Taïg Khris is a challenger and loves to create new projects and follows his dreams while pushing his limits. From becoming a pro skater, his dream as a little kid, winning the X-Games, jumping from the Eiffel Tower, and breaking world records. To starting from zero in the telecommunications industry and becoming a tech CEO with his multimillion-dollar company ONOFF. In our conversation, Taïg discusses how passion and enthusiasm can unlock situations and open doors, making the impossible possible. He also shares priceless advice on managing stress before an important event, the keys to a good pitch, and his 8 steps formula to audit the potential success of an idea. So inspiring!
Taïg Khris: There is this quote from Nelson Mandela that I love that says. “I never lose. I either win or learn.“ The second quote is “They did not know it was impossible so they did it“. This one looks like my adventure building my company ONOFF because I had no idea how difficult it was to create what I created. Legally in the US, it is possible to make this kind of product but outside the USA, it is almost impossible due to telecoms regulations. This is also why all the people in this industry never really got into it.
“Fall down seven times, stand up eight” is a Japanese proverb that speaks to me on a personal level because I got 7 surgeries. It is quite simple and summarizes the situation very well, that even when you fall, even if you are broken, you have to get up and keep going.
There is a quote that I wrote from my hospital bed. “When you’re in the dark, at the bottom of the chasm, find your dream and follow it blindly because it will bring you back to the light.” We all have ups and downs, and during difficult times, we can easily feel depressed and the only way not to fall is to find new dreams and hold on to them.
I often get asked by the youth generation what are the keys to success and my answer is simple. There is no secret. You just have to accept to follow the long road to get there. It is about perseverance, daily consistency, and hard work over the years that little by little will take you there. As an athlete, I spent 20 years to practice my craft before making a name for myself and make a living out of it. Even when you become successful, you have to keep working like crazy to stay ahead of your competition and this applies to every industry.
Behind every success, there is unseen hard work, sacrifice, and persistence.
I am someone who likes challenges and who needs to create projects. Because I like to step out of my comfort zone and go into very different elements. People often tend to stay in their comfort zone and what they are known for.
I am not only an athlete but rather someone who has a large bucket list of dreams and who does everything to make them come true. New challenges are like new pages I like to turn. They don’t have to be bigger every time. I enjoy the idea of starting from the bottom in a new industry and proving to myself but also to others that I can do it. On top of that, it’s so rewarding to meet people from other industries.
Money is important because it brings comfort to you and your family but this is not what drives me. Same for fame, it doesn’t excite me. However, come up with a new idea, fight to build it and make it happen, and finally seeing the results. This is something very rewarding and exciting.
Taïg Khris: Everyone has ideas indeed. Sometimes, unfortunately, people may have bad ideas. And I’ve made this mistake quite a few times too. I wrote a sort of 8-point magic formula that sums up the idea and structures it a bit.
Like I mentioned earlier, people tend to stay in their comfort zone because they are afraid to try something or perhaps have no experience. For instance, someone who used to work in a restaurant will try to get into the restaurant business because he thinks he will get less chance of going wrong. But because of that, they sometimes go into industries that have much less potential than others. And the problem is, the number of hours per day and the number of years remains the same.
So I prefer to spend two years learning a new job, but in an industry with much bigger potential. For example, I chose telecoms over extreme sports because it had more potential. Started from zero, it was a big pivot, I learned so much, it was hard. But five years later, I built a company with over 60 people today and generates several millions of Euros in revenue.
Based on this, the advice I can give is if you have an idea, try to fit it into those 8 points below:
One of my greatest qualities is to be very resourceful. I have a lot of imagination to find solutions to problems. I have always learned on my own and have been keen to increase my knowledge. Constantly asking people I met questions about their skills. On top of that, being passionate about pretty much everything is also a blessing. For example, I can get excited about making a business plan.
I am enthusiastic and I share my passion with people and bring them into my universe. That helps me to get things that are usually quite impossible to obtain.
I became an expert in pitching ideas yes! [laughs] Because I was in a situation where I had to find 250,000 Euros every month to be able to continue developing my company and paying my employees. Every single month, I had to raise money or it was over. I would summarize this in 3 points:
Honesty: Don’t lie and truly believe in your product. You have to be honest because if you start lying, people will see it and it will backfire on you. Always be honest about the situation or you will lose people’s trust.
Passion: You have to be really passionate, confident, and in love with your product. There is what you do say, but most importantly how they do feel and receive your message. Enthusiasm is contagious.
Adaptability: You have to get to understand the interlocutors you have in front of you. Adapt to each one of them. I made thousands of pitches. And I realized that some people focus on numbers. Others will focus on the team or the product for instance. Besides, it is important to know how much time you have for the pitch and adapts your speech accordingly.
I remember being at a big convention. A big telecom operator CEO was on stage and when he left the stage with his bodyguards. I managed to get in front of him. Shook his hand, and asked him if I could ask him a question. His answer was: “You have 10 seconds.” They took my contact info and I was able to meet with him.
When I was younger, I was a professional magician. The main skill of a magician is to be an expert at managing people’s attention and having excellent hand dexterity. I learned to make my business pitches and do my app demos, the way I was doing magic tricks. If something goes wrong, the show must go on, and you need to bring attention to something else. [laughs]
Most of the time, when people ask questions, I asked those questions myself before and found an answer, or at least an explanation. Sometimes I have a good answer, sometimes, it is not. But again, this is important to stay honest, and I never try to argue just to be right. An investor can have a good point and I will always do my best to find a solution to this potential pointed problem.
