37: The 118 Year Old Startup with Dom Eihhorn

Dom Einhorn is the founder and CEO of UNIQORN, the largest rural business incubator, startup accelerator, and coworking space in Sarlat, France. He is a serial entrepreneur with multiple startups exits under his belt, primarily focusing on digital startups and angel investing. We discuss why France is a startup-friendly nation, how to launch and scale a successful tech company, and the 118-year-old startup. 

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The 118 Years Old Startup with Dom Einhorn

Our guest is Dom Einhorn, who is the founder and CEO of Uniqorn, which is the largest rural incubator accelerator in the world. You can see the location of this accelerator. He is also the founder of a startup Super Cup. He’s a serial founder and CEO of many companies, including digital media, technology and others. He speaks six languages. One of them is Alsatian, which I’ve never heard of, but I trust you, Dom, with that. And most interestingly, he is the president and CEO and the largest shareholder of a semi-professional rugby club, the Sarlat Rugby Team, which is going professional next year. Dom calls it a 118-year-old startup. So welcome to the show, Dom.

Thanks for having me, Steve.

My pleasure. Great to have you. It’s going to be a very exciting and entertaining discussion, I hope, and I trust. Tell us a little bit about your background. How did you become the owner of Accelerator and the serial founder of tech companies in the middle of rural France?

When I started very early on at the age of 23 is when I dove in head first into the tech business. I was born and raised in Northeastern France on the German border in the Alsace-Lorraine region. Hence, your question about Alsatian, the language. That is the language that we speak there. For those of you who are history buffs, you’ll actually realize that the Alsatian language actually precedes the Alemannic language. So it’s at the base of German today. It’s very similar to German. At the age of 23, I left France for the US. I started a digital marketing company in 1993 in the US, which I sold in 2001.

When I left France, the internet was in its infancy. In fact, we didn’t even call it the internet. We called it the information superhighway in those days. It was only in 1995, spring of 1995, I believe, when the Netscape 1.0 appeared that we called it the internet because for the first time in history, we could actually connect to what we ended up calling the web. But prior to that, there was no web because there was no navigator, there was no browser allowing us to access the information on the web.

So, in a way, I’m a dinosaur when it comes to the tech space. Try to keep up with the times. 2018, I decided to come back to France and to launch Uniqorn. It’s Uniqorn with a Q, for those of you who do not have video. Unicorn, the idea of Uniqorn is to provide support to technology startups from around the world and help them succeed. So, our motto is crawl, walk, thrive. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what an incubator is, think first and foremost of an incubator in a hospital where a young baby is born prematurely, we put it into an incubator to ensure its survival.

First and foremost, we do exactly the same thing with startups because we all know when a startup is first founded, that’s when it’s most fragile. So, we provide it with the framework or frameworks, I shall say, with legal accounting help initially, and then help in terms of business development, marketing, engineering, graphic design, et cetera, anything technology startup would need in order to again, crawl, walk, run, right? Crawl, walk, thrive. That’s our motto. I would say that over the last six to eight years, and though I still consider myself as a startup entrepreneur today, my position has mostly morphed into that of a business angel.

So I’m more on the capital provisioning side, the capital aggregation side. I also do invest in every deal that comes through our doors, which lends more credibility to the deals and helps me personally grow my network of followers. Because instead of saying, hey, Mr. Investor, you should be investing in this startup. I can say, hey, follow me. I’ve already invested in this startup.

Put your money where your mouth is. I love you. Pretty much. Why France? Why not Silicon Valley?

Yeah, it’s an interesting question. So if you asked me the question in 1993, I would have said, no way, France. And yes, Silicon Valley, I’m on my way. And that’s pretty much what I did. I think that, like anything else in the tech industry included, you run through cycles. I believe that the Silicon Valley cycle is probably in its later years. It’s still extremely powerful, as we all know, but I do believe that if you are a believer in the power of the Internet today, you should be able to work from anywhere. And when I say anywhere, it doesn’t just mean Sala, the beautiful map behind you.

