“ROULEZ JEUNESSE” – Grégoire Tiberghien – Matthieu Jan – Jean Baptiste Dalle
Interview by Mark Leruste – 13.10.2007, Vilnius – Lithuania
How have you all met and explain how you came up with the concept “Roulez Jeunesse”
Matouffe: We have been together at the same business school for the past five years in Angers, France, and within our course we all went on the Erasmus programme in Oviedo, Spain (2005-2006). Last year in 2006 Greg and J.B. decided to take a transition year, a sort of gap year before taking your first steps into your professional life, and wanted to discover the world during that transition year: To make a trip of a lifetime before starting work!
Jean Baptiste: From the beginning it has been a dream. My cousin inspired me; he also went on a bike world tour. I saw a few of his pictures and decided there and then that I needed to live this experience at least once in my life time! We had been talking of this bike world tour for almost five years. So all we needed to do was to find a good moment to do it, and good people to do it with.
Greg: At first we wanted to do it before our last year at l’ESSCA, and thus would have been a transition between our fourth and final year at university, unfortunately It was too complicated to organize and so, we decided in December during our Erasmus programme to do it after our final year.
Please explain the concept of the project.
Jean Baptiste: It started off with a dream, to do a world bike tour during an entire year, but we didn’t just want to be simple tourists. We wanted to do something else, find a project that would benefit us not only on a personal level but on a professional level too. There were three of us, and we just needed an idea. We read a very good French book called ’80 hommes pour changer le monde’ (80 men to change the world) written by one of the ESSCA students and HEC students, they went around the world, not by bike, but interviewed companies on their views and actions on renewable energies and positive development for the environment. The book was wonderful and really inspired us. So from there we decided that a project of this type had to be done. That’s how we got the idea: to meet and interview a maximum of French, young and dynamic entrepreneur around the world to inspire us and the youth of ours, and future generation.
How are you getting in contact and finding these French entrepreneurs around the world?
Matthieu: We’ve already contacted 25 – 30 French entrepreneurs all over the world! Thanks to the French Economic Services though the French Embassies in each country, through them we are gaining a lot of contacts especially French people who are specialised in networking with French companies all over the world.
Jean Baptiste: We’ve also got contacts through our families (ex: my cousin is in Dubai), and after spending five years in an international school and going on the Erasmus programme, we now have many friends scattered around the world that have helped us out, every little helps!
When did you leave?
Jean Baptiste: We started our world bike tour 10 days ago from Paris, on the 1st of October 2007, and we are planning to get back under the Eiffel tower on the 1st 0tcober 2008.
Can you tell us a little more about what you are going to be doing?
Jean Baptiste: We are fascinated and passionate by the idea of creating companies; our goal and ambition is to one day create our own company, actually Matthieu is specialised in finance, Greg is focusing on marketing and tourism and I’m more oriented towards distribution, logistics and ‘development durable’ (positive environment development). So we needed to meet the young, ambitious and dynamic French individuals who created their own company abroad, to inspire the masses. This also enables us to understand, feel and see the culture of each country we pass through and to get an insight from each entrepreneur, to talk about their experience, to find out more about what is good, what is easy, to find what is positive about each country and their experiences on starting their companies. For example, what is good to do in Thailand would be very different from India or China or
Brazil. Actually, in the last 10 days we have already met 6 young entrepreneurs
Greg: And so far it has been extremely interesting, because they all have such a different profile. In Helsinki we met, someone involved with French gastronomy, his company is called ‘Chef à domicile’, we also met someone who is involved in importing very good French wines in his restaurants. In Tallinn we met someone who created an English speaking magazine that focuses on the Baltic night life! It explains and evaluates all the places we needed to go for a good night out, nightclub, strip clubs… among other venues! In Vilnius we met a French guy who bought a older sovietic kolkhoze and he is going to make a huge hostel based in unique natural surroundings. All these interviews have already brought us not only a vast range of information but have also affirmed us that this project is going to be a great success! But at the end of the day, the aim is to touch the young people in France about opportunities to become a thriving entrepreneur
Matthieu: Moreover, give examples of what we’ve seen all over the world, come back to France and say to young people, you can do it! Look he’s done it, he’s done it! Why not you?
You are going to inspire to the new generation of students coming out and graduating.
Greg: We are not just doing this world bike tour for us, we are very keen to do it, I think we are aware of it, but we are very keen to pass on this knowledge, we want to share our experience of what we are going to see and that’s why we send twice a month a news letter to everybody, to keep everyone informed of our travels and experiences. If you want to receive our news letter, feel free to add yourself on our website www.roulezjeunesse.org.
Jean Baptiste: Except if you live in China! Since In china our website is already censored! (lol)
What were the biggest obstacles that you were faced with during your preparation and how did you overcome them?
Greg: First of all, we had to get the funds to organize such an important project, all in all we calculated a budget, including our required materiel, travel expenses, living cost and so on, came up to 45,000 Euros in total for the three of us. We didn’t have the money to do it being students and all, so we had to find some sort of sponsorship. It was very difficult to convince sponsors that they had a strong commercial reason to get involved in our project! To do a world bike tour is not exceptional or original, many people have done it before.
