ESCP Insights 5 tips for start-up success from a serial entrepreneur

Start a new company every year. That’s the conviction by which serial entrepreneur, innovator and education enthusiast Marc Fournier has lived. Founder of the Venture Capital company Serena, Fournier is a multi-tasker at heart. He has raised over one billion euros to support the startup ecosystem in Europe, with 80% of those funds going to French startups and the rest to neighbouring countries.

Conditions to start a company

During a lecture for the participants of ESCP’s Executive Master in Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurial Leadership (EMDIEL) programme, Fournier explained that the early stage of his entrepreneurial career was led by the conviction that he had to “start a new company every year” under the two following conditions:

  • The new business should have zero known competitors in the chosen market
  • The chosen industry would be completely unknown to him
EMDIEL, Module 2, picture of students with Marc Fournier
The current EMDIEL cohort and Marc Fournier. ESCP Montparnasse Campus, October 2022

Tips for standing out in the competitive startup space

  1. The hungrier you are, the more stressed you are, and so the more creative you get.
  2. Don’t take investors’ money if you don’t need it or if you want to build a lifestyle business.
    If your goal is to grow fast and sell your business to the highest bidder, take the money. If your goal is to keep it [your business] in the long run, you’re probably better off alone.
  3. Starting a business is excruciatingly hard. You will cry over it.
    [In other words, keep ambitious goals, but don’t be pressured into delivering too fast.] And there are ways to cut through the thickets out there – or as the French would say, ways to “slice the baguette”. Instead of aiming at getting 30 new clients next week, aim at getting 30 clients in one month.
  4. Never evangelize [like the big GAFAs], never go against the market.
    A startup is not built for this and will fail painfully if it adopts the same aggressive strategies as the tech giants.
  5. Above all, people are critical.
    Inclusion and diversity truly nurture better business decisions and greater success.


Today, Fournier feels he has experienced enough successes and failures in his career to say that “the older he [I] gets, the better he is [I am] at what he does [I do]”, and therefore the more he can ”delegate to do things that really matter” to him.

This has given him the space to pursue new endeavours, such as his most recent project, “Ferme de La Borie” - a 100% eco-friendly, 0-waste and sustainable farm in the centre of France. In a nutshell? Feed 100 people while only using 2.8% of the available territory. You might be wondering, why such a contrasting initiative versus leading a VC fund and a pool of start-ups? Fournier’s answer: “Money never, never makes you smart”. That’s why Fournier recommends always keeping both feet on the tangible, living ground. “I have started this farm in the poorest region of France because I’m in touch with the real economy, not with the virtual one”.


For further information about the topic and about the part-time Executive Master in Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurial Leadership (EMDIEL), please reach out to Manon Delespierre at