Forgive me as I go into a bit of self-indulgence. I will talk about DITERNIA and SOL INVICTUS, the solar company I have been involved in for the past two years.

There is a reason for it, today is the CEO’s Birthday.

It is also a good way to illustrate my passion, the role I have been playing a professional in helping this company to get going.

Over three years ago, Ianis Defendini came to me with a vague idea of creating a business: Creating an innovative solar power equipment plant in Mexico. Solar power in Mexico seemed like a no brainer to me and I considered it. My goal in life has always been to bring fundamental human values and qualities in the work environment, and I checked for signs of this in my friends project. I of course saw the usual “earn a lot of money fast” type of scenario that he was presenting, but throughout his business plan, he insisted on social and economic development, employee training, ethical selection of providers and customer respect. This looked promising and I joined the boat to help him, and us, steer away from the grossest start-up errors and provide support for the rough road that I knew lied ahead.

Today, reflecting back on these times, and the usual 10 things to avoid list, I would like to offer these words of encouragement to the team that is making the dream come true.

I am referencing a post by Guilhem Bertholet “Les principales causes d’échec d’une startup…” (The main causes of failure in a start-up). I like this post because it contains only 9 points out of 10, which makes it an original “10 best” or “10 worst” type of list. Also because it focuses on more human and personal aspects than many lists which mention capitalization, education or market sector.

Here is Guilhem’s list, and Ianis’ answer to these points:

1 - A lone founder.

No partner, no friendly and wise environment to share their thoughts.

Here 10 points for Ianis. He has networked an interesting group of professionals ranging from finance, commerce, construction, law and politics to help him hone his plan and shift many of his ideas and thoughts into what the structure is today. It is profoundly different and more ambitious than the original plan of 3 years ago.

2 - Too small a market.

This is the typical case when a team focuses exclusively on the product. Remember: No competition = no market.

Here again, 10 points for Ianis. The Energy sector is well established, world wide in scope, and very competitive.

3 - Owner gives up Prematurely. 

In entrepreneurship, stubbornness pays more often than intelligence.

Well I must admit I had forgotten about this point. It is interesting to note that Ianis’ stubborness and constant optimisms have indeed both galvanized and irritated the team members. But I will follow Gilhem in praising this a worthwhile human quality in an entrepreneur! 10 points again.

4 - Inappropriate team.

And the inability to build and sustain it over time.

I think this is definitely the greatest success achieved in the past 3 years. The hands-on team, just like the network of counselors and helpers, is a real winning combination.

5 - Slow execution of the Business Plan.

Too many entrepreneurs are constantly preparing and not hitting the hard stuff early enough in their development stage.

Well, Diternia is in it third market evolution, with sales experience in domestic, industrial and government sectors. No errors there.

6 - Not customer focused.

Here Guilhem means getting customer feed-back and acting upon it.

A full time, very dedicated team has been set up to give feed-back, explore possibilities and listen to what the customers had to say, both on the product and service level, and on their perception of management or financial and legal issues. The result has been the development of the original SOL INVICTUS business model. 10 points again.

7 - Running out of money.


OK, this is a 0 points for Ianis. However all problems are opportunities, and he will very soon find new powerful partners to financially back-up the next crucial development stage.

8 - Not doing the terrain sales work.

Guilhem is mostly concerned about the direct implication of the owner in hands-on sales work.

As in all lists, there are repeats. The advantage of putting only 9 points in a 10 best list, is that there are fewer repeats! I consider this a repeat because indeed, it is covered by point 6 in case of compliance in that particular point. Though it is quite true that proper terrain work can be done, while neglecting to listen to the customer. 10 points here.

9 - Lack of effort.

Guilhem, as all start-up management counsellors, insists upon the time consuming aspect of entrepreneurship.

Well… Maybe someday somebody on the management team will get some rest… or maybe not. That depends on how much everyone likes going full throttle like this constantly. My feeling is, that they all do.

There you have it. According to Guilhem Bertholet, My friend Ianis, you are doing everything right!