It also means the moon and soon Mars. If you’re an entrepreneur and you realize there is opportunity elsewhere, anywhere, you should be able to pack up your bag and go there. That’s a discussion I very often have with startup entrepreneurs, give you a case in point. We’re bringing in a number of American startups who are moving to France, literally the drop of a hat because they like what we do, they like what we represent. And then a few weeks ago, I had a startup in Nantes, three hours away from here, said that’s too far, Sarla. I said, just because you told me that, I already know I would never want to work with you. Right, if three hours is too far away and people are crossing the big pond to come and see us, that should give you a little bit of an idea as to where you rank for us in terms of priorities.

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So help me understand this a little bit better. Everything I learned or read about Silicon Valley was that there is a magic about being there where all those tech companies are. And you hang out with other founders and these people are essentially, they motivate each other. You have a pool of talent that you can tap into. It’s basically, you absorb the spirit of the times when you’re there. How can you replicate this in Salah? Or if you don’t replicate it, what is it that you can replace it?

Number one, I would agree with you that is probably what you just described was probably the case in the early, mid, maybe even late 90s. I know Silicon Valley very well. Probably would not be the only one that would question the veracity of what it is today. I think it’s changed quite dramatically where it’s become very enclosed. It’s very hard to break through unless you’re part of the inner elite. A lot of back dealing between certain VC firms, etc. That if you’re not part of their group, you can have a very hard time breaking through. That’s not just me talking. It’s a lot of feedback I’m getting from friends, networks, etc.

You have very prominent VCs that have moved away from Silicon Valley recently. Moved, for example, to Austin, Texas, a lot of them, right? because the climate tends to be more auspicious elsewhere than it used to be in Silicon Valley. So I do believe that Silicon Valley has somewhat lost its luster in that sense. Now, with regards to the question as to why France and why Starlight in particular, we first and foremost made a lifestyle decision, telling ourselves that, look, me personally, I lived in Los Angeles for 25 years. Sometimes I would commute four, five, six hours a day to go see a client, to go see an associate and go back home.

And after 25 years, after a quarter century, I thought there’s got to be a better way to do this. So, my wife and I, we moved to France, took six to eight months to crisscross the country and made ourselves a private list of best places to live, first and foremost, and secondly, to work out of and the city of Salat, S-A-L-A-T, was number one on both lists. That was roughly three years ago. So we did pack our bags, we realized look it’s a small town of 9,000 people in the winter, two and a half million tourists in the summer, it is the seventh most visited town in France.

You know we’re not going to necessarily find what we left behind in Los Angeles, but whatever we’re missing, we’ll create. Starting with a great place to work, right, which has become the Uniqorn Incubator Accelerator, which is now attracting a pool of talent from all over the world. We’re roughly 33 people, as I’m talking to you, from 19 different nationalities. We’re extremely diverse. That’s kind of like part of our DNA. I’m a strong believer that no matter how many smart people you have internally, there’s always someone smarter on the outside. It’s also very difficult to think outside the box if you’re living inside a box.

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So that box that we’re in, which is behind you on the wall, is very open. It’s wide open. We field 60 to 100 decks from entrepreneurs every single day from LinkedIn alone. We get anywhere from 20 to 50 CVs from very sharp, talented people from around the world, some of which are actually studying in France. Matter of fact, last week alone, we recruited a girl, Indian girl, studied in Paris, Serbian girl that studied in Nancy, Northeastern France, a girl from Sri Lanka that studied in Nantes, et cetera, et cetera, right?

So I believe what we’re basically doing is we’re probably not necessarily replicating the spirit of Silicon Valley, but we’re adopting some of what Silicon Valley represented in its early years in terms of the openness of mind, in terms of identifying talent from around the world and drafting it to a specific location, which Silicon Valley used to do back then, but obviously somehow got lost, especially during the Trump administration maybe it’ll get a little bit easier now. I want to remain apolitical because I don’t think it really matters.

