Bootstrapped from $0 to $8M ARR in 5 years

Bootstrapped from $0 to $8M ARR in 5 years

Guillaume “G” Moubeche is the CEO and co-founder of Lemlist. Founded in 2018, Lemlist is a first email personalization solution that automatically generates personalized images and videos for email marketing campaigns. By making generic "cold" emails unique and interesting right off the bat, it can also help users quickly establish rapport.

Lemlist's list of honors continues to expand. Guillaume has led the company to $8 million in Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR) in 3.5 years. Lemlist currently has over 10,000 customers worldwide and has hired over 40 team members by solely bootstrapping.

A CEO’s Journey

The Moubeches are natives of rural France. According to G, his parents didn’t see the value of education as much as their children. G and his brother struggled to get proper education. G went on to study and became a chemical engineer. After completing his studies, G traveled to different countries like Colombia, Bolivia, and Costa Rica. In exchange of free accommodation, he worked various jobs, such as teaching English, permaculture farming, babysitting, and selling.

His newfound freedom and travels inspired him to engage in business. He studied Masters in Marketing in one of the best business schools in France. After that, he started a business with his father called Paris Reste Un Rêve or “Paris Remains a Dream.” After building a community around the brand, he expected this to translate into sales. However, the business didn’t take off. Shrouded by disappointment and guilt, G’s relationship with his father suffered.

Later on, G’s friend invited him to join his team in starting a new venture of building an agency that helps connecting people to clients. Still fresh from failure, he doubted if he could do it. Yet, he remained open to possibilities and the prospect of learning from his friend. Their team started doing many outbound prospecting and after a few months, they generated hundreds of thousands of dollars and, later on, millions.

G learned many things in his one year with the team but felt that all the tools on the market at the time were not representative of the day-to-day of a sales rep. Everyone's telling you put your sales on autopilot with our software but they’re missing the important ingredient: whenever you do sales you have to build relationship, and to build relationship you need personalization. However, personalization takes time so he thought of building the best software to allow for extreme personalization and help people build warmer relationships.

In 2017, he met Vianney and Francois, and in 2018, they decided to launch Lemlist. More than three years later, the company garnered tens of thousands of users worldwide, growing at two digits month over month and became a multi-million dollar company.

Initial Plans

In 2018, G and his co-founders wanted to raise capital, being swayed by what he sees in media about raising capital as the only path to success. He met with 15 VCs (venture capitalists), but was later rejected because they haven’t established themselves at that time and were told they were not competitive enough.

G found himself at a crossroads whether he wanted to focus on talking to VCs who don't really know their market and capabilities, or to keep providing value to people who actually acknowledge their help and to be able to change their life.

G decided to focus on the latter and launched a product hunt, got number one product of the day, and generated a lot of users. He also did the same with another company called AppSumo. Two weeks after launching with AppSumo, they made a $160,000 one-time fee but AppSumo took 70 of that which essentially left them with $48,000. G still considered this good since they essentially bootstrapped the company and shelled out $1,000, $334 dollars each founder.

At that time G was the only one doing customer support, sales and marketing, and because there were many inquiries about the solution, he felt the need to build a community. To communicate with more people using one platform, G started a Facebook group and answered questions about sales automation there. Gradually, people started to engage in the videos and tips he was sharing.

For G, he had no intention of building the biggest community but more like providing value to people because he was sick of seeing articles online with templates like “How to be a millionaire” or only ranking in due to excellent SEO (search engine optimization) but actually lacked the content that should respond to the users’ needs.

G and his team decided to take a different approach, launched campaigns with Lemlist every single week, took the best campaigns, and explained to their users why exactly they worked by sharing templated.

After running a series for 20 weeks in a row, they started receiving positive feedback. G emphasized the importance of building trust with the community and avoiding fluff content. In 2021, they have built the biggest hub with real cold email templates from real users with real results, something people would never see with other solutions.

Turning Down a Multi-Million Offer

Guillaume also mentioned that he turned down a “30-million-dollar venture capital investment”, to focus on organically growing the business and prioritizing the interactions with the customers. G is a firm believer that having the funds is not what will make or break a business, especially if this is a journey that you’re in for the long haul.

G goes on to discuss that entrepreneurs should run the business the way they want to run it, and any outside involvement can pigeonhole the framework of the company.

Customer Relationship Management

G noted that many CRM (customer relationship management) software nowadays fail to deliver their primary function due to many limitations. This is what Lemlist tries to address with its user-friendly interface and community outreach.

Approaching New Gen CEOs

For G, the way humans build relationships has totally been different 10 years ago and now they’re circling back to the natural way—being transparent and vulnerable.

In addressing the new generation of CEOs, G said you can’t just take them out for dinner or golf. With millennial CEOs, what’s important is transparency. Brand is not just the logo or website, it's how a business’ customer service supports the clients, how the marketing writes about certain topics, and how the CEO is behaving.

He also cited people on TikTok or Instagram under 18 who are multi-millionaires because anyone with a device can be a content creator now.

Future of SaaS

With SaaS booming, Covid, and companies trying to transition towards digital, G said he sees the entry barrier to the SaaS world going down dramatically, meaning, five or ten years ago if people wanted to build a website, many businesses would go through an agency but now everyone knows about Wix, Webflow, and Wordpress. This is the same scenario with SaaS with solutions like Webflow and Bubble that makes no-code SaaS.

He added that this will force SaaS to become a commodity and if SaaS is a commodity the only differentiator you're going to have is who you are as a company, as a person, as an individual or as a group of people working at a company, which will help businesses connect on a much deeper level with their customers or users.

“True” Role of CEOs

According to G, most CEOs are afraid to talk to their customers. However, a CEO’s one and only purpose is to lead by example and by doing so, they inspire their employees to do the same.

For him, 30 percent of a CEO’s time should be allotted to their community, their users; another 30 percent to his team, with 10 to 15 percent on vision, strategy, etc.; and the rest to the metrics and making sure that business is running smoothly.

G has met a fair share of CEOs who have raised hundreds of millions, yet he never felt the need to envy them. Likewise, he has seen others who rose to the top and yet failed to compete and went bankrupt because they lose sense of what are their customers are doing. He added that if one wants to build a successful business, they should always put their ego aside because one shouldn't have ego in business.

For him, Lemlist’s biggest asset is the community they have built with their customers and that interactive process that should never stop no matter how big a business grows.

Developing the Millionaire Mindset

G also shared his favorite reads, including Lost and Founder by Rand Fishkin, about the lonely journey of a CEO, and The Sales Acceleration Formula by Mark Roberge, and The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz.

He also shared his workout routine which includes running, doing a lot of HIITs (high-intensity interval trainings), cycling, and his plans to join the Ironman Race (triathlon) next year.

He also said that when it comes to brainstorming ideas, the best ones come when he is doing the dishes. Like how the process purifies his mind, it’s also a moment of clarity, allowing ideas to flow freely.

Battling Imposter syndrome

In battling imposter syndrome, G said young entrepreneurs shouldn’t overthink and just give their ideas a go. He said human being are momentum animals so what matters is to get started with the first step. While it’s uncomfortable, it will allow them to make the succeeding steps easier.

This article is a summary of the Digitechy Demand Gen 3.0 podcast with Guillame Moubeche. See the full Podcast on Youtube below.

Guillame Moubeche' website