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Ever wanted to learn how to cook Bebek betutu in Bali, or Khao Soi in Chang Mai? Etienne Marleau-Rancourt & Benjamin Ozsanay founded Cookly in 2015 to help you do just that. They are our founders of the week.
Birth Names: Etienne Marleau-Rancourt & Benjamin Ozsanay
Hometown: Aylmer (Québec), Canada & Frankfurt, Germany
Company Name: Cookly
Company Founding Year: 2015
What’s your professional background? Have you always been an entrepreneur or have you paid your dues working for “The Man” too?
Etienne: I was a jurist in an Immigration Law Firm. I was working for “the woman” who started her own law firm – it was a very inspiring experience. I’ve also been a cook in a high end Spanish restaurant and had to follow every (every!) indication of the Chef, who really was, “The Man”. I tried out my passion for cooking and learned a lot from this intense work that deserves much respect.
Ben: I’ve gone through all fields in marketing, starting with above-the-line advertising at the global agency JWT. After that I gained experience in online and mobile marketing. Inspired by the mobile startup environment, I started to work on my own project, a social mobile app which got acquired in 2016.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur and go out on your own?
Etienne: I always had business ideas growing up and even when I was studying in law school, all I had in mind was how to build an app to help me manage my cases. I’ve always wanted to create instead of follow. Entrepreneurship is also freedom where there are no limits to gain knowledge and learn every day. Being a generalist is often seen as a bad thing in our society but in the startup world it means that you can learn and adapt.
Ben: My last employment before being an entrepreneur was at a mobile startup in Berlin. That was a highly inspiring phase of my professional life and the final motivator to step out of my cocoon full of ideas to pursue my dream of becoming an entrepreneur. I was looking for a radical change in environment and decided to move from Berlin to Bangkok.
How did you find the time, money and people to get your business off the ground?
Etienne: After we did the customer discovery for Cookly, I realized the true potential of the idea and decided to get fully committed; it’s a great project mixing passions for business & food. I had the help of my family to support my dream. We are lucky to have a “love brand” and have had many applicants who simply loved the idea and wanted to participate in its success.
Ben: I did most of the bureaucratic work and research work while I was still employed. In order to really focus on my business and start executing, I had to quit my job. With my savings and smaller earnings from side projects I managed to survive for a while. I met my co-founders in Bangkok. All three of us shared the same passion for food. We were all previously experienced with our own projects and had skills in business, law, marketing and tech.
What is your company all about and why should everyone care?
Etienne: Cookly is a marketplace that connects people to culinary activities anywhere in the world. We bring food lovers and food professionals together to enjoy quality culinary experiences. Our mission is to make culinary activities accessible around the world for travelers and locals alike, becoming the leading marketplace for culinary activities.
Ben: We connect food lovers and food professionals to enjoy quality culinary experiences such as cooking classes, wine tastings and food tours. Our generation is moving away from pre-organized holiday packages. The new generation is dominated by independent travelers seeking authentic and unique experiences. That’s where Cookly comes in: we want to change the way people travel by letting them embark on a culinary adventure. We see food as a bridge between a country and its culture.
Where do you hope to see your company 5 years from now? What are you going to do to make it happen?
Etienne: I hope to see Cookly available everywhere in the world. Our goal is truly to give full access to this rich activity mixing skills, fun and culture. It’s a huge industry and Cookly is there to open all its doors.
Ben: In 5 years we see Cookly as the leading marketplace for culinary activities…In order to achieve this goal, we are growing an international team that shares the same passion and vision.
What has been your favorite part of founding and growing your business?
Etienne: My favorite part of Cookly has really been to learn everyday and meet the people of this industry. The culinary world is full of passion and it’s truly motivating. Building a team formed of passionate people is always very enriching as we all go in the same direction. Testing and experiencing some cooking classes and tastings is also a good part!
Ben: Being an entrepreneur allows you to pursue your own goals and achievements in life. It also allows you to gain expertise in many different fields. My favorite part of it so far has been the fact that I’m privileged to work for what I am really excited and passionate about.
What has been the most frustrating part of founding and growing your business?
Etienne: Not having enough time.
Ben: The most frustrating part for me is when things take much longer than anticipated. This can be a partnership deal or simply a new technical feature. This has definitely taught me to be more realistic with my expectations.
What do you do to keep yourself balanced and sane?
Etienne: Sports like soccer and Muay Thai and traveling on the weekends.
Ben: I obviously love to cook. On weekends I tend to escape the city for a nature adventure. Other than that, I work out and do some meditation in the mornings, which keeps me in balance. I also like to explore undiscovered and hidden spots of Bangkok.
If you could be doing one other thing full-time, what would it be?
Etienne: I’d be a Chef or doing work for an NGO.
Ben: I would have my own cooking school.
What’s your motto? If you don’t have one, make it up right now…
Etienne: Everything happens for a reason.
Ben: Life is about being free, doing what you want, being productive and paying taxes.
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