You know if you’re a technologist your objective is ultimately to replace the government anyway or to actually consider the government. As Albert Einstein famously mentioned if you do have a problem and you address the problem to a politician you now have two problems. So I’m a firm believer of that.

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Okay, so we’re talking about you moving to France lifestyle reasons. Are there other reasons for a startup to thrive in France?


The beautiful climate and the great place that you found for it?

Absolutely, so the election of Emmanuel Macron, the French president in 2017, has opened up a lot of doors. Basically, what the president created is the concept of a startup nation Which is not unique in and by itself because other countries are trying to do the same thing But he’s been extremely aggressive with his administration of launching a French tech label and launching a number of incentives that make it very easy for investors to relocate and for talent to also integrate companies like Unicorn that are part of the French tech ecosystem.

So for example, the first two employees that I brought in were two Panamanian nationals, engineers that I worked with for many years, one of them since 2004. And literally, he packed his bags one day with a little bit of paperwork and two weeks later he was here in France. Within 48 hours upon landing, his three children were in school here in Sarajevo, etc., etc. So I think a lot of people still think when they think of France, heavy administration and things of that nature.

To a certain extent, that’s still true, but it’s significantly improved and there are new ordinances that are coming about every single day that make it a lot easier to do business here, to relocate, to invest. A few examples, you have a couple of investor visas in France that are very attractive that allow an investor from anywhere in the world to relocate to France, get a four-year visa for himself and his immediate family by way of investment into a French tech startup.

Also, very nimble visa, because after four years, the fifth year, you can actually apply for citizenship. So, it actually opens up doors to a lot of people who are not necessarily living in a country in which they’re happy in, to relocate to nicer shores where it’s nice to live at the same time, where you can actually have an impact and potentially launch a business or invest in a business.

So you speak six languages, so you feel at home, I suppose, in France, but what about Americans or foreigners in general? The French are not necessarily known for hospitality towards people who don’t speak the language. What’s the situation, especially in the countryside, it could be even more conservative. What is your assessment of?

Yeah, it’s very interesting. I think as a general rule that what you just mentioned is probably true. It may be a little bit cliche and the reason being is what a lot of people when they think of France they immediately think of Paris, right? So where I’m from in the northeast of France, the Alsatians, we say that the Parisians are a belly button of the world. If you take them apart everything else falls apart, right? So as soon as you step outside of Paris, it’s very, very different. For example, in our local community, people love seeing Americans.

They speak a little bit of English. Some of them speak English very well. They love seeing different influences, and they like to embrace them. Now, if the American even makes a slight effort and tries to speak French, well, everybody will buy him a drink. That’s just amazing. So it’s very different than in a big city like Paris in particular where you do have I guess that snobbish attitude that was passed on from generation to generation.

People in the countryside are a lot more authentic and in particular in our region in south of France because we have a very, very strong British influence. Many Brits, many Londoners that have either primary homes or secondary homes in the region that dates back to the 100 year war, right? They spent a hundred years here in the middle ages. And you have a very, very strong participation in the of the British expats, Australians, Germans, Dutch, et cetera, it’s extremely diverse. And more so since we started here.

That’s really interesting. So going back a little bit to your entrepreneurial history, having founded the companies, lived in the US, California for 25 years, when you were building those companies, did you use frameworks to build those companies? Did you rely on some kind of models that you leveraged there?

I’d say initially, probably not, because initially I had no idea what a framework even was. When I was 23, right, I was just started to iterate. And then obviously as I did more and more reading and educating while at the same time launching businesses, I realized that I would quickly gravitate to probably the lean framework. That is probably still today what we’re most closely aligned with. Yes, we deviate from that. We don’t just follow it by the rule, but it’s probably in terms of what we do, what we’re trying to achieve, the most efficient framework that gets us from point A to point B, especially when it comes to actually going into a stage of flow.

