Amandine Flachs is the co-founder & CEO of WildMeta, a startup helping video game developers create smarter and more human-like game AIs with machine learning.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I have spent the past 12 years working with early-stage entrepreneurs in emerging technologies, in France, the USA and the UK where I am now based. My interest in new technologies and the startup world started when I was 18 and had the opportunity to work with a small startup in Paris.
As I worked closely with the founding team, I realised I could bring a different perspective to the team, even without any technical background. From there I became increasingly curious about startups and eager to support innovative founders.
In 2019, I co-founded my own AI startup called WildMeta. Our goal is to help game developers create smarter and more human-like non-playable entities (bots, NPCs) using machine learning. Since we’re a small team, my CTO looks after all technical aspects, and as the CEO I am in charge of everything else.
I am also very much involved in the startup ecosystem as a mentor part of a number of accelerators and programmes, a VC scout for Backed VC (seed stage UK-based fund), a consultant, as well as through my series of monthly live video AMAs with founders.
2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My days are shaped by what needs to be done but I try to keep a constant structure.
7.45 am – Wake up, prepare a banana porridge and eat breakfast while reading the news. I usually start my day reading first international news (from French and UK publications) and then move to my desk to read the tech and startup news.
8.30am – I check my emails, answer anything urgent and update my todo list with the priorities of the day. I usually try to condense all my calls and meetings in late morning/early afternoon so I can focus on other tasks the rest of the time.
12.30am – lunch time. I cook a simple meal and, several times a week, go for an after-lunch walk in the park to brainstorm and talk about strategy with my co-founder. I then get back to work with more energy.
6.30pm – While I may have some late meetings, online events to attend or else, I leave my desk by 7 pm and exercise for 30min. This is an important step for me to end my workday and clear my head.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
I am working remotely and have started doing so years before the pandemic started. For a while, working remotely for me meant working from different co-working spaces and coffee shops from my laptop. I only created a proper home office space when I had a full-time remote job in 2017.
The last time I had a role that didn’t allow flexible or remote working, I felt trapped behind my desk. The office space wasn’t necessarily bad, but it was constantly noisy and I often found myself working from the office’s corridor or open areas to get things done.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
The limit between my personal and professional life is really thin. Like many founders, I struggle to switch my brain off. When I used to go to networking events several times a week (pre-pandemic), I socialised with fellow founders, investors and startup folks and usually talked as much about work as other things.
Even before starting my company, I never strictly separated my work from my personal life as I have always been equally excited to bring to life a work project as I can be while planning a weekend holiday.
For me, work-life balance means taking the time to look after myself, spend time with my partner, eat and sleep well so I can be more productive in my work and then enjoy small things in life.
This is about investing in myself and encouraging a virtuous cycle instead of a punitive and toxic cycle that can quickly poison both your personal and professional life.
To do that, I cook several times a day, meet my co-founder in the park instead of behind a desk, have a routine where I stop working before dinner (unless an exceptional event) and make sure to exercise most days.
Since I am involved in a number of initiatives, I often also have a weekend todolist too, but I make sure to not overcharge it and not to include many work-related items on it. I host my series of live video interviews because I love interviewing early-stage founders and learning from their own unique experiences, and while it takes some time, it is definitely worth it!
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
I mentioned I am exercising most days, last year I managed to alternate 30 min of exercise and 30min of guitar practice. I’m still a beginner and when I reached the end of the course I was following, exercising took over the slot.
We’re looking to sell the company and I currently don’t have the headspace to focus on this. I first felt bad about it, but I prefer to have a break and get back to it when I can rather than beating myself up every week because I failed to re-integrate guitar practice into my routine.
Routines are important and they take a while to develop, it’s key to have realistic expectations and be able to adjust our routine to the current life we have. Before the pandemic, I used to go out a lot (networking events, irl coffee meetings) and I enjoyed listening to podcasts on my way.
Now I am not listening to any podcasts because I don’t commute or spend any time on public transport and haven’t found any activity in my daily life where I enjoy listening to podcasts at the same time. And that’s ok.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Like exercising routine, I find reading routine an important aspect of my life. As mentioned before, I start my day reading international news, local news, tech news and eventually startup news.
Because I read the same publications every morning, it is a smooth and fast process. When I am looking for a more specific source of information, I usually reach out to some friends for domain-specific recommendations.
I don’t have any favourite book, podcasts or newsletter but I want to stress out that it is key not to force ourselves to compete with other people on that matter.
When I see some people tweeting about the number of books they’ve read in the month or year, I just feel disinterested because I don’t care how fast they can read of how much time they can allocate to reading, I’d care more about what they’ve learned from a book and why they’d recommend it to a friend.
Time is precious so instead of recommending a specific must-read resource, I’d recommend everyone to think about what they want to achieve by picking up a new book. Is it to be transported into another world, learn from someone’s experience, explore new skills or follow a trend?
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I live in my todo list which is currently in Evernote and has been for years. I also don’t have a great memory so I compensate by being extra organised. I am always taking notes on a notebook or a note app and I really need my calendar to remember deadlines and key dates.
In terms of gadgets, I’m rather minimalist but like many people these days, my phone is always nearby as is my alarm clock, watch and camera.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I’d love to hear from other founders as I know many of us struggle to find such a balance!
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
Remember that’s about what works for you! Try out different things, give them some time to work, rethink your approach every few months as your life and expectations change, and do not blindly follow someone else’s routine because they told you that’s how it’s done.
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