“To be successful you need to both be open to new ideas and stubborn.”

An interview with Chrétien Herben – ClimateLaunchpad Trainer

We had a chat with Chrétien Herben, one of our Boot Camp Trainers. He told us about his favourite training module (Market Segmentation), discussed the power working together with peers and he explains the balance between being open and stubborn.

You were involved in creating our Boot Camp manual. What parts of the training are you most excited about?

“I really like the market segmentation exercise. Not just because of the segmentation itself – which is valuable – but also the way we mix the teams. Part of the exercise is to mix the teams and get them thinking about each other’s ideas. They work together as peers and use their expertise and network to help the each other. This is crucial to ClimateLaunchpad. We connect participants with other start-ups and entrepreneurs. We put all those bright ideas in a room and they experience that together they can accomplish so much more than by themselves.”


“Participants achieve a lot of progress in a very short time.”


Compared to other programs what makes ClimateLaunchpad unique?

“Our topics are not unique. I mean, everybody looks at the value proposition, everybody looks at the competition. But there’s a couple of things that really make us stand out. Like the Founder’s Dream and the way we offer black and white exercises that get people to think. Our approach is kinda gloves off. Boot Camp is a pressure cooker. The benefit is that participants achieve a lot of progress in a very short time.

What adds to the excitement is the scale of our competition. Participating means you’re starting something new, trying to figure out how to get from green idea to successful business. At the same time you know there are people doing the same thing all over the globe with the programme running in so many countries.”

Tell us a bit more about why you like the subject of Market Segmentation. 

“There are two things I like about that Boot Camp module. One is the team dynamics that is built into the exercise. As I said, we mix the teams and put people from three different start-ups to sit together and think of possible market segments for the other teams in their group.

The other is the exercise itself. I use the experience from my own start-up when teaching this subject, which is that at some point we discovered that the market we were entering no longer existed. We’d never done this kind of market segmentation stuff, so we were way too late in figuring out if there was another market that we could focus on.

You need to address this in an early stage and assess how good your possible alternative markets are, in a structured way. That way you can respond quickly to changing circumstances. It is an extremely valuable exercise.”

What happens when participants do to this exercise?

“It will not surprise you that in 90% of the cases the outcome is the exact same market they had in mind before the exercise. But you know what, that doesn’t matter. Because doing the work means they have alternatives mapped out in case stuff changes when they go out and talk to customers. That’s their homework between Boot Camp and National Finals: talk to as many potential customers as they possibly can. If in that stage they discover that their initial market is no good, they can easily switch to the alternatives.


“I think you need to be a bit stubborn.

And open to new ideas.”


This part of the training shows how open people are to input. We have them work together and other participants get to think about potential customers for their idea. I do think you need to be a bit stubborn – because you have a goal. But at the same time you also need to be open to new ideas. You need to evaluate, assess and decide.

Sometimes people are not open to any ideas that differ from their original plan. Typically they are the ones who are not going to be the most successful. At the other end of the scale you see people who are extremely open to new ideas. That’s also problematic, because you get side tracked all the time. The trick is to find a nice balance: you have to be open to new ideas and at the same time stick to your ideas if there’s not sufficient reason to deviate.”


“In the end the customer is always right”


How do you help them in this process?
“I always tell them that in the end the customer is always right. So I challenge them: ‘Okay, so this is your idea? Do you have proof that this is what your customer wants?” Soon they will get to a point where they’ll say it’s what they think, or what they heard or what they read about somewhere. And that’s where I tell them that they are working with an assumption and that they need to validate it with actual customers. In the end it doesn’t matter what I think or what you think. The only thing that matters is what the customer thinks.”

We covered more interesting entrepreneurial subjects with Chrétien that we’ll blog about. Stay tuned.

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