Everyone knows that in business it’s not about what you know, but who you know. However what if you are just starting out in a new industry, and have the passion, but not the contacts? Enter BreathR, the app that allows you to connect over lunch with like-minded people in the industry who can offer knowledge, advice, contacts and other information. We spoke to co-founder Romaine Ferrié to find out more…

Tell us a bit more about your business and what it offers

BreathR is a new networking mobile app that enables you to connect with professionals available to have lunch with you in the UK.

The app is really fast and simple to use. User need to simply sign in via their Linkedin account, then start browsing for interesting and available professionals nearby. Once you find someone with whom you would like to network, you send an invitation and the app lets you then book in a restaurant in the nearby vicinity. Should your selected professional accept your invitation, you simply meet for lunch and share ideas and make new connections.

The app is currently running live in the United Kingdom, Germany, Nordics and will be available soon in new countries.

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And how long have you been working on this project?

We started working on the project in early 2014.

What makes you passionate about this business and where did the idea come from for setting up this business in particular?

Networking is part of me. I like to spend time with new people and share their experiences. It is really rewarding.

I had a number of different experiences that led me to the idea of starting BreathR. However I will only tell you two of them and let your readers connect with me through the app, if they want to get more!

The first one was when I was working in capital markets. I was stuck on my desk at lunchtime most days in order to keep an eye on my clients’ positions and allow my colleagues to lunch with their clients. By that time, I was always eating later compared to casual workers and I thought that there might be other people in a similar position as me – eating by themselves after the usual lunch hour.

I then had to face a financial crisis that led me to unemployment. I spent a lot of time and energy, applying to online job ads, but without that much success, except for a few interviews. Meanwhile I was spending time at various financial association events and I met one guy with whom I talked for many hours who decided to hire me. That meeting made me think about the potential opportunities that networking offers, because nowadays most of jobs are not in ads, but it is all about who you know.

And your personal background? How did you come from university or working for other companies to working for yourself?

I grew up in France and graduated with a Master’s degree in Finance at Sorbonne University and also graduated from law school in Tax and Business Law. I also studied abroad, especially in the US and China, and that, I guess, particularly opened my mind and creativity. I then worked for many financial services companies.

Although this background didn’t lead me into entrepreneurship, it did teach me how to think about and calculate the costs and risks of any business.

What about your childhood or family background? Any entrepreneurial inspirations there?

I had an awesome upbringing – I spent my whole childhood in the countryside, by the sea, in South Brittany.

Regarding my family background, it is true that for sure they inspired me. Indeed, when I think about them now, I think that almost all of them started their own businesses. However, since they are in the right place to know all the risks and difficulties that any entrepreneurs have to face, they would have preferred that I keep working for a big company, rather than starting my own startup.

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To be sincere, I have never thought about where this part of me could come from. Nevertheless, I believe that without knowing it, I got inspirations from all the business talk happening around me in family meetings. Furthermore, I strongly believe that it has a lot to do with all the business stories that I heard about my grandfather and my uncle, since they created relatively big companies. They inspired me and I thank them a lot for that.

Do you have a business partner? Any interesting stories there?

My business partner is called Jean-Baptiste Faure. We met during our studies at university and worked on many school projects together. When I approached him about BreathR, he was already working on another side project and was totally convinced of its potential success. I was also interested in his project but I had some doubts on some points. So we worked together for a week on it and finally decided that it would not in fact be successful. Then I talked to him about my project and convinced him. The BreathR story was just at its beginning…

How does your business differ from its competitors?

Fast and simple are the key points, especially if you target professionals.

And have you encountered any challenges or difficulties during the course of setting up and running your business? Any experiences that you can share here?

I encountered so many difficulties that it is hard to remember one in particular. However, the most important one that we had to face was perhaps to find a good developer. Nowadays, developers are really rare because a lot of them want to start their own web agencies. On the opposite, more and more people start their own business and need a geek too. This phenomenon leads to a rarefaction of the offer and a strong demand. Thankfully, my associate Jean-Baptiste found a good developer who is doing a great job at BreathR.

We still face some challenges and difficulties – it is our daily routine. The only thing is to not repeat them.

I previously worked on some other projects and I faced many issues such as copyright, technology, partnership… I strongly believe that failure is part of entrepreneurship and when I think about it, I always remember Max Levchin’s quote:

“The very first company I started failed with a great bang. The second one failed a little bit less, but still failed. The third one, you know, proper failed, but it was kind of okay. I recovered quickly. Number four almost didn’t fail. It still didn’t really feel great, but it did okay. Number five was PayPal.

Mistakes and failures are part of our daily life, because to succeed in something, you need to try first.

And finally what is your vision for the next few years? Where would you like to see BreathR in the future?

My goal for BreathR is to allow my users to reach their dreams through the people they meet, be it getting a dream job, career advancement, finding a business partner or future client, or simply making a new friend. But, above all, I want my users to learn from the experience of others, who can provide them new skills. That is what I wish for my users.

It is really hard though to say exactly what we want from BreathR in 3 or 6 years, since the technology moves so fast. As I previously said, BreathR is currently available in the United Kingdom, Nordics, Germany and is in development in new countries. So we are working now to be available in most of Europe by the end of 2015 and most big worldwide markets by the end of the following year.

For the long term, we know where to go but we will reveal our strategy step by step. Come back to us next year for a new interview!

 

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