Archives for category: inspiration

A few days ago I was contacted by David Garzón for his excellent project that has tens of interviews of various start up CEO’s and execs where he asks them: “how they work”. I have decided to translate it to english since many of the people I work with don’t speak spanish and I realized that this was a pretty good guide to understanding… how I work and why.

You can find the original post here. I have made only minor corrections and adjustments to the original by David below.

I am Alexis Bonte CEO of eRepublik Labs and this is how I work.

“There are people who have to fight for their success. Alexis Bonte is one of these cases. Born in Paris he grew professionally in the UK, France and Italy and based himself as an entrepreneur in Madrid. He has quite a unique modus vivendi and is always looking for ways not to waste time so he can dedicate his free time to his family. Personally I am delighted to be able to read about how he works.” David Garzón


Co-Founder and CEO of eRepublik Labs (crafting game worlds), business angel (,,, etc…) and Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum (Davos). Before eRepublik Labs, I was 6 years in in various roles: Marketing, Business development and Managing Director of the Italian business. I am half French half Portuguese and little Russian Armenian (from everywhere really), married to a Spanish wife from Cadiz and have 3 kids.

Locations: Madrid and (about 4 days per month (Bucharest)

Mobile: Iphone 5s and Galaxy 4

Laptop: Mac Book Pro

Twitter: @alexisbonte

“…success depends 99% on having the right people…”

What do you do on the first hour of a normal day at work?

When I am not travelling (about 10 days per month), sports at our office gym. We have a personal trainer that comes most mornings and is free for all the members of the team. I live in the same building where our spanish offices are, so I usually hit the gym around 8h00 or 8h30 every morning.

“… Sports in our office gym”

What are the apps or tools you can’t live without?

Gmail, Gcal, Google Drive (we have the full team on Google Apps) as well as Trello, that we use for all our projects. Google Maps as well because I hate not know ing where I’m going when driving. And finally our own internal tools to check the sales and KPI’s of our social strategy game world live.

What is your favorite workspace?

The office. We strongly believe that the work space is very important, so we have invested in it with nice common areas like a bar, home cinema etc… We did something similar in our Bucharest studio with access to a terrace, games area, ping pong table etc..

Madrid Studio:

Bucharest Studio:

What music do you listen to whilst you work?

I don’t listen to music whilst I work, I find it to distracting. It is a little ironic, considering I am the chairman of, the musical streaming solution for Vodafone (for now, in Romania but extending to other countries)

What is your best trick to save time?

Living above one of my offices. At the beginning I was afraid it was crazy, but it is one of the few ways I have to compete with other entrepreneurs who only live to work. I am 37 years old and have a family, I am in period of my life where I need to have a life outside of work, so I need to save as much time as possible by avoiding things like transports. Very often I will leave my office around 20h, take the kids to bed and come back around 22h to finish what I have to do. I am 1 minute away door to door so its easy to do.

“…living above my office.. is one of the few ways I have to be able to compete with other entrepreneurs who only live for their work…”

How do you handle your task list?

In this I am very classic. I have a small moleskine for each month, with 1 page per day, where I write own all my tasks for the day and tick them as they get done. I have tried all the digital solutions but this is still what I prefer.

What is your worse trait when working?

“Multitasking”, right now I am answering this interview, checking emails and finishing the projection on our next game, Tactical Heroes

Tactical Heroes tips web

Apart form your mobile and computer, what other gadgets are essential to you?

An iPAd, I have two with me, a mini and a air.

What was the hardest in your first steps?

Having to do almost everything by myself and the fear to fail. When I arrived in Madrid, I came from Milan, where I had a team of 120 people in a consolidated start up ( In Madrid I did not know anyone, apart from my wife, Jimena. I started alone in an office in calle Almagro. It was a bit of a culture shock. Luckily I met fantastic people like Martin Varsavsky, that helped me meet other people and enter the ecosystem.

Once you start building a team, the hardest part is to find ways to make that team be the the best possible team. This is even harder when you are in three locations like us (we have 2 game production teams in our Bucharest studio, one  in our Madrid studio and a finance & IP team in our Dublin HQ). This is very important and goes with the culture of the company, we invest in people but we need to also be firm with team members that don’t perform well. This is still our main challenge, working with the best team we can.

