Member Profile: Florent Breton

Florent Breton co-founded Acquire, a one-page ecommerce platform, in April 2020, just as pandemic-related shutdowns took hold around the world. Florent and his business partner Max Pruvost became CANOPY members a few months later, in large part because of the community members and staff they met here, and because they loved Jackson Square’s natural-light-filled spaces. Here, Florent shares some of his learnings over his career, and what it takes to be an entrepreneur managing a remote team in the current business climate.

Why did you decide to join CANOPY, especially when San Francisco was on lockdown and social distancing was a requirement?

We didn’t know how long the situation would last, but we wanted to find a flexible coworking space rather than an office where my co-founder and I would meet to work together, eventually having more employees joining us on a daily basis–as a startup, we didn’t know if we would be a team of two one week and a team of 10 the next. We were referred to CANOPY by a friend and we valued the quality, the natural light, outdoor areas and communal spaces, and the people we met there. I have sufficient room at home for my own office, but I prefer a clear divide between my home and workplace, where I’m also social and meeting people, and the structure that comes from that.


Tell me about some challenges you’ve faced since founding Acquire.

The challenges I face as an entrepreneur and CEO, like every other entrepreneur and CEO, is that we have to acknowledge that times have changed. We have to reduce expenses by changing the way we operate to be more lean, and we have to make hard decisions to keep the lights on while maintaining a positive mindset. I believe that’s what we’re supposed to be as an entrepreneur: always positive and resilient.


Can you share details of a recent win?

We’ve had a lot, which is great! I think the big one is actually to be able to navigate the reality of uncertain times with my team of 10 staff members across the U.S. and Canada. It’s not a personal big win, but a company-wide one: we’ve been very transparent on where we’re at right now from a business perspective, from a financial perspective, and explained to our team members and investors how we see the market eventually changing and what that means for us. Having that sort of clarity helped us gain the trust of our employees and people who support us, or at least keep their trust in what we’re doing. It’s really nice to have everyone on the same page and backing you up, even though they understand that we as founders don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen next week or six months from now.


Do you have a roadmap for the next five years?

We have a big plan for growth. I think the beauty of any plan is the preparation that goes into it. There are so many variables that making our plan a reality in the next five years is partly within our power, while the rest is dependent on where the market is going. Even if we have a fantastic product, a fantastic team, if there’s a recession and our merchants and clients aren’t spending money to buy our products, we’re going to have to find some other ways of making that plan work.


How do you measure success?

I like to talk about two types of success. My number one, my north star, is actually my family. When we onboard team members, we tell them, “Listen, you’re hopping on a startup rocket, so it’s going to be fun, difficult, and likely painful. What is the most important thing that, at the end of the day, fulfills you from that perspective?” That’s success for me: having the capacity to achieve goals at the company level, and even when I’m putting stress on my team, they feel good. You come home, you feel you’ve had a great day and you’re having a ton of fun. That’s going to help you focus on what matters most, which is friends and family.


Who has been an inspiration to you, professionally?

I had a very good friend in Paris when I was living there, Philippe, who was a successful CEO of a textile company and at the same time giving back to his community, his friends and his family. That taught me a lot: Philippe’s vision and his appreciation of being successful was not about showing off, but making the lives of others better. Another is Ned Tozun, an American entrepreneur who leads d.light, a company that he started out of business school which now employs hundreds of people around the world. He works to change the life of people in developing countries by giving them access to solar-powered devices–lamps, cell phones–so they can stay connected. Ned’s tackling a problem where there is not a lot of money to be made, but he’s passionate and he has a mission.


As someone who’s focused on building a sustainable business and work-life balance for yourself and your team, how would you define sustainability?

First, awareness and understanding exactly what is sustainable and what is not. Electric vehicles are great–I was ahead of this progression in my former role as Head of Business Operations for Tesla Energy, working on renewables like solar panels and batteries–but that’s also not going to solve the entire environmental problem. Sustainability is actually something that every one of us can actually achieve or improve on, and having a sustainable impact on Earth is something that should be part of everyone’s day to day. How Acquire operates from a sustainable point of view with limited resources means striking the right balance between how many people we have, how much cash we have left, and building more products without necessarily taking money in from products we’re currently selling.


If you had any advice to anybody who’s looking to found their own company, either in the same space as you or another industry entirely, what would it be?

Be persistent and be resilient. These aren’t really skills that you can learn from books. You have to go through difficult times to build resiliency to be better when something else hard comes your way. Persistence is what helps you to move from one time to another, from one to zero and back again.


What is the most important thing you’ve learned?

I want my life to span at least 80 or 90 years, and thinking about my work from that perspective–a reflection over a bigger timeline–is my biggest learning. When you have a different reading on how you live and how long you want to work, you’re probably more inclined to change jobs, take risks. Currently, from a business perspective, we’re going through some hard times, but if I feel like this is the end of my journey as an entrepreneur, then I’m most likely going to make the wrong decisions. If you put things on a different timeline, thinking of this as a five-year journey, that’s when you make better decisions.


Your favorite podcast or show you’ve enjoyed lately?

I read Wall Street Journal tech reviews and analysis–Joanna Stern is one of the tech bloggers I love–and I listen a lot to WSJ podcasts. Recently I watched We Crashed, a series on Apple TV [which dramatizes the evolution of We Work]. It was very well played and it goes through the ups and downs of a startup, although I believe it probably wasn’t as close to how things were in reality.


A destination you never get tired of traveling to?

It is difficult because I’m trying to go everywhere I can. I’ve traveled to 36 countries; in the U.S. I’ve traveled to 22 national parks and 23 states. I love to discover new places rather than coming back again and again to the same place.


What’s next on the list of places you haven’t been to?

It’s a small town in Mexico called San Miguel de Allende. It’s supposed to be the most beautiful small town in the world, topping the Condé Nast list for a long time. It’s a lively, colorful city that has a lot of charm, especially during the holiday season. So I would be coming back to Mexico, but this one will be a new town.


What’s your favorite thing to do in San Francisco?

Enjoy my neighborhood, Cole Valley, and everything the city has to offer. You can see the ocean from pretty much everywhere, you can go hiking, surfing, shopping downtown. I adore walking city blocks around CANOPY; it’s something I do on a daily basis.