Startup Stories: Florian Jacques, Co-Founder & CEO of Midstay

Florian Jacques, CEO of Midstay, discusses his journey from video gamer to entrepreneur, how Midstay is addressing the challenges of remote work and travel, and offers advice to fellow entrepreneurs.

by hao-nguyen on February 23, 2023

Florian Jacques is the Co-Founder & CEO at Midstay, a company paving the way for a future where professionals can live and work anywhere, by helping individuals & companies get the best work-from-abroad experience, worry-free.

In this conversation with  Startup Stories, Florian shares his journey from video gamer to entrepreneur and how his experiences led him to create Midstay. He also shares the challenges he observed in the remote work and travel industry and how Midstay is addressing these issues through its platform.

Additionally, Florian discusses the growth of Midstay since its inception and his approach to balancing various roles and responsibilities as a multi-functional CEO. Lastly, he offers valuable advice to entrepreneurs looking to build successful companies in the remote work or travel industry.

Are you looking for a global startup or scaleup recruitment agency? We can help connect you with world class talent around the globe, get in touch with us today!

Can you talk about your experience as a Product UX/UI Designer and how that led to your entrepreneurial journey, including creating a music festival and a design/marketing agency?

Sure! So it’s quite a random story, as I used to be a video gamer until the age of 14-15 when I missed a year at school because of being too much into video games; but not only, I founded my first team to offer video clips of players sniping on Call of Duty. We created a YouTube channel that was followed by 5k+ subscribers and 150 players part of the team were playing on 3 different platforms (PC, Xbox, PS3). From that event that I missed a year at school, my parents decided to withdraw my game console.

But as I really wanted to keep all I built out so far with the team, I decided to reconvert myself into a 3D Designer to stay close to my team and this Youtube environment. So I started to offer my design services for other teams that needed new Youtube Banners. I started to make some money, and my father, being an Accounting professional, told me I should think about creating a legal structure to invoice my clients, which I did quickly.

It all started from there, I decided to pursue Art studies, firstly with a pure Graphic Design approach from 16 to 18, and then got accepted to a private school in Brussels which allowed me to broaden my digital skills, and specialised in UX/UI Design. I got many gigs aside from my studies, and kept growing my company which became a design/marketing agency; mainly helping startups that were based in the US, but also in Australia and Europe.

In parallel, I was also helping with the marketing and communication of the music festival that my father started in 2009, initially only for gathering 50 friends in front of a tiny stage. Then year by year, we pushed it, until a point where he decided to give me the control, and step back. I took over the director role of this music festival at the age of 22 and 23; and brought it to 20k+ festival goers in 2019. At 23, I was back then managing over 500 people during the 3 days of festival, a big business plan of 1M+ USD , and many business relations. This experience clearly convinced me that creating projects was what made me feel alive, and for what I was thriving for.

In 2019, it was the last 10th year anniversary of the music festival, we organised this edition in a new venue: the beautiful Castle of Seneffe. And after this very successful edition, I decided to step back to focus more on my tech clients, with a back thought of building my own baby, my own startup.

In early 2020, it was freaking cold in Belgium, and as I was able to work remotely for my clients, I decided to take one flight to Bali. I arrived in February 2020 and we all know what happened in March. So I got “stuck” in Bali for many months, and that’s how I met my cofounder Magnus, who is now the CTO of the baby I always wanted to build; a startup called Midstay, which exists to help remote workers work remotely from abroad, and meet like-minded professionals around them to make it less isolated. On the B2B side, we’re also expanding our services by offering companies tailor-made packages to gather their remote employees together in team retreats.

What inspired you to create Midstay based on your experiences of travelling and working remotely, and what specific challenges did you observe that could be addressed through a customised platform for remote workers? 

After travelling in different countries for my clients, for a few months, I’ve experienced similar pains as digital nomads. These are mainly 2 of them: feeling isolated/lonely and wasting working time and productivity when arriving in a new location.

So with Midstay, we wanted to address those problems, with a platform designed for remote workers where productivity is at the centre for all. We’re seeing a big increase in this new type of traveller, they clearly have different needs — so it makes it quite exciting!

In what ways does Midstay facilitate the formation of communities for remote workers, and how important is having a like-minded community for a successful work-from-abroad experience?

I strongly believe in the importance and the power of being surrounded by the right people that inspire you for your personal and professional growth. This is something that is proven, and when you’re embracing this new lifestyle of remote work, you’re losing your colleague’s environment.

That is what we’re re-creating for any professionals, by pooling them every week into groups of like-minded people around them, based on their professional profiles and interests. This is what we call curated communities, and it’s beautiful to see all the relationships our platform already built up; either people that created a business together, knowledge sharing around a coffee or simply brainstorming on ideas and receiving feedback — from people that understand you.

How has Midstay grown and evolved since its inception in 2021, and what has been the most exciting or rewarding experience you’ve had as CEO and co-founder?

With Midstay we bootstrapped the platform until May 2022 and launched in June. (this was clearly an advantage to have complementary co-founders, and being able to ship fast without a big team)
In less than a year we grew to 1300+ active B2C users (remote workers). These people are mainly in Bali, as it was our “LAB” , this year in 2023 we’ll be opening the platform to many more hubs around the globe, based on our learnings these last months from our Bali experiment.

On the B2B side, we recently discovered this segment of the business, and already worked with 20 companies to help them organise their team retreats. We have an additional 30 companies in our sales pipeline that are in the negotiation stage, willing to bring their employees together and break the ZOOM call environment for a few days.

As a multi-functional CEO who wears many hats, how do you balance your various roles and responsibilities, and what skills do you look for in potential hires to help grow Midstay’s team?

That is a very good question, as every day is different and I have to adapt a lot to where we have some gaps, either in resource or skill/knowledge within the team. But this is so fulfilling! Mostly I’d say that I’m blocking all my mornings to focus on important tasks, then I have my afternoons open for calls. This is the high-level view of how my days look like, but this is very flexible as I need to reply to different needs, and so I have to be as agile as possible.

Speaking about balancing, I found it very important to have a clear break in my planning. For example, I like to start my day with a run for 30 min, then a cup of coffee for another 30 min for all my “Management check-in” tasks. Then I feel comfortable and worry-free to jump into my highly-focused tasks, as I know the team will have their own focus too.
I’m also quite lucky to have a co-founder that is really covering all the tech side, so my focus is on the Product, Marketing and Sales.

Speaking about the profiles we like to recruit at Midstay, we really value people that are young and eager to learn rather than super experienced senior roles. Not to forget that we are still an early-stage startup, that’s why I found it very important to have profiles that are flexible and can adapt to one situation or another. I like to call them “Swiss Knives”. They are not uncomfortable with uncertainty: we have this culture of testing, failing, learning, and iterating fast to reach the needs of our customers.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to build successful companies in the remote work or travel industry?

I would recommend starting with the foundations, which (sometimes forgotten or rushed) are so important. Speaking about market research, customer feedback and user interviews.
Once you find an opportunity in the market, then be ready to be agile and flexible, and keep speaking to your users. As this industry is changing fast because of this new world post-covid, it’s important to be in a highly agile mindset.

Are you looking for a global startup or scaleup recruitment agency? We can help connect you with world class talent around the globe, get in touch with us today!

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