I think flow is what we’re researching as human beings as well, not just as businesses. For example, if I don’t have two hours of flow in a day, I consider that as a bad day. And it’s a stage where in two hours you can do a week’s worth of work, be very creative, be very problem solving. And it’s also a framework I try to pass on to others, not from a theoretical perspective, but much more from a practical perspective by showing them what we’ve been able to accomplish via Lean, right?

And I think obviously Lean being initially Toyota, I think if you read Eric Ries and the lean startup, I think there is a tremendous amount of parallel between the two as it applies to a technology business in particular in terms of being able to iterate very, very quickly, producing an MVP virtually immediately, clearly product market fit, product client fit, which is sometimes not the same, but a lot of people think it is, we very, very quickly try to see what is the value add that we can bring to a client.

And in that sense, before we develop new products or services, we usually just start with the concept of what that product or service would represent for the client, and we pitch it to the client prior to actually developing it. So we don’t even produce an MVP. We have a very honest discussion with a client that goes pretty much like this. Mr. Client, we’ve worked together for quite a while. We realize that you’re seeming to hit a roadblock every time you do this or that. The client will say yes. Okay, we believe, but we’re not sure that we can provide you with a solution that will allow you to overcome the product or service.

Here is what it would look like once we actually develop it. Would you be willing to give us a 10% down payment today at a discounted rate for future delivery of the solution to your problem? If you can actually sell that, you know you’re onto something. Well, a lot of companies don’t do that. They just jump head in, they produce, they start spending, etc. So we try to actually get this very, very strong validation point in the marketplace prior to jumping head in and prior to engaging into that process.

Okay, I love that. So please describe the process a little bit more. So let’s say you have, first of all, how do you choose the companies that you accept in the incubator, and then what does this incubate, accelerate, thrive, or crawl, thrive process look like? And how do you contribute to this and how do you mentor? And what do you do to help these companies engage with that process?

Yeah, so the very first thing we look at, regardless of which deal, number one, we’re pure tech, so we only do tech, right? The first thing we look at is how quickly we can add value. In some cases, we can’t, and we just disengage immediately. Right. Assuming the answer is we can add value to that deal, the next question we ask ourselves, is it worth our while adding value to that deal? And that depends on the level of maturity. Because we typically do not deal with companies that are pre-POC. So you have to have a proof of concept, right? Ideally, you have a product or service that’s already on the market or that you’re trying to market. If you’re trying to raise funds, at least show to us that your grandmother has trusted you enough to invest a little bit of money in your company. Kind of like some immediate check boxes of what we’re looking for there.

The three Fs, French, WF, and POS.

Exactly right. Usually it starts with the last, with the latter. You know, assuming, you know, you pass that test, then we have, you know, my partner for over 20 years is a financial analyst. He worked in Wall Street for over 20 years as an analyst. He basically vets the company from a financial perspective, even though in the startup space, that doesn’t necessarily always mean much, right? Especially for a startup that may have raised a little bit of money, has a pro forma, you know, that you have to take with 100 pounds of salt, et cetera, et cetera.

But at least you want to make sure that the right level of thought, the thought processes went in. And if that checks out, we then look very solidly at the team. Does the team have a track record? If the team does not have a track record, which can not very blame them if they’re 23, 24 years old of not having a track record, is what is their likelihood to succeed? And that’s probably where I come in personally the most because I’ve worked with so many entrepreneurs that my radar either goes up or down very, very quickly in terms of asking them some probing questions and seeing whether or not they have the DNA of an entrepreneur.

So what’s that? What are you specifically looking for?

I’m looking for grit, determination, perseverance, and I wanna be able to verify that. So I ask some very critical questions. For example, look, you’re in North Carolina right now, because I’m giving you this example because I just asked that question last week. I’m very interested in working with you. I love your concept, I love your team, and we’ve already had four or five conversations about this. I’m ready to help you out, but you need to be here next month. And then I’m quiet. I’m observing, and now I can observe because I have sound and video these days, which I didn’t when I was younger, right? And I’m in.

