10 questions for Fanhattan CEO Gilles BianRosa

August 16, 2013: 10:00 AM ET

Fanhattan CEO Gilles BianRosa on the best advice he's received, and his own best advice for young entrepreneurs.

Gilles BianRosa

Gilles BianRosa

Fortune's annual Brainstorm Tech conference brings together the best and brightest minds in tech innovation. Fortune periodically turns the spotlight on a different conference attendee to offer his or her own personal insight into business, tech, and entrepreneurship. We asked Fanhattan CEO Gilles BianRosa to answer 10 questions about life outside of work, the best advice he ever received, and industry tips for young entrepreneurs. His responses follow.

1. What is the best advice you ever received?

"When you're going through hell, keep going." Not exactly advice I received (coming from Winston Churchill), but totally true.

2. What was the last book you read?

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder -- a book about screenwriting in Hollywood. Might seem like an odd choice, but I was trying to figure out how the best minds in Hollywood craft stories. So much of what I do as an entrepreneur requires great storytelling -- from rallying a team to building partnerships to securing investors.

3. What would you say to a group of young people looking to enter the tough job market?

Follow your passion even if it looks like you're all over the place. Go for it even if it doesn't make sense now. It will later.

4. What was your biggest missed opportunity?

Earlier in my career, I didn't keep going when I entered a patch of hell. I gave up too early and folded my first company over a lawsuit by a much larger company. In France a lawsuit is perceived in a different way ... not sure how to explain it, but it's seen more as a personal attack. Today I know it was actually a sign that I was on the right track and I should have kept going.

5. What do you do for fun?

Kite surfing. I get totally absorbed when I'm on the water. It requires so much attention that you can't think about work. It's one of the few sports that does that. It's intense.

6. What business or technology person do you admire most? Why?

I admired Steve Jobs since 1984 when I bought an Apple II, long before a Mac was cool. More recently, I've looked up to Jeff Bezos as an example of a founder who stayed at the helm of his company. Founders keep the business doing crazy things and making bold pivots rather than just dialing up what they already do well.

7. What other companies do you admire? Why?

Sonos stands out for me. Here's a company that was told they were crazy to enter a world saturated with Apple iPods (AAPL) and Bose speakers. It seemed impossible to crack into that business and succeed -- yet they did. I'm in admiration of the execution.

8. What do you do to live a balanced life?

I don't live a balanced life. My wife and I work a lot, which isn't very French. Here we work hard and play hard. There are a lot of sacrifices that are real, but I have a balanced life from a mindset standpoint, which at the end of the day is probably more important.

9. Is business school necessary for entrepreneurs?

It's interesting ... The process helps, but not necessarily the content. So much of what you learn goes against the grain of entrepreneurship. But it's a fertile environment for ideas and you meet other people who are looking to disrupt the status quo. For me it was like a retreat from corporate life, which tends to grind you into "turning dials" as opposed to building new ones altogether.

10. What would you do if you weren't working at your current job?

Figuring out a way to import more of the French lifestyle into the U.S. Having lived here for 13 years, I can still see a lot of white space for products, services, experiences that, tailored correctly, would make a killing in the US.

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About This Author
Adam Lashinsky
Adam Lashinsky
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune

Adam Lashinsky is a San Francisco-based editor-at-large for FORTUNE, covering Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Lashinsky joined FORTUNE in 2001, after two years as a contributing columnist. Prior to joining FORTUNE, Lashinsky covered Silicon Valley for TheStreet.com and The San Jose Mercury News. A Chicago native, Lashinsky holds a B.A. in history and political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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