Tell us your name and a little about yourself.
My name is Anthony Lamot and I’m a 31-year-old entrepreneur based in Antwerp, Belgium. Over the past few years, I’ve enjoyed a whirlwind career. My long-standing interest in what motivates and drives people originally drove me to a Master’s degree in psychology. But I soon found myself to be fascinated by IT, customer relationship management, and digital marketing. I started working with major brands as a management consultant and collaborated with various innovative players across industries. All these things converged into launching my own startup called DESelect in 2018.
What exactly does your company do?
At DESelect, we make market segmentation easy for marketers, specifically those that use Salesforce Marketing Cloud. Our product is an extension to the platform and allows marketers to make segments easily and deliver more targeted campaigns while saving precious time.
Data is the oil of our times. But we noticed that it’s how you use it that makes you or breaks you. Instead of dealing with huge amounts of inputs and struggling with difficult integrations, we empower marketers to be fully in control of their segmentation to achieve more. That’s how we aim for better results of digital marketing overall – all with the science of how to run processes, how to approach people, and how to do all of that ethically.
What were the biggest challenges you have faced and how did you overcome them?
From an entrepreneurial perspective, one of the biggest challenges was finding credibility for our startup. Our clients have really complex contexts with different infrastructures in which we have to fit. Because we collaborate with companies using Salesforce Marketing Cloud, it’s usually major corporations – and it takes a while to gain their trust. With our unique proposition and through our own network, co-founder Jonathan Van Driessen and I were able to attract attention. We have had meetings – but between that time and actually signing up our first paying user, it took about 10 months. There was extremely hard work behind this for both me and my co-founder, but we’re happy we managed to gain trust for our startup.
From a personal perspective, balancing all these realities together was a challenge. When we were starting, both I and my co-founder were still juggling our part-time consultant jobs. I was working long-distance from my girlfriend so I would only see her once every two weeks, and would need to drive several hours just to get to see her and our daughter. What got me through this was focus and persistence – it may sound like a cliché, but trust me, it works.
“Being focused” means saying “no” to 99 things out of a 100 you could be doing. As an entrepreneur, you will always need to wear multiple hats, but it’s important not to lose focus on what you want to achieve. That’s the only way to ensure that you are constantly moving forward. For instance, when we were starting, we didn’t have a website. So that was something we’d prioritize until we had the first version running. After that, we focused on our internal customer relationship management, then to have our first intern start with us, and so on. It’s a wild ride that we enjoy – but we also need to be systematic about it.
When it comes to persistence, I strongly believe in the idea behind our business. That’s what always keeps me motivated. However, there were some difficult situations and I was happy to lean on my co-founder Jonathan – we share a few traits, but one of them is that we are complete machines when it comes to our startup. We simply look at each other and immediately feel compelled to keep going.
What piece of advice do you wish someone had given you at the start of your career?
One of the pieces of advice that I actually once got – but didn’t sink in at the time – was one by a CEO I knew personally. He said: “You’re going to bang your head against the wall a lot of times. You are going to make a lot of mistakes – but that’s what you’ll learn from. And that’s exactly what’s going to make you a better entrepreneur. And there’s really no way around it.” I nodded and noted it at that time but didn’t really believe it until I found out for myself!
But if there’s a piece of advice I really wish I had gotten, it would be on the necessity to learn how to code. Coding opens a whole new world to anyone who wishes to see it. I eventually got there, but I wish it had been much sooner. At one point, I rented out my apartment in Belgium on AirBnB and went to Indonesia to take a sabbatical – just to learn how to code. Whenever I mention this to someone, they see me sipping from coconuts on the beach – but what I actually did most of the time was spending 12 hours a day in a coworking space, coding, coding, and coding.
I never worked as a programmer but coding helped me understand better the setups behind various systems and allowed me to have deep technical conversations with people. But most importantly, I wouldn’t have gotten the idea to build DESelect in the first place, had I not learned how to code. It helped me piece together some puzzles that I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to.
Who are your biggest influences and people you admire and why?
One of the people I deeply admire is Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and one of the first investors in Facebook. His dedication and drive are inspiring – and his book “Zero to One” is one of my favourites!
Then there’s Aubrey De Grey, a brilliant scientist, who originally focused on artificial intelligence but then expanded to everything related to research on improving the lives of humans, especially when it comes to staying healthy and preventing all kinds of nasty diseases. He is the Chief Science Officer at SENS, a biotechnology research foundation in Silicon Valley. Some time back, I had the chance to visit their office and it was spectacular! It’s just across Y Combinator, another organization that has inspired me. It’s a startup incubator that has helped companies like Airbnb or Dropbox.
Actually, while there are tons of podcasts and books I enjoy, the ultimate influence on me and my business was the resources of Y Combinator. Listening to people like Sam Altman, one of the main figures, inspires me to achieve more. Then there’s, of course, the founders Paul Graham and Jessica Livingston, who are incredibly smart and hardworking people. Their work shapes the world way more than most of us actually realize. And the way they think about building a business is so unique – it’s something that none of my university teachers could ever teach me.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
My girlfriend. Having her there as a calm and stable presence in my life has allowed me to focus. She made me less restless and gave me space – not just to go to sleep at night but to call home. Especially when getting started, there are some really difficult periods and having a partner who really understands is everything. And for me, having someone like that makes a total difference when trying to succeed. She and our daughter bring constant joy to my life.
And my co-founder, of course. He is one of my best friends and we met when still working as management consultants. We would take breaks to go to the gym and would talk to each other into quitting and starting our own business. And just a few years later, we are leading a thriving startup.
What do you see as your greatest success in life?
DESelect. While it’s obviously too early to completely celebrate, our business is definitely going in the right direction and I am excited to see what the future holds.
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