That’s a very, very important selling point, right? If the questions keep lingering on, what about this? What about that? What about that? You’re already showing to me that you’re actually adding friction to a process. When I’ve told you that I’m in, and if you look at our track record, what we typically do with companies like yours, we’re removing friction. So at least you should commit first and foremost. If you don’t do that first and foremost, afterwards, you can still have a lot of questions. I’m already pretty much out. Now, that is an arbitrary thinking process, and I 100% agree with that.

But I also wanna make sure that I’m aligning myself with like-minded entrepreneurs that I don’t have to babysit once they come into our incubator. The last thing I wanna do, Mr. Entrepreneur, is I don’t wanna run your business. I don’t have the time, I don’t have the bandwidth. This is your project. We’re gonna basically support you in your dream. That is what we do as an incubator, as an accelerator. But I will never run your business for you. And if you don’t show me, at least that you’ve had this foresight and that you don’t have the grit, the determination, the perseverance of carrying this through.

If you’re a true blood entrepreneur and I’m asking you to go to the moon, you should be able to go to the moon. You should be willing to go to the moon. That is very, very important for us in terms of making sure that we have the right psyche of an entrepreneur, the right balance between EQ and IQ, as you may say. Because too many times in my career have I seen entrepreneurs with great IQs, but relatively low EQs, where they give up too easily. They get knocked down, they don’t get back up. They throw in the towel. Now that’s a waste of their time. It’s a waste of my resources as well. And that’s what I want to avoid at all costs.

So Dom, let me ask you a question. So one of the profiling tools that I use a lot, and not only if you’re familiar with it, it’s called the Colby Index. And the Colby Index, it basically looks at people’s personalities across four different dimension and it’s basically what it says is it’s the cognitive skills, the intuitive, the intuitive emo of the person that is described by this. And one of the factors is fact finding. And there are people who are high fact finder who ask a lot of questions. And then you have people who are very low fact finders and basically they intuitively make decisions based on a lot less information. I mean, I don’t know how to describe this, but what you’re describing here with this question that you’re going to have to be here next month, does it mean that someone who is a high fact finder would probably not be a good fit for you?

Not necessarily, but I want them to commit first. So I’d rather have a person say I’m in and then ask the questions. So they’re actually able to make that commitment, which is an emotional commitment first and foremost, and then they can do all the fact-finding they want in the background. I would actually pass them on, look, you’ve committed, now you still have a question, you’re gonna want to know where you’re gonna live, how you’re gonna get here, who’s gonna pick you up, that is all normal. If you have kids, where are they gonna go to school? Is it gonna be a good school or a bad school? But at least you’re able to say, you know what, I’m in because this is my baby, I’m gonna do whatever it takes to make it succeed, and the rest is a detail that I will work out at a later date. Rather than overwhelming me with details first prior to committing.

Okay, I get it. So the questions are more about the logistics of it rather than actually what will happen to the business. These are not business questions that business details that need to be filled out. It’s more about lives, logistics and personal things.

As Stephen Colby said in his book, first things first.

That’s cool. So what does it take these days to launch a tech company. You read a lot about, you know, speed to market is being so important. You have to scale fast because if you have a great idea, someone’s going to steal it. You have to very quickly dominate your niche in order to have a chance. Do you see this being the case? And does it mean that it’s impossible to bootstrap a tech company?

I think it depends in what domain. I think in some domain you have to go very, very fast. Let’s say NFTs, right, non-fungible tokens, which is obviously an area that’s just exploding right now. The jury’s still out whether or not that’s a trend that’s here to stay or whether it’s just a fad.

You mean Bitcoin and the first is now?

