Why are so many consultants founding successful start-ups? – Part 2

Why are so many consultants founding successful start-ups? – Part 2

Jumia ($824m), Monzo (£325m), Transferwise ($773m), Funding Circle ($746m), Zopa (£360m), Qonto ($151m), Gocardless (£95m), Jobteaser ($75m), Innovafeed (€55m. Just some of the most well-known and celebrated start-ups. Four have reached unicorn status; the others are hoping to. And they were all founded or co-founded by ex-consultants. 

In part 2 of our article series, we look at the way some of the key skills developed as a consultants help with founding successful businesses. We’d like to start by thanking the following for their time and great insights: Alexandre Prot (Ex-Mckinsey & Qonto founder), Aude Guo (Ex-Mckinsey & Innovafeed founder), Antoine Loron (Ex-Roland Berger & Hublo founder), Martin Pellet (ex-Kearney & LBF founder), Grégoire Schiller (ex-Roland Berger & Simundia founder), and Nick Patterson (ex-McKinsey & Movemeon co-founder).

Problem solving and prioritization: key skills for founders

Movemeon was founded by two Mckinsey consultants, and therefore our work as a team has been influenced by strategy consulting. Problem solving and prioritisation are omnipresent in our day-to-day.

Those two skills are central to consulting work. Diagnosing issues (issue trees, driver trees) and using data to prioritise execution are the central aims of any consulting project.

Alexandre said that his consultant background helped him to structure his reasoning to tackle any complex problem. Aude and Martin agreed on this point: in an early-stage start-up you keep resolving problems, such as how am I gonna finance this project? What type of offices should we choose? More generally, how do you do things efficiently?

Grégoire highlighted that consulting gives you the structure to effectively prioritise using concepts like 80/20. Aude defined the ability to prioritise as hugely important. She said “It’s mostly about what you don’t do, not what you do. You need clear criteria to make decisions (not only for yourself but also understandable and acceptable to others; and something that is engaging).”

Networking and communication

If the network is a pretty obvious benefit of consulting, it’s surprising how often effective communication has been described as a key skill learnt from consulting.

Consultancies have unparalleled alumni networks. There is a shared brand that means people are prepared to not only meet, but give you advice, too. This is invaluable in the early days, as you look to further develop your idea and, perhaps more importantly, make your first few sales (if your product is B2B). Grégoire remembers using Roland Berger’s network for closing first clients. Unlike business schools, consulting networks are usually more senior than you and therefore unlock way more opportunities when you’re an early-stage founder.

Working with senior people in consulting trains you in effective communication. Aude said “communication is key, as 80-90% of the time being a founder is about aligning people and getting to the point quickly. Our business has people of very different professional backgrounds and needs; you need to quickly understand and address what is important for each person in a way that is relevant for them to get them on board: how do you convey the real message (get to the point)? It’s about not spending one hour on a topic if it can require only 3 minutes.“

Related to communication, stakeholders management is a key skill developed in consulting. You need to be able to communicate in the right way with everyone: investors, clients, suppliers.

Consulting and entrepreneurship are still obviously two really different worlds. Grégoire empahsised that you have to unlearn consulting to do entrepreneurship as the way you make decisions can be very different. Nevertheless, consulting is undoubtedly a great training ground for entrepreneurship.

It trains you in many key skills needed by early-stage founders: communication, stakeholder management, prioritisation & problem solving. Having worked with 100+ start-ups, mostly founded by ex-consultant, in the last 2 years, and helping to fill roles like Director of Sales Operations for 360Learning, Country Manager for Hublo, Head of Partnerships for Luko, it’s clear that consultants are a great fit for start-ups. Speaking to Alexandre, Aude, Antoine, Grégoire and Nick only reinforced that the transferable skills you get from consulting are essential for start-up success.

How does being a consultant naturally lead many to founding their own start-ups? We looked at this question in Part 1 of this series

We’ve also published an in-depth interview with Innovafeed founder Aude Guo here

Qonto founder Alexandre Prot spoke to us about Qonto & how he uses his consulting experience here

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