Belgian entrepreneur Emmanuel Jesset is the co-founder and CEO of Outsite, a network of quirky co-working and living spaces that was born out of his love of surfing.
The setup of this Zoom interview is not exactly what one would expect in an interview with the founder and CEO of an international company. Emmanuel Jesset, 39, is actually walking on a Portuguese beach with a smartphone. A place that suits this entrepreneur who has made a form of rebellion his trademark. “Why work alone at home when you can also do it in ‘sea, surf and sun’ landscapes?”
The setup of this Zoom interview is not exactly what one would expect in an interview with the founder and CEO of an international company. Emmanuel Jesset, 39, is actually walking on a Portuguese beach with a smartphone. A place that suits this entrepreneur who has made a form of rebellion his trademark. “Why work alone at home when you can also do it in ‘sea, surf and sun’ landscapes?” This very simple philosophy is the foundation of the success of Outsite, a network of co-working and living spaces. Emmanuel Jesse points his smartphone to the other side, looking out over the azure sea and clear sky. “I am currently in Portugal, in Nazaré. Since there is no central office, we organize seminars every quarter with the whole team. One of the activities of our team – here, today, is to discover the great waves.” Emmanuel Jesse’s career sounds like the story of a contemporary digital nomad, despite its somewhat traditional beginnings. He studied International Management at ICHEC, Business School in Brussels, where he had the opportunity to work for a Belgian company abroad thanks to an exchange programme. His choice fell on a startup and subsidiary from the University of Mons, which was developing software that would allow users to organize a personal trip. Because she wanted to focus on the Brazilian market, he had the opportunity to live and work in Brazil for a few months. “I was young, I wanted to travel and so I left there without much thought. When I returned to Belgium, I was appointed as the company’s first employee.” He got a business and marketing job there. But after three years, the desire to travel abroad brought him back. “I had the opportunity to join the new branch in San Jose. I was responsible for selling the program and concluding contracts with international tourism organizations.” It was fun for a few years, and then again, Emmanuel Jesse got tired and moved to San Francisco. “It was a time when everyone was building startups in Silicon Valley. And I had the urge to do the same. I quit my job and developed an app image with a friend – it was very trendy at the time. And suddenly, I didn’t have a fixed salary anymore, Resulting in I can live everywhere. And I no longer have a boss either.” So he left for other, less expensive countries – Mexico and Costa Rica – to work there. And go surfing there. “It was a very interesting period. The logistics were only a burden. Each time we had to find suitable accommodation and a suitable workplace. It was not always easy. I often stayed in hostels, which I did not appreciate. Because there was so much From partying and it was not so conducive to the work atmosphere. I told myself that it should be possible to create a more professional context. This is how the idea of setting up what would become off-site came to fruition: a network of houses where it was possible to stay for one week to three months, To have a workspace and ‘connect with like-minded people. Outsite’s first location was in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. The biggest challenge was not to find a suitable building, because the market has enough of them, but to convince the owner to rent it to implement the concept of co-working and co-living which was still unknown. And it turned out to be more difficult than expected. “First, because I was a foreigner – I didn’t even have a green card. Because no one quite knew what he was thinking, he had never heard of it. It was often answered in the negative.” But Emmanuel Jesse ended up finding a building and owner confident in his business plan. “I had to pay a big guarantee before signing the contract…All my savings went to him. I don’t dare imagine what would have happened if he hadn’t worked out, because everything was so risky.” The second challenge is to make this new concept known. “I tested it quite a bit already: I posted a fake AirBnB ad demonstrating the concept with an attached picture of the house. Several people wanted to book right away and I indicated it wouldn’t be available until much later (laughs).” When he managed to attract a few investors Everything accelerates. “It seemed really necessary to work with investors. You could easily run a building on your own, but if you want to create a brand and a platform, you have to raise money. And the best thing is that one of my first clients also became an investor.” The result of this collaboration looks impressive: Today, Outsite has 40 employees and 33 locations in 20 cities and 7 countries. The demand for new places is greater than the supply. Emmanuel Jesse is very proud of her. “We will open new investors, especially in Spain and Portugal, now that we have found a European investor. We also want to be present in Miami.” But no matter how strong the pressure, his love for surfing remains as strong as the waves of Nazareth. He even wrote on his blog that he gave up his job in San Jose because he couldn’t surf the internet there. “I know this sounds good but it’s a bit exaggerated (laughs).” This does not mean that surfing is less important now that he is leading an international company. “I started skateboarding at the age of 13 – this little board you ride on lying down. As a student, I went to Erasmus in Portugal and this is where I really got a taste of.” A passion he never left. Not that he does it every day. “It depends. I try to surf three times a week, but it may happen that I abstain for two weeks.” According to him, surfing relaxes him more than any other activity. “On the water, I’m completely offline, even if only because I don’t have my phone (laughs). When you’re surfing, you can only think about it. I don’t need to meditate or yoga, surfing is enough for me. In my opinion, can Comparing it to skiing or snowboarding, though I’m not a huge fan of it — I don’t like mountains very much.” But he says he likes to be at the mercy of the elements. “Furthermore, the physical aspect of surfing is not to be underestimated. It requires you to be in good physical shape. And the feeling we get while surfing is great. It is very intense because you end up standing still on the board only 10% of the time. And the rest, you try. Catch up on the right wave. The cool thing is that you’re completely independent of technique: it’s not just me, the waves and my board.” Surfers are sometimes called “sport rebels.” Isn’t it a little? “It used to be, but today surfing is more than just an ordinary sport. And very fashionable – it is even the fastest growing sport in the world, after surfing. Padel. This can also be seen in Belgium: you see many surfers in Ostend even in Winter. This was not the case ten years ago.” Without a doubt, the Outsite project had a somewhat selfish motive as its starting point: Emmanuel Guisset simply wanted to be able to work in places where he could also surf. But isn’t it wonderful that his mathematical selfishness led to such a sensational story? “In the beginning, Outsite was really for people like me, who wanted to work in places that were fun to surf. In that sense, the pandemic was positive for us: people realized that they shouldn’t keep working in the city but that they could also be productive in beautiful places. In addition, I met at least ten investors by surfing the Internet. And this, in fact, brought me a lot.”