Yeah, I mean, crypto tokens, social tokens, utility tokens, et cetera. I’m a firm believer in the longevity of utility tokens. Still a little bit on the fringe when it comes to NFTs, non-fungible tokens, right? I believe that they will mature, they will not necessarily be what they are today with all the hoopla of a piece of digital art selling for $80 million a couple of days ago, right? I think those are outliers. But most importantly, what I think is important to remember is that we should not lose track of solving problems as entrepreneurs and not creating them.

And I think ultimately, if you want to have a durable and a sustainable business, you should stay away from chasing specific trends, right? For example, tomorrow morning we’re gonna wake up, we’re probably gonna take a shower, brush our teeth at breakfast, put some clothes on, right? As Jeff Bezos said, after he saw, is that what he’s focusing on with Amazon is not on what changes, but on what stays the same, right? There are plenty of problems. I think one of the fallacies that we’re seeing today are a lot of businesses that are trend facing and that are actually creating the problem they ultimately intended to resolve.

Well, good news for you, there’s still plenty of bonafide problems we’re facing as humanity you could probably focus on rather than inventing new ones. So one of the first things we look at when we see a deck is, okay, what problem is this company, what problem is this startup intending to resolve? If I don’t understand the problem, it’s probably not for me or not for us, right? Or at least someone in my team will come and say, oh no, I do get it, right? You don’t, Dom, you don’t get it, I get it, let me explain it to you.

Okay, I’m open, explain it to me, because I’m not seeing it, right? I think those are some very rudimentary, fundamental questions that we tend to lose track of, because we see, as we did 20 years ago, if we remember the web vans and the pets.com, right? Even though pets.com probably was ahead of its time, because if it had launched 10 years later, it would have been a bang-up success. But timing is obviously critical as well, right? So the ability to launch today, it’s so much easier, so much cheaper to launch than 2025 years ago.

In March of 1998, my monthly bandwidth bill was $8,000 US and I used 1,000 times less bandwidth than I’m using today, and today it’s free, right? So you’ve seen a rapid democratization and demonetization of the startup creation process, which allows today pretty much anyone, anywhere in the world, Silicon Valley or outside, to create virtually on the fly a new business model, a new business, but it’s not necessarily a good one, right? Because it’s become so simple.

So as a result of it becoming so simple and so demonetized, anyone, anywhere in the world today can launch a business, but they don’t necessarily have what it takes. And it doesn’t mean that the idea is the right one, right? We all have ideas, everybody has an idea. I don’t invest in ideas personally, I invest in execution of ideas towards a solution to an existing problem that’s vastly different, right? I wanna see the applicability of that idea towards the resolution of a problem.

If you wanna become a billionaire, help a billion people. The rest will happen automatically. It doesn't matter what it is that you do. Share on X

And ideally, the problem is a very large problem that affects tens of millions, hundreds of millions, maybe billions of people. Hence the term billionaire, right? If you wanna become a billionaire, help a billion people. The rest will happen automatically. It doesn’t matter what it is that you do. If we look at business models like Twitter, like Facebook, like Google, none of which started with a revenue model. Let’s remember that. They just artificially bolted on at some point a revenue model that made sense and that became a core driver for them, right? Facebook didn’t intend to monetize, to just, it was a land grab, right?

Bring on more and more and more users, but eventually you have 10 million users, 100 million users, a billion users, and then it’s pretty simple to figure out how you’re gonna make money with that. But again, from the get-go, from the start, none of them had any idea on how they would monetize, and you can actually go back and read the literature from those days where they were wondering, what should we do to monetize? Twitter in particular, they had no idea. How are we going to monetize the tweets? And now they’ve become 100 billion, $100 billion uniqorns.

So the idea is that you just have to figure out how you solve problems, serve people, and then the monetization is secondary.

