or Bain.
You've also worked for a few other companies namely: Euro RSCG Worldwide PR,1.2.3. Consulting and Rainmaking. Tell me about your experience working there.
Euro RSCG Worldwide has been a great first experience. Not so much in the tasks I was completing everyday (too young and too inexperienced to be given responsibilities), but it was a great start for the people I met with and the opportunities they have given me to see, hear, listen, learn, taste and experience.
1.2.3 Consulting is a startup style consultancy company that I helped for a summer. The founders gave me real ownership over my duties. Something most employers don’t: they just want you to complete tasks. I just loved the team and so the work. They trusted my work. To be given trust is a blessing.
Rainmaking co-founder, Carsten, gave me my chance last May to lead on the social media side of one of their startup company Trueskin. They gave me full ownership too, pushed me to be creative and let me learn from them at the office. I learnt a lot in very few months. Mats, founder of Trueskin, would always take time to tell me lessons from his failures. Inspiring.
What would you say was some of the key things you learnt from that experience?
I learnt to be more patient and to listen better – In progress still.
Tell us about NEF and how you got involved?
I got on the program to learn about business and eventually fell in love with the people involved.
However, I have been quite a pain for NEF during the match-making process. I have been picky with the company they matched me with; I went to the interviews when I could but was reluctant to work with the Company they had chosen for me. I believed they were not the right fit for me. So I told Zara that I was already working for an entrepreneurial company and that I might stay there. She agreed
What company are you currently working with, what do you do and how’s the experience been so far for you?
I’m working for Springboard with Jon and Jess. Currently, we are selecting our ten teams: exciting.
What are some of the key things that you’ve learnt so far from working at Springboard?
Always ask for help when you need it. Do what’s easier and what you truly care about.
Is this something that you would recommend to other aspiring entrepreneurs? What value can they get from this experience?
Just do it.
What would you say has been some of your most memorable moment so far?
A speed-mentoring with 80 mentors and about 150 entrepreneurs to manage. Fun when you like mess and to shout.
What advices would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to start their own business?
No talk, just do it. Better sooner than later. You always get better with time (if you are honest with yourself).
What are your plans after NEF programme? What can we be expecting from you in the future?
Expect to be surprised.