Many of us struggle to figure out the best path after college. Instead of pursuing more degrees, why not start a consulting business? Use your niche knowledge to help others succeed. But is that type of business scalable? Is it smart to become a consulting entrepreneur? Fear not, we have gathered founder advice from Melvin Kianmanesh Rad, the CEO of Effixis to resolve these questions and more

Melvin joined the EWOR podcast to talk about his founding journey with Effixis, an AI consulting company that focuses on processing and visualising financial data for clients. His venture also offers educational workshops around data science. Moving from Paris to Switzerland, Melvin earned his master’s degree at the Swiss Institute of Technology.

In this article, find out how Melvin shaped his entrepreneurial career in consulting. Learn from his mistakes and read his founder advice to navigate your own business journey up for success.

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Finding Your Entrepreneurial Spark

It’s not easy to follow an entrepreneurial idea and turn it into reality. Where do you even begin? Melvin’s story shows how a simple project can turn into a successful business venture.

During his mathematics studies, Melvin surrounded himself with a group of motivated students. They all had varying ambitions to make an impact in the finance industry. While their idea to start a company together didn’t work out, the idea sparked an entrepreneurial interest in Melvin.

An internship at the Swiss Financial Markets Supervisory Authority in Zurich changed Melvin’s career. His client wanted a new regulatory model for their financial services, but they didn’t know how to achieve that. Melvin took the opportunity to develop software for insurance companies in Switzerland. His aim was to make their day-to-day operations easier.

Combining expertise with an entrepreneurial mindset, Melvin and a co-founder created Effixis. They wanted an official entity to complete their first big project.

Figuring Out a Closed Market as a Consulting Entrepreneur

Growing a company that was born out of convenience is not easy. In fact, Melvin and his business partner struggled in many areas early on. They learned how to navigate laws and withstand the pressure of negotiating contracts.

However, their number one issue was understanding the market. Melvin described the insurance and finance world as an industry with “strong entry barriers.” It’s hard to get a foot in the door in an industry where networking is the only way to get hired. The team was “navigating some very dark waters.” 

The only way to succeed was to join the game. The Effixis team went to as many events and networking opportunities as they could. Melvin reached out to his peers from college and everyone he’d met at data science events. It was crucial to make the right connections and become friendly with influential people.

Melvin recounted his doubts at the time, saying, “I don’t know what I’m selling, I don’t know whom I’m selling it to, and I don’t know what they’re willing to pay for it.”

Two founders had to make a decision on which direction to take. At last, they decided to invest time and money into building training programs and a website. The consulting service of Effixis was the first iteration of their business.

By doing market research and focusing on customer centricity, Melvin figured out how to gain clients as a consulting entrepreneur. Those first large insurance company projects finally opened the door to the market he wanted to capture. It was a means to an end that paid off.

The Value of Good Team Culture

The best business idea won’t succeed if you don’t have the right people working on it. With nothing but his intuition to guide him, Melvin learned about the value of good team culture during the different stages of Effixis.

What If the Team Doesn’t Work Out?

The initial business idea during Melvin’s college days was the first team culture learning experience for him. All his friends were ambitious, but in different ways. They didn’t find a common vision for their future company.

In a situation where the founding team is not a perfect match, walk away from the opportunity. “I didn’t have the right feeling about the project and our leadership,” Melvin remembered. If your gut is telling you something is a bad idea, don’t risk wasting your time. Even if you work well together as friends, it’s key to have a shared vision and have similar priorities in life.

Another issue presented itself when Melvin and his co-founder were struggling to enter the market. After their initial big project that kickstarted their company, the two were at odds. “The project was so high-pressure that we ended up kind of hating each other,” he joked. The two worked out their differences and completed the project successfully. Still, Melvin became the sole shareholder of Effixis after this stage.

Be mature about conflict and solve issues with open and honest communication. Trust your gut and don’t agree to any opportunity without assessing the team dynamic first.

Pivot and Create a Better Team Culture

Thus far, Melvin’s story has shown us the struggles of building the right team culture. Yet, the second phase of Effixis is a great example to illustrate the value of finding perfect matches for your team.

Despite the good pay and successful contracts, Melvin pushed Effixis to the next level in 2021. He realised his educational workshops weren’t scalable with a small market in Switzerland. Together with a friend, he rebuilt the company and created a data science consulting firm.

The success from this change was immense and opened a broader market for them. Melvin was able to hire more staff and built a productive team culture for the first time in his career. Finding the right people for the job was the most important aspect of that.

Effective team building requires effort. His founder advice here is to look for people with a great work ethic and sense of humour. When everyone is in a good mood and motivated, it creates a great work atmosphere. Despite big egos in the room, honest communication is your best friend at work. 

In this stage of Effixis, Melvin succeeded in finding the perfect employees and partners. He summarised his learning experience: “Everything boils down to having the right team.”

The Founder Advice Everyone Recommends: Learn From Mistakes

Every failure is a learning opportunity. With a history of pivoting his business ideas, Melvin offered a helpful perspective on learning from your mistakes.

Sometimes it’s okay to admit that an idea doesn’t work. That’s how Melvin avoided starting a business with his college friend group. Trust your intuition and be honest with yourself. Is an idea worth the trouble? Will it pay off? Only push through some challenges if you are certain you will be able to make it work.

Learn from validation after every pivot. See what’s working and what isn’t. With this approach, customer feedback is invaluable and will guide you towards success. Someone who spent decades in the insurance industry told Melvin it’s a small miracle he was able to sell workshops in that market. His ambition and attitude made that business model work, regardless of what the odds were.

Stick with your North Star. That’s Melvin’s biggest advice when it comes to building your start-up. Push towards a specific outcome and don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself.  “Work hard on what you can influence,” he stressed.

Learn from obstacles and mistakes, and don’t lose sight of the vision you had in the beginning.

Bottom Line on Founder Advice

Melvin’s founding story teaches us about the importance of trusting your gut and surrounding yourself with winners. With the right people by your side, turn your vision into a successful venture. Let this consulting entrepreneur’s advice guide you through your own entrepreneurial journey.

About the author

EWOR is a school conceived by Europe’s top professors, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders. We educate and mentor young innovators to launch successful businesses.

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