So the idea is that you just have to figure out how you solve problems, serve people, and then the monetization is secondary. Share on X

I think to a certain degree, that is true. For example, I’m still consider myself primarily a digital marketer, and what we’re trying to do via digital marketing strategies is we’re trying to figure out what works at the most granular level, and then we’re trying to expand from that. So let’s say you do a digital marketing campaign for a product or service. You’re going to iterate 10, 15, 20 times, different landing pages, different color schemes, different calls to action, et cetera, et cetera.

Some of them are gonna be utter failures. Some of them are gonna break even. Some of them are actually gonna make you turn a profit. And then some outliers will actually return you two, three, four to one. Well, you slowly discard what doesn’t work and you keep iterating, iterating, iterating. Today, you can measure everything, right? 25 years ago, we couldn’t do that. Hence the adage, I think it was Mr. Agility who said, I know that half my advertising budget is wasted, I just don’t know which half. All right, today that’s no. Yeah, that’s right. Today that’s no longer true, because you can actually get your metrics, analyze them as metrics on the fly in a live environment. Right?

But once you figure out what works on the granular level, the idea is then to scale it. And ideally you can scale what works on a small level, almost infinitely. And if you can do that, then you have a very viable business model. If you have, for example, one marketing campaign that just fires on all cylinders, and you can do an X 1000 on that marketing campaign, be it via Facebook ads, Google ads, organic marketing or whatever it may be, then you probably have a very successful business model that you can, you know, that you can expand and grow and scale very rapidly.

Is this also something that you help these startups with?

Yeah, very much so. Yeah. So they’re basically there are two chapters inside of Uniqorn. The first chapter is the incubation stage, which lasts, depending on the on the on the level of maturity of the company, between three and six months. And for those who graduate from that stage, they go into the accelerator. And the accelerator is primarily run by a platform that we call Mobcast internally, and that is specialized in digital marketing strategies and in particular in customer acquisition at scale.

Okay, that’s fascinating. So let’s switch gears here and tell me about your 118 year old startup.

The oldest startup that we have is a lot older than myself or my parents and potentially even my almost, yeah, even more than my grandmother, who long passed. It’s called Sarlat Rugby. That’s for those of you who are interested in rugby. Sarlat is the town we’re in, in the southwestern of France. That’s S-A-R-L-A-T, sarlatrugby.com for the English website. I grew up somewhat of a rugby fan, even though I was more of a soccer football fan when I was younger. But I always liked, again, the parallel between entrepreneurship and rugby.

It’s pretty strong, the grit, the determination. Grew up with Jean-Pierre Rive, one of the famous French players with the bloody face, refusing to leave the field, which would never happen again today, and just staying on and playing the 80 minutes that it took. That was ingrained in my brain as a teenager. So coming here, you cannot be in the southwest of France without knowing rugby because it’s literally a religion. It’s the number one sport by far.

So initially, I was looking for a CPA and everybody told me, you need to see Jean-Luc Monchon because he’s the president of the rugby team. So I went into Jean-Luc’s office, big rugby ball on the desk, gear behind the wall, framed jerseys, etc. and he was a former French national player. He goes, you know rugby? I said, well, I know rugby a little bit. And it started there. First year I was a small sponsor, second year I was the largest sponsor. And in early COVID, he came to me because the club had some financial troubles and others as most amateur clubs did, and asked me if I wanted to invest in a larger scale.

And I said, I need to think it over because that’s no longer a friendship request, it’s now a business decision. And that was about a year ago, March of last year. And since then, we’ve completely rebuilt the brand from scratch. We went from a thousand followers on Facebook to 80,000. We have signed broadcast agreements in the US and Canada and Latin America for the games next season. We’ve actually quintupled our merchandise revenue during COVID with no games being played, just by making them available.

So my wife created a number of derivative products, 25 derivative products with a whole team behind it. And next season we’ll have roughly 50 people because not counting the players as part of the actual team between the volunteers, between the employees full-time and part-time. It’s a whole orchestra behind the scenes that’s working on this new project, but it’s very fascinating. But as you mentioned, the vision is to take it to full pro over a five to six year period of time.

