16 Déc [Interview] Philippe Garnier: “I want to create an ecosystem to develop tomorrow brands and services around Wellness from France”
🇫🇷 Version en Français
«Isn’t life beautiful»? The one who speaks like that is a fundamentally optimistic entrepreneur. Back in Paris after 5 years in the United States, nothing seems to affect Philippe Garnier, not even a somewhat gloomy atmosphere in France. The reason? A fighting temperament, certainly, but, one not preventing the other, a certain approach to others and to himself that he retained from his California lifestyle. He is now back in France to share his experience with his new company. I had the chance to sit down with Philippe Garnier and learn more about his new company.
:: After San Francisco, then New York, you are back in Paris for the launch of your new company. What motivates you in entrepreneurship?
Philippe Garnier: I have an atypical background. I started my carrier very early, at 16 years old. For 10 years, I worked for others: I learned a lot, but I also felt a lot of frustration… At the age of 25, I decided to be my own boss and took over a company, Afibia, in the mobile sector, because I knew that mobile would be the future. After a year not making a living I joined one of my partners to develop Abaxia internationally, a mobile software platform acquired by HTC, which then offered me to lead its Global Partnerships team in San Francisco. In 2015, I co-founded Elixir, an on-demand sales service, in which Founders Fund invested.
Then I move to New York, because I wanted to participate in this direct-to-consumer revolution. I created the American office and built the Octoly team, today the first platform of Influencer Marketing in Beauty/Fashion, which raised more than $10 million in funding.
What fascinates me about entrepreneurship is people: being driven by a passion, realizing that there is a need in the market, believing in your idea and having the ability to put together a team and make this idea a business.
:: What qualities are needed to be an entrepreneur?
It takes a lot of different qualities, and I don’t have them all! But I believe that my two strengths are the ability to develop and lead a team, especially in the initiation and evangelization phase. A certain leadership ability, which also means a huge responsibility because, on a simple pitch, investors trust you and tell you “OK, I want to work with you”. Then you have to deliver.
:: You just announced that your new company is in Wellness. Why this industry and what will it be?
When I was in San Francisco I discovered this lifestyle, and the Wellness, through meditation. All the leaders in Tech meditate, and offer meditation for their employees. In an interview, Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, explains that she agreed to take the job after asking Mark Zuckerberg to try meditation, which he accepted.
:: Have you started meditating yourself?
I have been meditating every morning for 5 years. It completely changes the way you feel about your day. It’s free, it doesn’t take long, but it does change your approach to others and yourself. Moreover, I think that meditation should be learned at school.
In San Francisco, everyone does yoga or an outdoor activity, and pays attention to what they eat and drink. There is a real awareness of the products we consume, the way we consume them. And in New York, I saw all these direct-to-consumer companies being created around Wellness, selfcare, providing real added value for consumers. The global Wellness market is huge – 4 trillion dollars, up 12% over the last 2 years – and the topic of personal care is endless. Wellness tourism alone represents $600 billion.
It is a movement, a new holistic way of life. I want to support this movement and develop brands around it in personal care, food, health and by adding my experience in technology and data and the creation of startups.
:: In what way?
I am launching WellnessHub with the objective to create an ecosystem and a community to bring together entrepreneurs, corporates and technologies in a platform to build tomorrow brands and services and export them internationally, with a strong focus on U.S. and China markets.
” France know-how and heritage around Beauty, Food and health is extremely rich”
:: Why do you launch it from France?
France know-how and heritage around Beauty, Food and Health is extremely rich, and needs to better exploited. We have the scientists, R&D centers, who can bring their expertise to the product, and we also have the largest pharmaceutical and cosmetic groups. We have to work with them, but differently, for the creation of new generation brands. France is very well positioned to do so. The France Label is classified in the Top 5 brands that sell.
“Tomorrow’s brands and services must have a “meaning”.
:: What are the main trends in Wellness?
There is a new generation of consumers who are looking for experiences and meaning when they consume a product, a brand or when they travel. It is a fairly new, generational and a global movement that can be found in Asia, Europe and the United States.
We also see it in the Enterprise world, with experiences like the one offered by Wework. I experienced it myself in New York at Octoly where I managed to get the budget, instead of taking standard offices, and that helps my team to get better results. We work better in a good environment. Closed office space of the 80s where people come from 9 to 5 is over.
Another underlying trend is that brands and services must have a “meaning”, i.e. be sustainable and serve a cause. I buy a product, an experience, but I know that the product I will buy respects the environment and the working conditions of employees and subcontractors.
Two other trends are also very important: personalization and co-creation. Consumers are looking for personalized experiences and, with co-creation, they are no longer passive, they participate in the creation of the brands they buy. This is extremely new compared to the large groups that create mass market products. This is why niche brands are emerging that first satisfy a very specific need. These startups use data, offer the possibility to customize or even co-create to bring a real consumer benefit. It also involves new means of direct distribution with the consumer and therefore has an impact on the way we produce and buy.
