If one man were to perfectly define this generation, stuck between letters X and Y, it would be Martin Lansard, co-founder and CEO of the specialised media aniwaa.fr. Ex-googler, digital nomad, entrepreneur and “online” journalist, he alone represents the recent profound changes to the labour market. An innovative vision in the world of on-screen movement…
EDHEC Business School supplies Google
Scattered around are little plastic inanimate figurines, which have only just been printed out in 3D following the latest tests by the Aniwaa team. In this large office installed on the ground floor of the incubator Confluences where various workstations have been set up, Martin receives me 10,000 kilometres away from France, with an open smile and a “welcome” in which I can detect a drop of sunshine from Toulouse. Hearing French spoken in the heart of the Cambodian capital is not an anomaly given the long-standing cultural links between the two countries. The thing that surprises me a bit more and which led to our meeting is the “.fr” which ends the website’s URL. How does a media specialised in the latest technological innovations find itself hosted in Cambodia?
Above all, as always, it’s a life story… Martin attends preparation classes for business school (HEC), before becoming a student at EDHEC Business School and he finishes his studies with an MBA at Loyola Marymount University. His English is perfect by now and he takes off for the Big Apple in 2009 to develop the B2B activities for Air France US as “E-commerce and online Marketing Specialist”. Having been attracted to the world of the Web since he began studying, he makes a brief stopover at TRACE TV and further specialises in online marketing while acclimatising to American latitudes. His first dream was to join Google and – “fun fact”- he is eventually accepted in 2010. Bags packed for Dublin, this first round with the Mountain View giant lasts almost three years. Having been “Account Executive”, he returns to NYC at the end of 2012 as “Marketing Manager”.
Martin’s trajectory is almost perfect, an example of the flawless career so many students still dream of! At Google, he lives the dream and communicates daily with the management teams of large groups. He racks up experience and technical knowledge, juggles with the company’s innovative tools and fits perfectly into everyday life. Yet there is a feature of our generation which still seems to escape him: the need to be an entrepreneur. Thus in July 2013, with his childhood friend Pierre-Antoine, a fan of new technologies and in particular 3D printers, he creates V1 of a little blog, aniwaa.fr, to respond to the need for market information on this emerging technology. Objective comparisons are the lynchpin of this new online media.
Aniwaa, a French-Cambodian adventure
Achieving rapid success, this personal project gains momentum, supported by huge traffic. The two friends get it: there is a real need and the time of the “blog” has come! They both leave their jobs and focus full-time on this baby which has been snapped up on the web. Starting as a specialised media they enter “start-up” mode; alas, for a young entrepreneur, New-York is an expensive city! Martin’s fiancée, who he met in the EDHEC lecture theatres, is French-Cambodian and has always wanted to discover her father’s country of origin. Without a second thought, Phnom Penh becomes their next destination and the tables of a local Starbucks become Martin’s new office. It is now 2014 and the beginning of a complex “digital nomad” phase, in which organisation is at the centre of his entrepreneurial challenges.
Phnom Penh is a welcoming city for French expats. There are lots of events and the community meets, exchanges, deals and networks… One thing leads to another and after a year squatting erratic connections in cafés, Martin sets up home in Confluences which offers hosting and support services, in particular for administrative formalities. Soreasmey Ke Bin, the founder of Confluences and FrenchTech Cambodge, becomes Martin’s friend and offers him brand new offices where he can host his small team and continue to nurture his first baby. V2, V3, V4, from 3D printing to 3D scanners, integration of the latest drone tests and AR/VR headsets, the Aniwaa website has become THE reference comparison media for the latest technologies. And this capitalised emphasis is not (just) there to look good: Aniwaa is now an international reference media in which the English language has rapidly replaced French.
Martin feels good in Phnom Penh. He has watched the Asian capital change before his eyes and the “start-up” eco-system become enriched with promising young shoots as quickly as the population has adopted these new digital practices. His lifestyle suits him perfectly: waking up at the crack of dawn, a morning stolen from the Western time zone, afternoons for calls, guidance and meetings and a working day which finishes at 6 pm enabling him to enjoy time with his family and take advantage of spare time to go boxing, eat in restaurants or meet friends. Meanwhile, he has managed to successfully adjust his business model and has just concluded his first fundraising operation. Expatriation suits him well… Entrepreneurship too, thank goodness!
France, I still love you !
Today, as a young dad, he is once again looking towards France. Friends, family, habits, health, daily comfort are all practical elements which fill him with nostalgia for a country where he has actually worked very little. But the time to return has not yet arrived and, according to the latest news, Aniwaa is doing as well as his beautiful little girl! In many ways, Martin remains in my view a striking illustration of the fact that times have changed, and that the world’s digital transformation makes new dynamics possible and mobility is only limited by the dreams of those who believe.