In English, as you know, we say the pioneers take the gold. When we first announced our ambitions, the arrows were flying from everywhere. And now since we’ve already put a lot of things into motion, the credibility is increasing little by little. Everybody says, okay, now we’re your friend, we were your enemy before, how can we come and join your project? So it’s very, very interesting, but as you mentioned, we call it internally, get a little chuckle when we say that, the 118 year old startup.

I would have much rather preferred starting with a clean slate, a blank piece of paper, because when you do inherit a structure with such a heritage, what I usually tell some of the old timers that are still involved in the club is that just because you’ve been doing something for a very long time, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve done the right thing. So, a lot of skeletons in the closet, a lot of cleaning up the books, you know, re-injecting capital, redoing everything. It’s been in a certain sense, a grueling process, but also a very, very strong learning experience. Once you’re done with it, you can look back and be pretty proud of yourself.

So, can you do that without a major investment in buying players to get to the pros?

You cannot. Yeah. So the coach had an interesting saying last week. He said, well, Dom, you know, what you’ve done on the commercial side and the marketing side, you’re probably two or three divisions ahead of what we are currently on the field. So that resonated with me. I said, you know, I probably agree, but first things first, you know, it may sound like a chicken and an egg story, but like my dad would say, I got news for you son, the egg comes first.

So we first needed to build the credibility of the team, the marketing of the team, because that’s what allows us to attract sponsorships. Even though we are a team that is deeply entrenched in Southwestern France, next year, 90% of our sponsorship budget will come from the outside of France, primarily the US and Canada. So we’re internationalizing by design the team because the town is too small to carry a professional ambitious, a team with professional ambitions, right?

You could never raise the amount of money that it takes to actually take that team to the pros. So you have no choice but to open yourself up, which at the same time is very much aligned with the DNA that the town is experiencing, having 9,000 people living here year round and 2.5 million tourists. So I think it’s perfectly aligned with what we’re looking to do.

Yeah, that’s awesome. That’s really exciting. Well, I will be looking out to follow your progress and to see where the rugby team goes. And I really enjoyed the conversation. So if someone is a startup entrepreneur and they are dying to find out how they could get accelerated and incubated and to get to the thrive mode, how do they reach out to you? How do you filter these opportunities? Where should they go?

The easiest way is via LinkedIn. I’m the only person by the name of Dom Einhorn last time I checked. That’s Dom, D-O-M as in Mary, Einhorn, E-I-N-H-O-R-N. Einhorn in German means unicorn, so there’s a dual play there. The website is uniqornincubator.com, uniqorn with a Q. And for those of you who are looking, including you, Steve, for a perfect excuse to come to the southwest of France, October 1, 2, and 3 of 2021, we’re hosting the Startup Super Cup. That’s startupsupercup.com.

It will basically bring together 125 startups, little shy of a thousand angel investors and institutional funds that will be pitching for a grand incubation prize, acceleration prize, in addition to category specific prizes. But it will be a, an event has been written up. You can look it up, Startup Super Cup on the internet. Matter of fact, today, just today, we had a feature in La Tribune, France’s largest weekly newspaper for business, but it will be very interesting event in terms of actually bringing, matching up startups with capital.

We have over 60 billion in assets on the management that will be present during the event. So feel free to reach out if you’re interested, either a startup, part of the media, we have a number of podcasters who are coming, covering the event. We have a dedicated section for the podcasters where they can interview investors, startups, etc.

Awesome. Well, once again, Dom Einhorn, the founder and CEO of the Uniqorn Incubator Accelerator in Salat, France. Now I’m getting better with the pronunciation, I hope. And for you, dear listeners, if you enjoyed the show, please like the YouTube video, give us a review on iTunes. We would love to have your feedback and your reviews. And stay tuned because next week we’ll have another exciting entrepreneur coming on the show. Thank you, Dom.

Thanks for having me, Steve. My pleasure.


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