Sometimes, you are facing people who clearly don’t want to help you or unlock a situation and instead of telling you the truth, they hide behind a lot of technical reasons why it is not possible. Many times in my life, I experienced refusals, whether it was with an investor or when I planned my event at the Eiffel Tower.
My technique is to list all the objections and concerns based on facts. Then, find, by ingenious mechanisms, solutions to each one of them. Thus, I break all their objections, always with a smile, and that drives them crazy! [laughs]
This lets you with 2 potential scenarios. First, they admit they don’t want to do it. The second option, they don’t want to lose face and decide to go for it. Knock on wood, I have only experienced the second scenario so far.
Taïg Khris: Confidence is a very special thing. We start in this life and we do not know if we are capable to do anything. So, we try things, we miss them. And the more we miss them, the less we feel confident and it can become like a bad circle. However, there are those moments we call “luck”. Something good happens and we start to have a little more confidence in ourselves. People have different levels of self-confidence depending on their backgrounds and experiences.
When I was younger, I wasn’t confident at all. I grew up in the shadow of my very successful brother. And every time I was trying something, he was better than me and it was demoralizing for me. That is how I started vert rollerskating on my own and persisted until I signed up for a tournament when I was sixteen. This tournament was the opportunity to prove myself I was able to finally achieve something.
Unfortunately, I put too much pressure on myself, I had to be in the top 10 to reach the finals and I finished 11th! To me, this verdict came as a conclusion I wasn’t good enough and it was mentally hard to accept.
I was referring to luck earlier and here is an example. The day of the finals arrive, and one of the competitors break his legs literally five minutes before the championship’s finals. Since I was 11th, they called me to replace this unfortunate competitor. I had only a few minutes to get ready and didn’t have time to overthink or doubting myself. I finished second and suddenly, it psychologically heals me and breaks my negative thoughts.
This helped me to understand what is confidence and how it works. To me, I sincerely believe anyone can achieve anything. Although some people are naturally more talented or gifted than others, we all can reach a professional level in any industry. You can become a great singer, a great actor, a great writer, or a great businessman.
You can literally do anything in this life. The big difference is the dedication, the self-awareness, commitment, and the number of years of hard work you are willing to do to take you there. Once we understand this, we realize the concept of confidence doesn’t really exist. We are all capable, and I m not more capable or more confident than others. For instance, when I was performing better than others at rollerskating, it is just because I practiced it maybe 2,000 times when my competitors did it 100 times.
Stress is another factor that isn’t directly related to self-confidence but can affect your road to success and your results on important moments or specific days. To me, confidence is more about trusting your choices and your long-term vision. However, you might be in situations where you have to perform, whether it’s an important speech or a competition for an athlete and you have to overcome stress.
Your brain is like a machine and, in moments of intense and extreme stress, it is normal that it is paralyzed and parasitized by aspects of external fears. I realized that the moment you don’t focus your brain on something, it starts to play a game with your mind, and negative thoughts show up.
My technique is to focus on the concrete things you have to do and repeat those words to yourself. Those words become an armor that protects you from negative thoughts and keeps your focus. I repeat those procedures to myself. It keeps me away from distractions and fears. Besides, I like to add positive words for my brain to remember like “you can do it”, “it is gonna work!”, etc.
It is pushing the limits of something or even pushing your own limits, and not being afraid of dreaming bigger. For instance, an athlete who worked hard and becomes a world champion is a success. But so is someone who started to run with the goal to participate in a marathon and is able to cross the finish line. He deserves to share his success and accomplishment as well.
Probably being able to succeed as a pro skater and become world champion because it was my dream as a kid and my first real accomplishment in life. I think it’s important to make those childhood dreams come true. Looking back, there are some cool goals I am happy I was able to achieve, like winning the X-Games, jumping from the Eiffel Tower.
Starting from the bottom in the telecoms, a totally new industry to me, and now to be a member of France Digitale, among the top 10 tech CEOs in France brings me a lot of satisfaction. I am proud to represent our country, to be received by the French president, and to defend French innovation internationally.
All this is good for memories and to boost ego! [smiles]. But honestly, I feel enormously proud when I am able to inspire young people, give them confidence, give them advice on rollerskating, entrepreneurship, etc.
I am an extremist in everything I do. I am a relentlessly hard worker. That means, every time I am working on a new project, I am fully committed and I work 19 hours a day on it. That gives a significant advantage over your competitors. Unfortunately, that doesn’t leave too much room for a life/work balance but that is also what allowed me to go that far in all my adventures.
First, because it fascinates me and it obsesses me. Like I said earlier, when I work on something, I think about it all the time, and whenever I have a question I call someone with more skills, get answers, and learn from it. etc. Over the years, I realized that the brain is really a muscle. The more you constantly train it to make connections, the faster it makes connections and it spreads.
Being self-taught was very beneficial for me as well because I found my own way. And the moment I was able to raise money for my company, I first hired experts and I learned so much from them. They were my teachers and I enjoyed asking them questions all day long and also challenging them and pushing their limits.
It is to offer the best user experience and reached millions of happy users. I have plenty of new dreams and I am even already working on some of them, but it’s a surprise, I can’t tell you today. [laughs]
I really like Frédéric Mazzella, founder of Blablacar and one of my investors. Philippe Bourguignon, a talented businessman, who was the CEO of Euro Disney and the chairman of Club Med. I love Olivier Giroud but you already talked to him. [Conversation here] Gregory Van Der Wiel is a great guy too!
You should interview Alexandre Allard, he is a genius and a good friend of mine. He sold his first company for $500M back in 1994 and he is currently developing a real estate and cultural project in Brazil that is going to revolutionize the customer experience.