Philippe Noël: Lead Not by Asking/Forcing People To Do Certain Tasks, but by Making Them Realize the Importance of Said Tasks

Philippe Noël

Philippe Noël of Whist.

Tell us about yourself?

My name is Philippe, I was born & raised in a small town in Eastern Québec called Rivière-du-Loup. Somehow, still not sure exactly how, I ended up going to college in the US studying Computer Science & Neuroscience at Harvard, graduating in 2020.

My junior year, I interned at Microsoft thinking that a big tech company was where the future was being built. I had told myself that if I was working on the future, I’d always wake up excited for the day ahead.

I didn’t quite find what I was looking for there, so I decided to create it for myself, and a few months later I started a company with one of my close college friends, which became Whist! Aside from that, I’m passionate about languages and have an insatiable curiosity which has lead me all around the globe.

I love badminton, boxing and skydiving, and am hoping to get skydiving certified someday!

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

I think people’s biggest misconception is that startups are risky. Yes, of course, it might well. However, in today’s labor market, being unemployed as a software/tech person is not something that lasts long if you’re actively seeking a job.

The biggest risk when it comes to startup isn’t being out of a job/being in financial distress, but really the opportunity cost of not working a more lucrative job, in the case where things don’t work out, which is a risk often times well offset by the much greater learning you will gain from being at a startup!

If you could go back in time to any moment from your journey, and give yourself one tip, what would it be?

Do not reinvent the wheel! Every new startup person thinks things in the world aren’t perfectly built for their use case (which is true), but instead of trying to make their own product/tech fit into the existing reality of things, they often time reinvent pieces of the wheel so that “it works perfectly”.

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This is rarely, if ever, worth it. Build as little as you can and focus exclusively on what’s new in your approach, on your core product.

What makes you stand out as an entrepreneur?

Good question, I like to think it’s the way I structure my leadership.

I very much like the phrase “influence without authority”, and while I do have some authority in my role, I think it’s a great leadership principle.

I like to lead not by asking/forcing people to do certain tasks, but by making them realize the importance of said tasks (or even having them come up with the tasks themselves when I push for the vision/roadmap we’re on).

This, I believe, makes people more bought in to the vision, feel a greater sense of ownership and autonomy, and helps them see the bigger picture, which motivates our team to work hard without needing to be micromanaged.

What are some of the best working habits you’ve gained over the past couple of years?

A very simple one is going to bed early — I just feel so much more energized the next morning and ready to take on the day.

As far as work specifically, I would say keeping a TODO list that’s separate from my personal life’s todos, and setting specific tasks which I need to get done each day.

This is super important, I think, because work is never completed when you’re running a company.

So knowing what you need to accomplish to feel satisfied with your day is very motivating and helps me be more productive.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

I had the idea for what became Whist while working at Microsoft in their Azure division.

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I was spending my day-to-day working on facilitating cloud migrations for enterprises, and felt like the same benefit could be brought to end-users directly for running heavy applications.

This was a simple but powerful idea and it led us to today!

Where do you see your business in five years?

I believe in five years Whist can have gained meaningful market share in the browser market, a difficult feat given the market’s dominance by tech giants, and pioneered a new way for people to engage with the Internet, via cloud tabs.

What do you think the biggest challenge will be for you in getting there?

I think scaling the product agains the big incumbents in the space will be very challenging.

Not only are we bringing a new way of engaging with the Internet, which we’ll need to familiarize customers with, but also we’re going up against some very strong inertia of the status quo in the browser world.

It’ll be challenging to take on those two tasks, but I think the market is ready for something new, and we very much intend to be the new player coming to shake things up!

Talk to us about your biggest success story so far?

Our biggest success story was probably our launch, which happened just recently in Summer 2022 after 2 years of development (we’re building a very technical product, almost research-y!).

Getting there required hiring some extremely specialized experts in video streaming and browsers, a lot of work and research, and two rounds of fundraising!

How do clients and customers find you? Are you much of a salesperson for yourself?

Our customers find us through a variety of ways, but mostly passive marketing on the Internet.

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We’ve identified pretty concrete user profiles and use those to drive blog posts, publications, announcements, etc. which lead to users funneling down to our platform.

I wouldn’t say I’m much of a salesperson myself and Whist is mostly a B2C product, although we have some B2B deals in the work, so direct sales is not something we do very much.

What one tip would you give to fellow startup founders?

My tip can be broken down into 3 pieces: – Work on something you’re passionate about – Just get started – Don’t give up when it’s hard If you don’t work on something you’re passionate about, it’ll be very hard to keep going when you’re feeling low.

You don’t need to be ready, if you love it just get started and you’ll learn as you push through.

And finally, what do you hope the future brings both you personally, and your business?

Always looking for growth, both for myself as a worker/founder and as a person, both of which come from individual growth outside the company, and company growth bringing in new challenges!

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