Jean Baptiste: It was difficult since the three of us were still studying or doing our internship. Greg was in Paris, Matthieu in Geneve and I was in Hong Kong. So the project had to be put on hold for 6 months. We didn’t have a lot of time to take care of everything since our companies were taking most of our time. If we hadn’t been studying or working, we would have done it in less time.
Greg: To meet entrepreneurs was difficult, there is a lot of networking involved in every country we have been into but I think the main problem was finding the first contacts that then lead us to their realm of contacts.
What differentiates your project to all the other different projects?
Greg It’s all about the ground breaking idea to meet French entrepreneurs, it’s a very interesting subject. There is no official political or economic study about it. There is only one official study about French entrepreneurs around the world.
Matthieu: The estimated total number of French people abroad is 2 million with only 200 thousand French entrepreneurs scattered around the globe.
What made you keep going and think it’s going to happen?
Matthieu: As JB said, it’s a dream. Even if you are tired, your objective is to do it. I was telling to everyone that I was going to do a world bike tour instead of looking for a job, so we had to do it and couldn’t back out of it. You can’t go back, it’s impossible. During one year we told everyone that we were going to do our ‘fucking world bike tour’ so you can’t go back on your steps and not do it. So you have your target, you have to do a lot of things to prepare for it but If you are not ready, it’s not a very big problem. You have your bicycle, you have your friends and you just go!
Jean Baptiste: A big step in our project was once we bought our plane tickets, we knew we couldn’t go back and that’s when we realised we were really going to do it!
So why on a bicycle?
Matthieu: Because it’s a very simple way of travelling and most of all it’s the most Ecologic way to cross the globe. There is not a lot of logistical problems with a bicycle; you don’t have to follow a strict schedule. If we want to wake up at 12 o’clock or 7 o’clock in the morning we can, we are free and have the flexibility to do it.
Jean Baptiste: Also it’s very practical in terms of appreciating the view around us, since the bicycle doesn’t go too fast and enables us to see the countries we go through and also, biking is faster than walking.
Greg: It’s easy to stop at anytime and it’s also a good way of communicating! People have been extremely positive and supportive about our project, and every country we’ve been in, people have been welcoming us with open arms! They’re interested in our project, as we are from France, young, and on bikes! They find it charming.
So who has been the biggest contributor so far?
Matthieu: Decathlon a French sports company and we are making a test mission for them; testing their bicycles. We make a weekly report for them and assess the quality of their bikes and their performances, let them know what is good or bad about them. They are our biggest sponsor. They’ve also provided us with all our annual material for camping, clothes, bicycles equipment, etc.
Greg: We also have other interesting sponsors involved in our project. For instance, we have ‘la caisse des francais de l’etranger’. It is a French company, who are doing the ‘protection social’ for the French who are living abroad, so we’re doing a study for them. We will ask all the French people we are going to meet what type of ‘protection social’ they have, and if they know about ‘la caisse des francais de l’etranger”, what they need? This sponsor made a significant financial contribution to our project. Ysance, an informatic consulting group help us.
Jean Baptiste: Another young French entrepreneur participating a lot in our project is VIALINFO, a web master company. They are working a lot on our website, doing a great job and are working tremendously hard as it involves a lot of work. I don’t think he realised when he agreed at the beginning how big the project was going to be and what he was getting involved in! Nevertheless he found a way to use our association to present all his skills through our website to his clients, he found a commercial reason in the end!. Finding commercial reasons for all these sponsors was a key thing to get them on board.
How are you keeping in touch with your friends and families?
Matthieu: We have a managed to get Orange, a French telecom company to sponsor us through their new concept: Pikeo. They issued us with a custom made mobile phone where we can send and receive data files such as: sms, mms and free internet access during all year round. The system of contract with them is to promote their new website www.pikeo.com. It’s a special website where you can take photos with your mobile phone and they will instantly be on your Pikeo website, all over the world in less than a minute. This has really been helpful so far, not only to keep track of the rugby results under our tents! (lol) But also to interact and stay connected with our friends and family.
Jean Baptiste: We also have a very good website which present our project www.roulezjeunesse.org and a blog where we put all the news, the trip and our interview with the entrepreneur http://roulezjeunesse.unblog.fr .
Intercom: You’ve been travelling for 10 days now, Matthieu left a knee about how you are feeling right now, just after 10 days? What have been your impressions so far, I knew that you and Matthew left a knee back in Helsinki and you are going to have to keep it on a low down for 7 days. What are your impressions on the project right now?
After ten days of travelling, Matthieu leaving a knee back in Talinn, how are you feeling right now ?
