This week that journey took a tragic and unexpected turn with the passing of my friend, confidante and business partner Germain Chastel. In the days since the news, I’ve reflected on our reasons for taking big risks and starting the company, and the lessons we learned as we grew our vision into reality.
Germain and I met as consultants at McKinsey & Company in 2015.
We were working on a project for Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, my first at McKinsey, and while the work was intense with lots of late nights, it was also exciting and rewarding. I remember being inspired by Germain’s tremendous energy. He brought out the best in me and from the very beginning taught me valuable lessons about business.
We bonded over shared history and shared experiences. We had both lived in Madrid and Paris and Boston. We shared an entrepreneurial spirit, surrounded ourselves with like-minded people and our personalities matched, both being extroverted and athletic.
From the very start, there was mutual admiration. I was impressed by his presence with clients, his way of envisioning where we had to go in projects and his ability to convince people to take that path with him. I think he admired my patience the most and my ability to remain unflappable no matter the situation. We complemented each other.
It’s the success of our relationship that has helped NewtonX realize it’s true potential. The vision we had for this company was formed through hard work and big ideas. We had an unwavering focus on solving a systemic pain point our clients faced on a regular basis in accessing high-quality, specialized expert knowledge. But we didn’t want to simply fix things; we wanted to revolutionize and modernize a dated industry by leveraging AI and automation to enable scale and speed.
We had a humble start: Germain and I in a WeWork office working past midnight through tough projects until we grew our team to five and then 10.
NewtonX is now 75 employees strong and we’re doing exactly what we set out to do. We are the leading AI-powered B2B research platform today because of what we built together.
Germain was there when I celebrated my birthday a few weeks ago. It was an unforgettable weekend and one that made me appreciate the person who had gone from a McKinsey colleague to business partner, friend and eventually family. I appreciated the person he had become throughout the challenges of a global pandemic – an empathetic and dynamic leader who understood what it takes to care for your colleagues and employees. We put together an incredible leadership team and created a company where employees felt challenged, valued and invested in the future.
To be a successful entrepreneur requires hard work, humility, patience and resilience.
I don’t think I fully appreciated the latter until this week. Resilience is the ability to move forward through hardship. It is the understanding that strength comes from suffering and wisdom from the painful moments in life. It is being adaptable and optimistic for the future. An awful thing happened this week, but I am resilient and so is NewtonX. Our team will work hard to realize the vision Germain and I set in progress together many years ago and we will make sure his legacy lives on.