“…once you start building a team, the hardest is to make that team the best one possible…”

How would you describe your style of leadership?

One of my main values is fairness, I am approachable and friendly but not a “hearty dude” that just hangs out for a beer. I am demanding with myself and the ones I work with. We are not in this to just participate, we are in this to create the best company we can. In our case this means crafting the best games we can with a positive financial outcome and building the best possible team to have a “great company”. This is super difficult, and due to that I can be a little intense at times. I also try to delegate as much as possible in the areas where we have experienced people that perform, but I can really get into details in areas where we don’t have people with sufficient experience or where the results are below expectations. Basically, I adapt my leadership style to the needs of the moment.

“.. we are not in this just to participate, we are also in this to create the greatest company we can…”

What important lessons did you learn by creating and leading a company?

Success depends 99% on having the right people, at the right time, in the right place, jointly working on the right things for the company. Of course, you almost never have this situation of a perfect team, even less so at the beginning. So the most important thing I have learned is that you build this step by step, with lots of tenacity and with an eye on the bottom line so you don´t run out of money.

What advice would you give to a future entrepreneur?

Go for it or at least join a start up learn and grow for a few years with it and then go for it.

How do you deal with your mistakes?

I feel bad for a short moment, analyze it, then do the necessary correction as fast as possible and I move on to the next thing. I do a lot of mistakes, I believe it is better to make a mistake you can learn from than not taking decisions or risks. If you don’t do this you don’t progress.

What is your routine to disconnect from work?

My family, jogging in Casa de Campo and skiing on the week ends that allow it.

Fill in the blank space below:

I would love to see my friend and mentor Brent Hoberman answer these same questions

What is the best advice you have received?

“It’s time you go for it again and start another company” (My wife Jimena when I was starting to feel very comfortable in

Is there something else that you would like to tell our readers?

We are all different, what works for one most likely won’t work for you. But if you are entrepreneurial or want to be, there are three rules that apply to everyone. You have togo for it, get the best possible team and be very tenacious.

And if you want to join a truly great adventure in the world of video-games, we are always looking for talent, so send us your CV to or got to

By @benedictevans.

Worth checking out if you are interested in this space.

Happy new year 🙂

Spain win Euro2012

I’m tired of hearing people say that you can’t build a world-class start up from Spain. You can’t open a paper nowadays without more news about how Spain is collapsing; this is creating a wrong perception of the country.

It is the Real estate and banking sectors that are completely screwed up in Spain. That and like most other European countries living above one’s means for decades.

But amid the 25% unemployment and banks with 19 Billion € holes, something is happening and its not in football.

One of the best companies in the world is Spanish: Zara, its publicity shy founder: Armancio Ortega is now the wealthiest man in Europe.

Yes world-class companies can be created in Spain and attract world-class teams.

Since I have moved to Spain (my wife is Spanish), I’ve heard every single cliché you can imagine about why it’s the wrong place to be based. From the eco-system is not developed enough to it’s too sunny so people don’t work that hard (although there may be a point there if you look at what economies are doing best in Europe right now, there seems to be nothing South of Denmark other than Germany!)

But seriously, the Spanish are notorious for being the people in Europe that sleep the least and that is not just because they know how to Party.

I’m used to having to fight clichés, I had to do the same for Romania (our main games studio is in Romania, we are developing the one in Spain), one of the countries with the best dev talent in the world.

Ok, there are downsides to being in Spain, yes the start up eco-system is less developed than in London or (over-hyped?) Berlin and, it is divided between Madrid and Barcelona.

But it is better than most would think. Entrepreneurs meet regularly in initiatives such as Chamberi Valley, acquisitions are being made locally (Telefonica buying Tuenti,) and funding is available for early stage (Wayra, Cabiedes and Partners) or even later stage (Nauta Capital or Bonzai). Plus you have real local success stories such as eDreams, Idealista, Privalia, Social Point or Fon. They may not be world-class companies yet, but some do have a shot at achieving that.

