At 32 years old, the Frenchwoman living in Silicon Valley has made Front enter the very restricted circle of unicorns after raising $65 million in funds, bringing the valuation of the start-up she co-founded to $1.7 billion. Meet an entrepreneur who sees far ahead, without losing sight of the triptych well-being at work, family and happiness.

HEC Stories: There are 1360 unicorns in the world, only 10 are founded by women. You are one of them, what does that mean to you?

Mathilde Collin: It doesn’t change anything for me. I am someone who thinks about the future, not the past. My temperament is to say to myself, « this is where we are today but what are we going to do tomorrow »? For the past 9 years {Front was founded in 2013, Editor’s note}, I’ve kept my feet on the ground. I know I’ve been very lucky. A lot of people have helped me, my co-founder is amazing and the market is growing. My team and I have done a great job – we could have celebrated more internally – and that’s humbling. This is one of Front’s values and we live it every day. Five years ago, my co-founder had cancer from which he has now fully recovered. I have lived this sentence a lot: « it’s just a job ». My identity is not only to be the CEO of Front. I have other interests besides technology. I have a family. I like to give my time and money to others who have been less fortunate than me {Mathilde Collin has invested in a hundred or so sofware startups in Paris and London in particular; she is also on the board of Welcome To The Jungle}.

HEC Stories: You graduated from HEC Entrepreneurs, what do you keep from these years of study?

M.C.: Even before the campus, it started in the pre-prep program where I learned to work and think about a lot of subjects at the same time. But I’m convinced that preparatory school is not adapted to all profiles. Not everyone has the capacity to ingest so much information at the same time and that’s okay! I was strong in school and I worked hard knowing that I could do it. Prepa taught me how to work hard and how to handle tons of subjects at once. Then, at HEC Entrepreneurs, I learned that basically you can only learn by doing, about the jobs that interested me. Meeting entrepreneurs and being inspired by them was what helped me. During my gap year, I worked for eight months in the finance department of Bouygues and then at Shopcade with Nathalie Gaveau, in London. There, I had the feeling that it was as much fun as a vacation. The team was nice, we had a lot of autonomy and everything to do. It’s important to have a job where you’re happy to go, I couldn’t have said that at Bouygues.

HEC Stories: Do you have any mentors?

M.C.: Not one in particular. I learned a lot of things from a lot of people. At HEC, I liked the diversity of the professors, each with his own set of experiences. At my time, the dean was Bernard Ramanantsoa, I was always very impressed by him and his calmness. The director of HEC Entrepreneurs was Robert Papin, he drove me a lot.

HEC Stories : Why did you choose Silicon Valley?

M.C.: The situation today is very different from what it was 9 years ago. When I created Front, a collaborative email tool, the ability of people to trust us was less in Europe than it was in the US. Nine years ago, the big companies there were small, whereas in France, they were already very big 50 years ago. There, we were able to move faster to sell the product. You have to know that I am very competitive. I play a lot of sports, I like to win, not lose. So I thought that Front would go faster by moving to the United States because we would be closer to our customers. I really liked the American enthusiasm, which also has its limits of course. When you create a company, you get a lot of « no’s ». So in this world where there is a lot of rejection, being surrounded by positive people made me happier.

HEC Stories: How important is your role as a mother?

M.C.: I have a 2-year-old daughter and I will have another child at the end of the year. It puts time in perspective.  With children, you realize much more what you lose when time flies. I pick up my daughter from daycare every day at 5pm. It’s part of my balance. I wouldn’t be a good CEO if I were frustrated. But this way I am a happy woman. I understand that Front is a long day so I evaluate my priorities.

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