Sebastien Blanc

Previous CEO Lengow and Skimlinks

Sebastien is a repeat scale-up CEO focusing on companies that require rapid change. Sebastien was CEO of Lengow (owned by a US PE firm), and Skimlinks (VC-backed, acquired by Connexity/Taboola). Prior to that Seb ran operations and opened the US for Struq, a VC-backed start-up based in the UK (acquired by Quantcast). Seb is also a board member and/or investor in multiple start ups and funds.

1. What values are most important to you as a leader? 

There are 2 values I am a stickler for in any team where I work: ownership and continuous learning. I do not believe it is possible to build anything meaningful without them. Ownership means that you will get the job done or, if not, that you will be vocal about it and ask for help quickly and clearly. Continuous learning means that you do not derive your worth from having all the answers, but from being able to figure things out quickly. Of course these 2 things are tied to one another. When most people in a company embody both, magic often happens.

2. Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

I am really inspired by people who create genuinely new things. Makers. In any field. People composing music, painting original works. People who write insightfully. People who find elegant solutions to worthy problems and build companies around them. People who have the drive to say something original and do the hard work of bringing it to life. So much of society is made of things pretty much exclusively designed to just make money. When you find someone whose primary driver is the craft, the experience you get is just something else and I find that very inspiring.

3. Best piece of advice you have been given?

That it is completely fine to admit you do not know something. I believe that the real value we drive as leaders is not to have all the answers. It is to be honest about when we do not, so that others can fill the space and so that learning – collective or individual – can happen. In tech, whoever learns (and iterates) the fastest wins. And learning starts with being able to admit that you do not know something. There is also something liberating about admitting you do not know: it shows everybody else that it is fine to not have all the answers, which means people won’t feel the need to feign knowledge or brush things under the carpet.

4. What would you tell your younger self?

I was so keen to learn and be successful that I struggled staying in place. Real success, solving real problems, creating real value takes time. 10 years? More? There is no single answer. But thinking about what I focus on in 10y cycles would probably have led to different choices and, possibly, bigger outcome and impact.

5. What has been your most important or profound lesson as a leader?

Success is not a deterministic thing. It only looks like it with hindsight. Success is a statistical phenomenon; it is 90% luck and 10% staying alive long enough that you can get lucky. Stay in business, find opportunities to shine, take as many credible shots at them as you can within the constraint of your business, observe, double down or pivot. One day, something will happen, although it is probably not what you had in mind when you got on the journey.