Jocelyn Denis is the founder and CEO of Digitaleo, a premium mobile marketing solutions company. Prior to founding Digitaleo he served as a product manager at Ubisoft and worked in sales for Kraft. He started Digitaleo in Brittany, France, out of his attic before the smart phone revolution. Today Digitaleo is an international company with a solid foundation.
Sramana: Jocelyn, let’s go back to the beginning of your story. Tell us about you. Who are you and what kind of environment did you grow up in?
Jocelyn Denis: I come from France. I grew up in the western region of France, and there is a lot of history there. When I was a youngster, I really wanted to become an entrepreneur someday. It was always in my mind. My grandparents are farmers, and we are used to working for ourselves. I did my business studies in France. I studied marketing and sales at ESCEM, the Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Tours/Poitiers.
After that I went to England to do an internship for a year. When I returned, I started working for Kraft Food as a sales person. My sales manager showed me that in order to be a salesperson I must really know how to listen. That lesson has helped me as an entrepreneur as well.
After doing sales for a year, I decided that I wanted to become a product manager. It was more concrete and I liked marketing. I started working for Ubisoft, which is a gaming company. The founders of Ubisoft are from Brittany, so I worked there. After four years I decided that I wanted to start my own company.
In 2004 there was no Facebook or YouTube. Smart phones were not really out. The world now is totally different. I was convinced that mobile phones were the future of marketing. Nobody in France was developing SMS marketing solutions. I decided to start a company in that business. I started to call potential customers. My first customer was a car dealership that wanted a simple piece of software that would allow him to notify his customers when their cars were ready. I went to another car dealership and they asked for the very same feature.
I found a small services-based company in France and had them build me a prototype. I started with 15,000 euros. That is the only investment that I have taken until now. I always hear how Silicon Valley companies were started in a garage. I started my company in the attic because I did not have a garage.
After about six months I was ready to give up on the company, but my wife encouraged me to press ahead. She reminded me that it was my dream. After eight months the business settled down. Today I am really grateful that I stayed with it. My life had changed a lot during the time that I was starting that company. I had become a first-time father just two months after starting the company. Even though it was difficult, it was actually a good time to start a company.