Another key thing is talent, if you believe that the future of consumer tech is in great design rather than simply the best technology. Then designers & artists who are almost impossible to find in other European countries are actually quite easy to find in Spain. Also, great weather, good food plus falling cost of living do have the extra benefit of making it easier to attract foreign talent and to retain it.

Most importantly, Spain and the young Spaniards have no choice. With 50% youth unemployment, you are not going to beat the crisis if the society doesn’t become entrepreneurial and embraces start-ups.  The first signs of this are starting to emerge with the multiplication of events and conferences as well as growing government interest and the first (albeit slow) application of entrepreneur friendly laws such as a more flexible labor market. But the Spanish government could yet surprise us, this is after all a country that did a law (now cancelled) designed to attract the best football talent to the Spanish League and clubs: the Beckam law that halved income taxes to 24% for 6 years for international football players. Imagine if they placed the same energy and imagination in getting the best international entrepreneurial talent!

Spain did hit a brick wall but fortunately, entrepreneurs know that every brick wall has a brick door.

Yes Spain is one of the places where in football and in business if you can dream it, you can do it.


A few days ago, I learned via email that the World Economic Forum (WEF) had selected me to be part of the YGL (Young Global Leaders) class of 2012, this information is being made public today. The World Economic Forum among many other things organizes every year an annual meeting in Davos, without a doubt the most important economical summit in the world.

Every year a WEF committee selects 100 to 200 individuals of under 40 years to join the YGL community of 650 active members in the world (some very cool people in there). You can find the full list of the class of 2012 here:

I am honored and thankful to the World Economic Forum for nominating me to the Young Global Leader class of 2012.  This is especially rewarding for me as I will actually be joining my wife, Jimena who was selected as a YGL in 2010 for a completely different field: Art & Education and I therefor know just how incredibly interesting it is to be part of the YGL community.

I have been working, creating or investing in Internet start-ups since I’m 21, sometimes failing and fortunately a little more often succeeding in some not so obvious places (for internet start ups) such as Portugal, Argentina, Romania and Spain. And wherever I have been active with my own start ups I have tried to help the local ecosystem and local entrepreneurs.

I am currently the co-founder and CEO of eRepublik Labs, a start up of 50 people based in Dublin, Madrid and Bucharest that invents game worlds such as . I am also the non-executive chairman of Romania’s largest entertainment website and an angel investor in half a dozen more start-ups.

It is in part thanks to all the people I have met, worked with (good and bad) and always learned from that I now have this new range of opportunities that being a YGL gives you, so thank you.  The rest is all my family and my wife’s making (and that of the person who submitted my profile to the selection committee).

I was asked by the WEF to answer a few questions that you can find below:

What are the characteristics of the next generation of leaders?

I believe that the characteristics of the next generation of leaders will be that:

–       They are truly citizens of the world, people who have been exposed to and understand other cultures.  Be it via travel, education or simply by being connected.

–       They are capable of leveraging the power of a connected world not only for business objectives but also for social objectives

–       They are less inclined to accept being limited by national borders or local rules something that has its advantages but also its risks

–       They are more socially conscious and true embracers of transparency and social mobility, what counts is not where you come from but what you are doing and what you are capable of achieving.

What according to you are the challenges and opportunities of the next generation of leaders?

The opportunities in terms of education, access to information and connections that the Internet offers, mean that the next generation of leaders can come from anywhere on the globe and work and develop anywhere. There is much more geographical mobility than before.

This is a great opportunity, in particular leaders that come from developing and emerging countries.  But it also creates the challenge both for future leaders and for countries on how to retain talent.

The playing field is not level and the challenge for the next generation of leaders will be to apply their skills for long term benefits in the countries or regions that they care about rather than just where the best and easiest opportunities are in the short term.

There are times where you have to leave to blossom as a leader but there are other times in particular times of crisis where staying is a necessity both for yourself and for your country. Dealing with this will I believe be a real challenge for the next generation of leaders.

What do you want to give and get form the YGL community?

To the YGL community, I want to give some of my time to be an engine that helps change how entrepreneurs are perceived in the old economies of Europe and drive not only a policy change but also a real attitude change towards entrepreneurs in these countries. Embracing entrepreneurialism is a force for social good and change.

I also hope it will be a great platform to meet new people I can share with and learn from.

