$80mil Loss, With A Thousand Lessons // Christophe Garnier, Co-Founder of Upflex, Totsy + Spark Labs

The Immigrant’s American Dream

I met Christophe when I first moved to New York.

I was drawn in by his infectious energy, French charm, and distinct sense of humor.

He was incredibly impressive. He would light up the room he walked into. He had started multiple companies and our friendship quickly grew over chats about life in America & the world of entrepreneurship.

An $80mil Story, With A Thousand Lessons

One evening, after an epic meandering night out, we landed in Koreatown to chow down on smoking plates of meat & bibimbap.

It was the last meal we would have for some time, because it was just a few days before the birth of his daughter.

I asked Christophe about regrets he had from the past…and with a hesitant stare, he started to share a story:

“I had a call from the CFO of Groupon. They made an $80mil offer to acquire our company, Totsy. It would have been a 10X return for our investors and it was going to be a life-changing moment for me”…

Getting Stock-Blocked

“But after some consideration, my board blocked the deal, we had to say no!…A short while after, we got crushed by Zulily and had to sell for much less. I made nothing from the sale.”

It was the sort of honest conversation you could only have with real friends.

From the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. 

A range of emotions that many of us will never have to experience. 

And yet, it was a familiar outcome that 90% of founders face when starting a company. Failure. And an outcome you didn’t imagine when you were convincing the whole world that what you had dedicated your life to was now in the pan.

It was the type of story that hadn’t been perfectly crafted by a PR machine or used as the tee-up to the inevitable “but look at me now!”

It was just plain, honest, truth.

We all felt a pit in our stomach. But he was thankful for the experience, and looking at the next chapter of his life, thinking about how different things could have been. 

The Story Of The Silent 90%

In this episode, we revisit that story in detail to share the stark reality of entrepreneurship to go beyond the “20-year-old drops out of college to become a billionaire” narrative we’ve been sold for the last 10yrs. 

This is something many of us will have to deal with.

Falling on your face. Losing your identity. Being embarrassed. Thinking what could have been. And struggling mentally to move on. 

Christophe shows what it takes to bounce back and move on to a new adventure.

We also discuss why being a parent can make you a better entrepreneur and what his new company, UpFlex, is focused on.

Five Things To Listen Out For:

(1) Ups and Downs of entrepreneurship – the true reality for many entrepreneurs who start companies

(2) $80mil acquisition offer – what really happened when he had to reject this offer and what you can learn from his experience

(3) Being a parent and a founder – how to find your own balance and why Christophe says it makes him a better entrepreneur

(4) Leaving Your Company – when and why you might ever leave the company you started

(5) Upflex – his new company and why there’s a need for “Workplace-as-a-Service”


Clip Highlights

Rebounding From A Loss

Feeling The Ups and Downs

Becoming A Parent Can Make You A Better Entrepreneur

When An Acquisition Offer Doesn’t Work Out


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Steve Schlafman, Partner at Primary // Personal + Professional Growth