Greg: It was very difficult to leave, we didn’t feel ready to go, and on the 1st October when we finally got to the planned departure date, we didn’t feel ready to leave, even hesitated to postpone do a later date! But we just said we have to go, never mind the lack of preparation. We had a goal, we had to go. So we just left
Jean Baptiste: So we said goodbye to all our families and friends and sponsors, girlfriends, they all came along to our big departure!
Greg: It was difficult to leave and now we are very excited as it’s the beginning of the project. We are not totally broken into yet! Still fresh!
Jean Baptiste: We are not professional cyclists or big sportsmen! That’s why Mathieu’s knee broke down! We are very happy to be in Vilnius now to see what we have done. We have already got a lot of memories form Helsinki, Tallinn,
Riga and we can see that the road will be very long and difficult during our tour but will be without a doubt incredible!
Matthieu: Right now we are aware that it’s the easiest moment of our world bike tour, in Eastern Europe, at least I think. The infrastructure here is very developed and it’s easy to communicate. I don’t think it will be the same in India, Asia or South America. We have to make the most out of these two months because right now we are not prepared to ride 100km a day.
So what’s the big itinerary then?
Greg: We left from Paris, went to Brussels, then went towards Eastern Europe where we began in Helsinki and we came down to the Baltic States going through Estonia, Latvia and today we’re in Vilnius. After we’ll go to Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Croatia, Albania, Montenegro and Greece, we plan to be in Athens on the 1st of December. That’s our first target in 1 month in a half.
Jean Baptiste; In 2 months we’ll have covered 3500 km. That’s what we aim for but it may be less as we have to be realistic. We are far from being any superheroes or Amstrong on the tour of the world!
Greg: We don’t take drugs…lol
Jean Baptiste; We don’t take drugs! We take bikes!!
Greg: After Athens we’ll be going to Middle East, we are going to Bahrain, Quatar, Dubai,…
Jean Baptiste: After that we are taking a plane to Kathmandu, Nepal. We’ll cross the mountains and that will be a huge challenge. Then we will arrive in India and go to New Delhi and Bombay, to Goa, to the Silicon Valley of India and return to Bombay. After that we will catch a plane to Vientiane, the capital of Laos. We will go down to Thailand, to the capital Bangkok, to Cambodia, to Phnom Penh, we will go up to Vietnam, to Hanoi, to China until Hong Kong. Then we will take the plane again to Melbourne in Australia, along with a little cameo in Sydney.
Matthieu: Then we will do New Zealand and fly to San Diego in Chile. It will be a huge trip, our biggest trip, in South America, 4 months – Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. Our last plane will be from Quito to Madrid and we are going to come back to the roots in Oviedo! And then off to Paris to finalise the project!.
What are you expecting after this projet – what are you going to be doing after this?
Jean Baptiste: Create our own company could be wonderful!
Matthieu: We’re thinking of taking four months after our world bike tour to make restitutions of our experience during one year. We have fixed 4 months before getting a job and starting our professional life, or before starting a masters degree in a business school. Now all of us will have a valuable experience, going around the world, getting tips from the top entrepreneurs around the world. We can create our own company, or work in a major company abroad or in France!
What do you think is going to be the hardest thing in the next 12 months, apart from the lack of camembert and saucisson?
Matthieu: We are very open to learn a lot about what we are going to see, so I am prepared to everything I’m going to find in each place. I am very open, I have an open state of mind, spirit, eyes and brain and ears. So let’s go!
Jean Baptiste: The only fear we might have had is we don’t know what will happen. Such as catching big diseases, injuries, or to bee kidnapped, or to lose our bicycles! These are the only big fears! But we are three very good friends, we are united and after this year I think we are going to be not only good friends, but super good friends…
Matthieu: Like gay! (lol)
Jean Baptiste: Or not! But it’s true we are very open to take everything in! Greg: I am sure there will be a very good experience, but there may be some difficult times during the next 365 days, we will be sleeping together, eating together, all the time together! So maybe we’ll get on each other nerves! Also during our tour we won’t have the luxury that we are normally accustomed to, like there won’t be a roof over our head or we won’t be able to have a shower for a long time, our clothes will be dirty, lack of food and so on.
Jean Baptiste: My only regret is not having enough time to prepare. I am sure this experience will be a huge one! Beyond our expectations! But I’m also sure there will be many things we could have done. We didn’t have time to prepare for the media for example or other aspects crucial to covering our project.
Your message to give to young entrepreneurs, graduates or young students who wish to take on these sorts of adventures, what would be the key message you would like to tell them?
Greg: The most difficult part was to leave, we didn’t know if we were ready, of course we had some time to prepare during 1 year but you always feel like you could do more, so you just have to go and try to manage it on your own and go for it! Throw yourself in the deep end!
Jean Baptiste: Go and see what is happening and being done all over the world, that’s what’s interesting, meet people and be open-minded! We’re young and we have the capacity not to be blocked but open, use our muscles and take the road!
Matthieu: Like a big company said one day, Just do it, don’t be afraid and oh yeah, ‘nothing is impossible’.
Good luck and I’ll see in you
Oviedo in 12months time! And see if you are still motivated.