:: Do you have any company models (as we speak of role models) that inspire you in the Wellness sector?
- Ritual, in the Wellness industry and Well-being vertical. It is a subscription-based, direct-to-consumer vitamin offer with real product benefit, a personalized experience, and a difference in the way the product is packaged. Their base line is “Good looking science”.
- Hims forhims.com and Hers forhers.com, products also directly-to-consumer offering 4 differentiated products for men or women. This is one of the very good examples of what is happening in the United States, with products that work and answer real problems for women, or men.
- Volition Beauty, a participatory and co-creation platform: consumer submits his project – I would like this type of cream – the community votes and if the number of positive votes is sufficient, Volition has the ecosystem to create the product and sell it on their site, and through a partnership with Sephora. They have already successfully launched nearly 20 products, and the initiator of a selected project receives a commission. It is really the total involvement of his community in the formulation of the product and in its launch. Personalization Co-creation, involve the community.
These examples illustrate a change of mindset between the brands of yesterday and those of tomorrow.
:: You say that WellnessHub brands and services will be created around Conscious communities.What do you mean by that?
This word of Conscious Communities was discussed with Odile Roujol, founder of the Beautytechcommunity , with whom I created the NY community before returning to France. The consumer is aware of what he is buying, he is looking for new experiences that will improve their quality of life and well-being. He is increasingly questioning how it consumes and is looking for something other than what brands and retailers are offering on their shelves today.
:: This explains Brandless‘s success
Absolutely. Its co-founder and CEO Tina Sharkey considered that there was too much money spent on marketing, and decided to offer only one product per vertical – shower gel, cookies – but to deliver an extremely qualitative product, and at less than 3 dollars. Immediate success!
This new direct-to-consumer model, which makes it possible to no longer bear either the traditional marketing cost or that of the distributor, makes it possible to reinvest these amounts in product development and personalization. Better product, cheaper, while redistributing. Because some of these brands decide to give part of the profits, either to the community or to non-profit associations. In this model, consumers who share the same values become the brand’s ambassadors.
:: Are the French ready for this Wellness movement?
French consumers have been very well educated on the composition of products in beauty, food, health – France is the most difficult market to be approved by the competent bodies, which explains the success of applications that decipher for you the composition of a product.
On the other hand, the holistic nature of Wellness is more developed in Asia – it is in their culture – or in the United States, because Americans are in a Test and Learn logic. The French seem to me to be more resistant to meditation, for example.
But this Wellness movement is happening all over the world, with this generation of wealthy millennials who want to have new experiences when they consume.
:: You have lived in the United States for a long time. Do Americans work differently from the French?
Americans are very good in execution and go-to-market: highlighting the values of a product, marketing it and selling it. They go fast, they know how to do it and they do it worldwide.
But what I have discovered is that the French in the United States are extremely competent. In large corporates in Tech, Beauty or Consumer goods, you will always find a Frenchman who has “THE” extraordinary job. So if in France we sometimes have the feeling of a somewhat degraded image of business in France, going to the United States reflects a very good self-image: French is known for its very good education, for being a very professional manager and being multi-tasking. I must admit, it has served me well!
“If you know how to use your smartphone and computer, you don’t need anything else”
:: On a daily basis, do you have any Tech services or objects that you could not do without?
I try to surround myself with as few things as possible! I think you have to learn to limit the number of objects you use. If you know how to use your smartphone and computer very well, you don’t need anything else. Among the digital tools I use:
– Evernote, I keep all my notes and aggregate all my contents there
– Asana, a To Do List and shared project management platform, in which Founders Fund, which had invested in my last venture, invested $28M
– Calendly, to organize my appointments and Zoom for the video calls.
:: What are your sources of inspiration?
I use Google News a lot, which I personalize with keywords, and I listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks when I commute between 2 meetings
As I think that the objective in life is not to work more but to be very efficient to live our passions outside of work, I am passionate about all topics around work effectiveness and personal development, I listen particularly:
– Masters of Scale, by Reid Hoffman. Always great interviews.
– Tim Ferriss, an excellent interviewer too, on both business and personal topics. He is the master of process and efficiency. He considers that to live better, you have to create habits
– And the Ted Talks. try the Discovery function.
:: Mediation, podcasts… it’s quite time-consuming. How do you have time to do everything?
I think you have time to do everything, you just have to choose and prioritize your time in order to find your balance, success is balance. And ask yourself: “What do I want to do? “and then ensure that all your activities are aligned with this objective. And then you have to keep the desire to always learn and improve. This too is not taught in school.
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