I would also like to congratulate Martha Lane Fox (UK digital Champion appointed by the UK government who was the co-founder of and my boss when I started my career there) and is also in this YGL class of 2012. Martha and Brent gave me my first chance at and Brent (also a YGL but from a previous year) also helped me start eRepublik Labs.

Today I just read what I think is the best definition of what a CEO’s job is and should be. It’s taken from a blog post by Walt Mossberg of AllThingsD about Steve Jobs. Regardless of wetter its an accurate definition of what Steve Jobs did, it really resonates with me as being exactly what a great CEO should be about.

Here is the quote:
“He did what a CEO should: Hired and inspired great people; managed for the long term, not the quarter or the short-term stock price; made big bets and took big risks. He insisted on the highest product quality and on building things to delight and empower actual users, not intermediaries like corporate IT directors or wireless carriers. And he could sell. Man, he could sell.”

You don’t need a manual on how to be a good CEO, focus on the above and you are off to a pretty good start. Add to this “never never never give up” and you have a pretty good entrepreneur.

You can find the full post on “the Steve jobs I knew” here on the AllThingsD WSJ blog.

This year I came for the third time at LeWeb, the first time was in 2007, where eRepublik, fresh out of a private beta participated in the Start up competition and won the special jury prize. This was a great event with amazing food and already good networking. I wouldn’t be able to comment much on the sessions because I saw less than 2 or 3 and missed in particular the controversial Nicolas Sarkozy speech. Still that Le Web edition helped us get noticed.

In my second Le Web edition in 2008 we came back a little bigger, as sponsors fresh from the launch of our public version. There we wanted to show mostly to the industry that we were an ambitions player and here to stay. Although we were probably one of the smallest companies out there, many people said we had the best and most professional stand.  Again that got us noticed a little by the press but more importantly it allowed us to be alongside brands such as Microsoft, Google, Netvibes, Facebook, Nokia etc.. Although we had virtually no cash at the time we took a gamble and showed everyone we were players and had grown up. It meant that if you were somebody in the industry with a clue you knew us, especially if you were a VC.

This greatly helped us in my opinion close our Series A round in what was probably the hardest time to do so (November 2008 / March 2009)

On the other hand this in spite of the Nordic Saunas and other amusing things was a poorer edition, the change of venue made things difficult for the organization, not only the participants had virtually no Internet, there were no cables in the stands so we had to run our computers and demos off USB 3g devices most of the time.  The participants of the start up competition had it worse with no internet connection to demo their internet start ups. It was also freezing cold and to be honest the priority given to speakers for access to food when there was so little of it was downright insulting for paying participants and sponsors. Also the fact that sponsors had no access to organization cars (reserved to speakers only) meant that my co-founder George Lemnaru who had to stay late one evening to sort out things in the stand, after being refused a car had to walk back to his hotel for 45 minutes under the rain in not the best of neighborhoods. Anyway he survived so did we and fortunately so did LeWeb.

Hint to Loic and Geraldine, sponsors are important (and not just the top 3), nobody risks and believes more in what you are doing than them, you should treat them at least as well as Speakers or Press. I don’t know about 2009 but in 2008 it clearly did not feel like that.

And now to the 2009 edition, that closed yesterday. This time I came as a simple paying participant. We are concentrating 100% on product development at eRepublik and I honestly had nothing to sell, raise or announce.

Actually it kind of reminds me how far we have gone when one of our team members told me:  “What do you mean we have nothing to announce, we just launched eRepublik this Thursday in Russian, Swedish, Romanian and Hungarian meaning eRepublik is now available in 10 languages!”

Well what can I say, the Internet was flawless, and the networking superb and I actually got to listen to some of the sessions for a change! It was less than 30% of the sessions but that is 10 times more than usual.  Ok I’m French so I have to complain a little and yes the food wasn’t great but at least there was plenty of it and tons of free Nespresso made sure we were alert at all times.

This time I did not go to any of the parties or events outside of LeWeb and wasn’t invited to the speakers & sponsors dinner etc.. .so I can’t comment much on those. Although most of my friends and colleagues who went, including our VC’s AGF Private Equity who were one of the sponsors of this year’s event all said they were quite good. Another good thing was that I was told eRepublik was mentioned several times in  various speeches by Loic as a LeWeb example of success. I guess you haven’t really made it until people talk about you even when you are not there!

