Jeanne Courouble: a multitalented entrepreneur

Jeanne Courouble has an Executive MBA from HEC, Paris. Entrepreneur, talented speaker, lecturer at HEC, member of the Société des gens de lettres (a French organisation defending authors’ rights) and colonel in the French Réserve citoyenne, she is, in addition to all that, a best-selling author.

Jeanne Courouble is also a member of the FEDE’s Panel of Experts. In the following interview she speaks about her latest book, her career as an entrepreneur, and much more.

What would you say have been the most important elements of your education?

I’m glad you said ‘have been’ and not ‘were’.  For me education is lifelong and ongoing. Learning is an endlessly interesting luxury – a real source of joy. It is enriching both from the point of view of the teacher and the student.

Tell us more about your professional career.

One of the most basic of freedoms is the freedom to be yourself at work and maintain your integrity and creativity. In other words, the freedom both to live and to earn a living, without sacrificing one for the other… Given I had this philosophy, it was obvious that I needed to start my own business.

I wrote several books on the subject, the idea being to nurture this dream and to turn it into reality, but also to share it with others. My book Devenez votre propre patron [Become Your Own Boss] was a bestseller. It was followed by other books, such as Au bonheur d’entreprendre [The Joys of Enterprise]. I remember that Claude Vivier Le Got [currently President of the FEDE], whom I had the pleasure of interviewing at the time, was overflowing with talent and entrepreneurial energy.

Alongside my writing career, I also spent 20 years building my promotional merchandise business. It was a source of much joy (and also of stress and anxiety!): creating original items, receiving mythic orders and unhoped-for down payments, checking and rechecking the books, getting positive feedback from clients and suppliers… And then there were the lifechanging encounters, the excitement of new opportunities… and the pleasure of sharing all this with a team that was, for the most part, full of enthusiasm.

What sparked the idea for your most recent book?

Firstly, a meeting with a wonderful person – Clarisse Angelier, a doctor of materials science and General Delegate of ANRT (the French National Association of Research and Technology). In 2011 she and I began investigating entrepreneurial talent among PhD graduates. We wrote up our findings in Ces créateurs d’entreprises innovantes [Innovative Business Creators]. As can be seen from the book’s subheading ‘Quand doctorat se conjugue avec entrepreneuriat’ [When ‘PhD’ Rhymes with Enterprise], our aim was to bring together these two worlds – business and academia. On top of that, as co-authors Clarisse and I were able to combine our different areas of expertise.

Between creating a business and growing a business there is the smallest of steps, and nowadays it is essential to take it. ‘Creation alone is no longer enough – there has to be growth!’ (Frédérique Vidal, French Minister of Higher Education, in the preface to De la recherche et de l’innovation [On Research and Innovation]. We developed the same theme in Ces innovateurs créateurs de croissance [The Innovators Who Generate Growth], which is part of the same series of books and has just been published by the French publisher Eyrolles.

Secondly, my convictions. I’ve always written about entrepreneurship. In the 1980s the subject was virgin territory – I had to break into it. Since then it has become standard teaching in business schools. Entrepreneurship is not something you learn – it’s a matter of trial and error. You might say it is based on a broad core of transversal knowledge, and that you need to explore its various dimensions and facets, then achieve a balance between them. You also have to adapt your approach as fresh opportunities arise, as new technology emerges, as society and government regulations evolve.

A self-taught person who is well-motivated and pragmatic and is really prepared to persevere can certainly create and grow a successful business.

Things get more complicated when it comes to businesses specialising in innovative technology. In such cases there is a need for serious research and large investments.  Time flies, the world is ‘a scrap of confetti’ and technology is a hurricane!  Enter the PhD-Entrepreneurs, who have numerous skills to offer, as described in the book.

So why should we read the book?

The book showcases a number of inspiring careers. Ten enthusiastic entrepreneurs with PhDs share their experiences – Nicolas Abelé (Lemoptix), Mohed Altrad (Groupe Altrad), Sébastien Bardon (Capsum), Amandine Bugnicourt and Matthieu Lafon (Adoc Talent Management), André Choulika (Cellectis), Alain Goudey (AtooMedia), Loïc Lecerf (Smart Me Up), Claude de Loupy (Syllabs), Virginie Simon (MyScienceWork).

As Frédérique Vidal writes in the preface: ‘The book’s innovators and ‘growth generators’ share their passions and their doubts, describe determination in the face of adversity and revisit the joy of daring to overcome obstacles. They capture the inspiring energy of change.’

The entrepreneurs featured in the book all have exceptional levels of positive energy, vision and determination. And yet their talents are diverse, and each has an original, unique approach to developing their business.

The book is structured around fifty golden rules – what might be thought of as the keys to successfully developing a business.

Clarisse Angelier et Jeanne Courouble, Ces créateurs d’entreprise innovantes. Quand doctorat se conjugue avec entrepreneuriat. Eyrolles 2011, réédition 2012.


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