I had the pleasure of exchanging with this seasoned yet quite young entrepreneur during an Apéroweb held in Alcazar restaurant. Guillaume Doki-Thonon is already a famous and innovative actor in the sector of social influence marketing in France. Entrepreneurship is a second nature to him and what best illustrates what this young man is capable of is Reech, his recently designed solution for brands looking to work with influencers.
Climbing the mountains of entrepreneurship
Always equipped with the right shoes, Guillaume is a tireless climber who switches easily between block and route depending on his roadmap. Climbing is an activity that he also likes to practice online, in the digital world. After studying at Neoma Business School where he was in charge of the Junior Entreprise’s communication strategy, he established himself as freelancer in order to develop websites, created SEOh – an agency specialised in referencing – with his brother Maxime and continues today to ascend the pathway to great entrepreneurship.
From the nostalgic smile he gave away in Montrouge SEOh offices to the creation of RocketLinks, only two years went by. Two years in the course of which he sold SEOh and launched RocketLinks, a marketplace meant to connect bloggers with announcers. This test & learn methodology along with constant reassessment assisted the two brothers in pivoting and creating a new business unit: Reech, a groundbreaking social influence marketing solution connecting brands with influencers in order to build win-win relationships and generate successful campaigns. After a little while, they were inclined to add a “counsel” section to their portfolio of services, given the maturity level of some users as well as the occasional misuse of the platform by some businesses. Bingo! In March 2016, Reech raised 450K with Business Angels and became the new “Tech Brand of social influence marketing”. The complementarity of Guillaume’s commercial and managerial proficiencies and the “tech” competencies of his brother was undeniably a major factor in the success of these companies.
He personally never leaned on public funding. He benefitted from Accre support during the creation of his first business but made a point of adopting a DIY approach to entrepreneurship. This, because Guillaume wanted to have his hands free to develop everything: from the business model, to the product, the marketing strategy and the tightly knit team. The dedication of the team was paramount and meant that members should be ready to bend over backwards for the project – a project which turned out to be very federative through a subtle balance of horizontal management and vertical accountability. Guillaume tells us: “beware of the start up nation’s tyranny of coolness. A start up is first and foremost a business which creates a product or solution in response to a defined market’s need.” And like every business, isn’t it better to self-finance with one’s own revenues than to resort to funding? Indeed, it would be, if only delay in payment could be avoided by start ups who often struggle to get their clients to pay in time. Mr Macron, would you care to comment?
An enduro mentality in social influence marketing
If he is not climbing say, Fontainebleau’s rocky walls, he is probably riding his motocross on enduro tracks. Guillaume does it to relax in his free time, always ecstatic to leave the city for some off roading where marketing has no say on the stopwatch. Yet, he might touch upon the disappearance of top/down communication and hardships brands face today in stirring up the interest of consumers. Brands need digital bridges, some kind of proxies, capable of living experiences, testing products and sharing results with engaged communities. You see where I am going with this: these proxies are the influencers selected by Reech, as the great content creators and social networks masters of our time.
The way of the entrepreneur also implies keeping up-to-date with sectorial innovations, or, as Reech does it with its 15% turnover dedicated to R&D, innovating and creating tomorrow’s new uses and practices. Today, artificial intelligence is one of the main driving forces of social influence marketing and allows Guillaume to go deeper in the selection of profiles admitted to his catalog and in the quantitative and qualitative evaluation of their spheres of influence. Semantic analysis of influencers’ contents and interventions, the tone of the interactions with their communities, detection of “fake” and its limbs, are all elements that could be of tremendous help to his clients when defining their optimal strategy.
Although he might seem like a real techie, Guillaume likes to talk about how “artificial intelligence will never be able to kill creativity” but remains a useful tool to evaluate the performance of content creators through social data. He illustrated his opinion with So Foot: a magazine whose success was made not by its subject but by the creativity of its writers. He also recommended nurturing the quadripartite relationship between announcers, agencies, agents and influencers so that it does not crumble when the time comes to launch a campaign. Language must be adapted, codes must be explained, dialogue must be kept open at all times and values should be as aligned as possible so that a trusting relationship can be established on the long term. Each stakeholder must play its part for a perfect and influent symphony…
Fishing & Chilling
I set the last bit of this portrait alongside a balmy river near woodland. There is Guillaume, switched “off”, laying on his back, holding the line in his hand, calmly waiting for a pike or a catfish. Even if entrepreneurship is a full-time-activity, it is essential to catch a breath in what is oftentimes a hectic life, because a good entrepreneur is above all – spoiler alert – a human being!