Guillaume Moubeche of Lempire On How To Succeed By Doing Things Differently

An Interview With Chad Silverstein

People told me I shouldn’t enter the email outreach space because it was too crowded — I did. I believe starting in a crowded market is a smart move because there’s already a product-market fit. You just need to be better or different from your competition — I niched down my target audience, designed a specific solution for them, and ultimately gained unhappy customers from my biggest competitors

In the world of business and within every industry, there are forward-thinking leaders who go against the status quo and find success. Their courage to take risks, embrace innovation, and inspire collaboration separates them from the competition. Until 2002, Apple’s famous slogan was “Think Different”. This attitude likely helped them become one of the most successful organizations in history. This interview series aims to showcase visionary leaders and their “status quo-breaking” approach to doing business. As part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Guillaume Moubeche.

Guillaume Moubeche is the founder and CEO of lempire, a company that creates B2B SaaS products to help startups and SMBs grow their businesses. In just 5 years, he has grown the company from $0 to $150M+ valuation — all without raising a single dollar in funds.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us your “Origin Story”? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I come from a middle-class family — my parents grew up on a farm, never got the chance to study, and made a lot of sacrifices to provide my brother and me with a good education. During my studies, I took up every possible job that a student could do, from babysitting to bartending. At every job I did, I always struggled with figures of authority because of their outdated ways of doing things. It was during this time that I started dreaming of being my own boss. But becoming your own boss when you don’t come from money is a difficult road.

So I knew that to create a name for myself, I had to do things differently.

Since my dad was a graphic designer and he knew how to print t-shirts, I decided to launch a t-shirt company with him. I was sure it was going to be a massive success. Unfortunately, at the time, I had no clue how to start a business… and we ended up selling only 6 t-shirts. The company failed, and the worst part was that this experience also damaged the relationship I had with my dad.

Soon after that, I decided to start an acquisition agency with a friend, but I eventually sold my shares because I knew I wanted to build something bigger…

In 2018, I took a leap of faith and invested $1,000, all the money I had at the time, into one single idea: a SaaS product, lemlist. Five years later, I grew the company to $20M in ARR fully bootstrapped, reached a $150M valuation in 3.5 years, and sold and acquired 2 other SaaS businesses. And right now, I’m working on building the company to $100M in ARR in the coming years.

Can you give us a glimpse into your journey into this industry and share a story about one of the most significant challenges you faced when you first started out? How did you end up resolving that challenge?

During the first year of lemlist, I decided to start billing people on a monthly basis to start growing our MRR. However, our conversion rate was not as high as expected — we had many new signups but very few paying customers. I assumed that our activation rate was low because our users struggled with the software since it was very complicated to use.

So, I entirely rebuilt the platform and pushed the new version… without warning our users. I was convinced that it was the right thing to do, but when I think about it now, I realize how stupid it was not to communicate with them. Some of our users showed clear dissatisfaction with the new UX by posting messages in our community.

Luckily, my technical team decided to put on their robot mode and fixed all the different glitches of the tool. Within 24 hours, we had entirely changed the perception of the new platform.

After a few weeks, we had improved our conversion rate from free trial to paid customer by 3x, and our activation rate by 4x. Of course, communicating with your users before a huge UX update is key. But trusting your gut, even when it’s tough, can really make a big difference!

Who has been the most significant influence in your business journey, and what is the most significant lesson or insight you have learned from them?

Back in 2018, Ayman Al Abdulah, former CEO of Appsumo, helped me launch lemlist on AppSumo. He even flew me over to Austin and guided me with the growth and marketing aspects of building a SaaS. The most important thing he taught me was how to think bigger and be more ambitious.

Can you share a story about something specific that happened early on that you would consider a failure but ended up being a blessing in disguise or ended up being one of the most valuable lessons you had to learn on your own?

When I first started the company, I thought that raising funds was the only way to build a successful business. I spent hours pitching my product to 10s of VCs, only to get rejected every single time. But I didn’t give up because I believed my product could help people. So I decided to launch the company with all of the savings I had. Later on, I realized that starting with nothing was the best thing that happened to me as it pushed me to focus on building a profitable business (which fundraising doesn’t guarantee.)

Leading anything is hard, especially when grappling with a difficult situation where it seems that no matter what you decide, it will have a negative impact on those around you. Can you share a story about a situation you faced that required making a “hard call” or a tough decision between two paths?

We’ve always been a super lean company, and every time we decided to hire more people quickly — it was a mistake. In July 2022, we decided to let go of almost a third of our new hires because we realized that even if they were incredibly talented during the interview process, they may simply not be a good fit for the company… This decision was a hard call because it had an impact on the rest of the team as they started worrying about their future and the future of the company.

To not repeat the same mistake, we entirely revamped the recruitment process. Now, we prioritize cultural fit as the number 1 key thing to identify for every single hire. In order to build a successful team, it’s essential to hire slowly and focus on finding top performers — people who don’t need to be told what to do and who can learn quickly.

Let’s shift our focus to the core of this interview about ‘Successful Rule Breakers’. Why did you decide to “break the rules”? Early on, did you identify a particular problem or issue in how businesses in your industry generally operated? What specifically compelled you to address this and want to do things differently? Please share how you went about implementing those changes and the impact they had.

The media tends to define the success of a startup based on one thing: the amount of funds it raises. But the truth is that only a small percentage of companies secure venture capital. And if we go even further, seven out of ten businesses that raise funds end up failing.

That’s when I decided I wanted to create a new definition of success. One where you don’t need funds to build a successful company.

