Harvard Business school. A former Associate Partner with McKinsey & Company. A financier at Societe Generale Investment Banking. By most measures, you’d call Germain Chastel a business success. But it wasn’t enough for the CEO and co-founder of New York-based startup Newton X.
“I was very comfortable in corporate life,” Chastel tells host Jim Brisimitzis of Microsoft for Startups in the latest edition of Series A – The Podcast.
Chastel says he saw a significant pain point for his customers at McKinsey – connecting them with more of the expertise they needed to further their businesses. And he realized there were many businesses who simply couldn’t afford or didn’t have the resources or knowledge to connect with the experts generally only available through high-prices consultancies. And Newton X was born.
“One of the metaphors we use is we’re the AirBnB of expertise. Instead of going on AirBnB and renting time in people’s homes, you get on Newton X and you’re renting time in people’s heads,” Chastel says.
It’s a simple but brilliant idea that landed the company over $3 million in venture capital in just the past year.
Chastel pulls back the curtain on what he calls the three pillars of his organization: AI, engineering around specific marketplaces, and operations. He shares his experiences in building both a company and a culture, something he calls critical to Newton X’s early success.
A big key? Avoiding what he calls the “adrenaline engine” model most startups operate under, where everyone just goes non-stop until they often burn out and go bust.
“You can not run on this kind of fuel for a year. You need motivation, you need purpose, you need friendship,” Chastel tells Jim. Employees are your first stakeholder. They should weigh as much as all the others together.”
Chastel details the company’s risky move from San Francisco to New York City, which he credits with propelling Newton X to newfound heights.
While the Bay Area offered an environment rich in technical expertise, Chastel and his team determined they needed to be alongside their customers – the biggest of which were financial institutions and consultants.
“We could say we were the best, but they need to see us and we needed to knock on doors. And we needed to sit with them and train them and educate them for them to use us properly,” he tells Jim.
Newton X’s user base continues to swell with customers and experts alike. And thanks to the platform, even the smallest of companies can connect with an expert in their field for as little as $300 an hour. It’s a far cry from the $2,000 experts only available to enterprises.
The French national also offers profound insights into the differences between startup ecosystems in the United States and Europe, as well as business in general.
Chastel’s wealth of experience brings a font of valuable learnings and insights for any founder or startup, and we’re thrilled to bring them to you in this edition of Series A – The Podcast – Josh Kerns/Producer