In terms of the sessions the ones I saw where in general quite good, although to be honest I did not learn much from them and do think that LeWeb completely missed the huge transformation that is occurring in online games at the moment. Lots of talk about social media, future of online video, online music and nothing about games when that industry is bigger than music and cinema put together and online game companies like Playfish (European), Zinga, Gameforge (European), Bigpoint (European), Moshi Monsters (European) etc… and to a lesser extent (for now) eRepublik, have more revenues, growth (and in many cases profits) than most other stat ups.

Online gaming is the real star of 2009 and will be even more so in 2010. So Loic, Geraldine hint 2, next year don’t forget online gaming. This is where one of the next European billion euros companies will come from and it will happen sooner than you think. Anyone miss that Playfish went from 0 to 400 million US $ exit in 2 years?

Coming back to the sessions and roundtables, of the ones I saw, I felt that Chad Hurley’s was quite disappointing, I actually felt bad for him as I know how little you can say when you have been acquired by a public company and probably would have dug more in what the hell was he doing blowing his hard earned exit in a F1 team. (The saying goes that the best way to make a small fortune is to start with a big one and then buy an F1 team). There must be more to it for sure, F1 is nowhere in terms of online video presence and strategy , I guess Chad hopes to have a word about it with Bernie.

Another session that I found disappointing was the Pearltrees one, honestly I don’t get it a nice UI doesn’t make a business and I failed to see why this company deserved so much coverage and time on stage. Looked like a niche social media play for me (ie: perfect for Scoble). Again it is only my personal opinion and I don’t know the founders and or team and I’m probably missing something there but then if it there is something great it sure did not jump out. In any case congrats to them for the coverage they managed to get I heard they were even on CNN.

On the good side, Queen Rania’s session brought a sense of glamour and high purpose to the all event that I don’t think was artificial. Its great in this kind of conferences to have a breath of fresh air that makes you look at things in a different light with great quotes such as: “ Can the real time web bring real world change?”, “Social networks are about life streaming, not life changing, they are about where we are not where we want to go”. Also being called the “Digital Darwins” of the world was weird but insightful, particularly when applied to eRepublik where we are sort of creating a mirror version of the real world. Her words were inspiring and eRepublik will be giving one day in 2010 to support education for all children with 1 day for 1 goal

Niklas the founder of Skype, was not the most charismatic of speakers but then he doesn’t need to, his candor was appealing and his words explaining just what an entrepreneur needs to sacrifices to make his ideas succeed where right on. Good sound bites / shared wisdom where: “Swim against the tide, follow your own path”, “failure is a great learning curve”, “To be successful you need an unshakeful belief in your product and business”.

Many other interventions such as Tariq Krim’s of Jolicloud the Google challenger showed that the internet is still an industry where we can take on giants and at worse if you don’t succeed you can try again until one day (and I wish it for him) you do!

But to be honest as everyone in the industry will tell you the real point at LeWeb is the networking and with 2300 people attending, Paris was the capital of the internet world for 2 days and that is something that is priceless. A point that in my opinion was kind of missed in the various panels about Europe and European champions. Its events like LeWeb that really help crystallize and build an industry in a region. There were even about 12 Romanian entrepreneurs shopping projects and looking for investors, something I keep telling everyone I meet there that they should do. Of course its not so much about the people you meet for the first time there but more about people you already know but get a chance to speak directly to, often in a non prepared way.

So congratulation and thank you Loic & Geraldine for organizing this great event in such difficult times. Long live LeWeb.

Ps: Was the networking useful for me this year? Well let’s just say that 1 or 2 deals might emerge again from this years event…. 🙂

This is a truly inspirational video that I came across reading  theequitykicker blog (a blog that I recommend). The video is by Michael Wesch, an anthropology professor from Kansas State University. Its the first time ever I’ve watched 55 minutes of one single video on Youtube. If you have anything to do with the Web, or want to understand what really is beneath this web 2.0 bla bla you should check it out.

I’m posting less frequently in August but will be back to speed in September.