To do this, I needed to get the attention of the media. So I decided to raise funds in public… and then turned down the offer. My goal was to encourage other entrepreneurs to build profitable businesses and to prove that you don’t need millions of dollars in funding to succeed.

In the ever-changing business landscape, how exactly do you decide when to adhere to industry norms versus “breaking the rules” and forging your own way? Can you share an example?

To make this decision, every entrepreneur should ask themselves: “What kind of a life do I want to live while building my company for the next 10 years?”

I chose not to follow the industry norm of getting VC investment because I didn’t want to work for someone else and be pressured to grow as quickly as possible. I prioritized having freedom and control of my business.

What guidance or insight can you offer to new entrepreneurs trying to follow existing and accepted industry norms while at the same time trying to differentiate themselves in the marketplace?

Focus on a niche, understand your audience, find a problem to solve, and just go for it. You never know if the opportunity is big enough unless you’ve launched something.

For example, I started a lead generation agency with a friend. While doing outbound for my clients, I understood that the biggest pain point for business owners was to get meetings booked with prospects. Because most people doing cold outreach send very generic emails, don’t build trust, and end up with low reply rates. The biggest thing that their outreach was lacking? Personalization. So I decided to create a tool that would help people increase their reply and meeting booked rates: lemlist, the first outreach email platform that creates personalized images automatically.

To make an impact, you have to champion change, get creative, and take risks. Please think back about the decisions you’ve made that have helped your business get to where it is today, and share your top 5 strategies or decisions that helped you succeed by doing things differently.

1 . People told me I shouldn’t say no to a $30M investment offer — I did. I strongly believe that profitability is the most sustainable way to grow a SaaS business. So, despite receiving multiple offers for funding rounds, I said no every single time. Fundraising isn’t our definition of success.

2 . People told me I shouldn’t give company shares to my employees — I did. Becoming a multi-millionaire taught me there is no point in being filthy rich if you can’t positively impact the lives of those around you. We wouldn’t be where we are today without my amazing team of A-players, and I wanted to give back. For me, success is about helping others.

3 . People told me I shouldn’t enter the email outreach space because it was too crowded — I did. I believe starting in a crowded market is a smart move because there’s already a product-market fit. You just need to be better or different from your competition — I niched down my target audience, designed a specific solution for them, and ultimately gained unhappy customers from my biggest competitors.

4 . People told me I shouldn’t work on multiple projects at the same time — I did. My goal is to grow lempire to $100M in ARR, and since we target start-ups and scale-ups, we need multiple revenue streams. So we created new products and also acquired bootstrapped SaaS companies. Working on multiple projects is a great way for us to see the bigger picture.

5 . People told me I shouldn’t do things that I can’t measure — I did. There’s a trend in startups to be super data-driven, but you can’t measure everything in business. We create a lot of content to provide actionable tips to our community, so our users can be more successful. We know deep down that it’s working for us because it impacts word of mouth, the activation rate, the retention, etc. If your focus is to make your customers successful, there’s a 0% chance that you won’t succeed over time.

As a leader, how do you rally others to align with your vision? Also, how do you identify those who may not be fully committed or even silently sabotaging or undermining your efforts? What steps do you take to address these situations?

To align my team with my vision, I organize a week-long team retreat with all the heads of departments once a year, where we define how we plan to achieve that vision altogether. We start by laying out our OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) at a company level, then a department level, and finally, a personal level. I believe OKRs are a great way to measure performance because they give you a clear direction on what is expected and what you need to accomplish. This builds more accountability in each team member, ultimately making it easier to identify those who are simply not a good fit for the company. And once you identify these people, the faster you’ll let them go, the better. Because keeping someone who is not a good fit will only make your team less efficient and less motivated.

Imagine we’re sitting down together two years from now, looking back at your company’s last 24 months. What specific accomplishments would have to happen for you to be happy with your progress?

I’d be happy if we managed to help 100,000 businesses grow around the globe and reach millions of people every month with our content to help them change their lives!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would launch the biggest funds and acceleration program for young entrepreneurs. The fund will only give small investments ($30k to $50k) and will allow people from 16 yo to 25 yo to launch a business for a year. My feeling is that the education system is broken, and a lot of people who failed at school could actually become great entrepreneurs. The program will also have a dedicated course section and mentorship program to make sure these young entrepreneurs can have the necessary help they need to get started.

How can our readers continue to follow you or your company online?

They can follow:

  • My newsletter and YouTube channel, where I provide tips on how to grow a profitable SaaS business.
  • My LinkedIn and Twitter profiles, where I share my journey building lempire to $100M in ARR.

Thank you so much for sharing all of these insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

About the Interviewer: Chad Silverstein is a successful entrepreneur with more than two decades of experience as a successful founder and CEO. He started his first company, Choice Recovery, Inc. a third-party collection agency, out of his apartment while going to The Ohio State University. He grew the business nationwide and represented more than 10,000 clients before he sold the company on his 25th anniversary. Chad’s second venture [re]start, a career development platform that helps people find new jobs, launched in 2013 as a division inside his agency. [re]start was a catalyst to Chad’s team becoming an industry outlier after connecting thousands of people sent to collections with new career opportunities so they could afford to pay their bills and get out of debt. His team was nationally recognized for their social impact, while twice being ranked the #1 business to work for in Central Ohio. Chad sold [re]start in 2023 and is now a writer and thought leader for Authority Magazine’s Entrepreneur and Sports Editorials. He also offers an exclusive executive leadership program inside his online community at Authentic Authority.