Ep349: Marc Cirera – Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away If You Lack the Passion

Listen on

Apple | Google | Stitcher | Spotify | YouTube | Other

Quick take

BIO: Marc Cirera is a business ethics and CSR specialist with a clear vision: a world where companies operate more sustainably and responsibly. It is for this reason he founded Companies for Good.

STORY: Marc was traveling across South America when he realized just how much the process of booking a bus, the most popular mode of transportation, was. He decided to create an application that would make this process easy. The biggest mistake Marc made was failing to research his idea before launching it. He went all in and came up with this spectacular product, but he soon realized that selling bus tickets was just not where his heart was.

LEARNING: Find that one thing that motivates you the most and do it. It is okay to walk away from an idea that is no longer working; let the experience be your chance to learn. Go out there, test your idea, make it work, and keep improving it as you get feedback.


“You will always regret the things you haven’t done, not the things you have done. And so, whenever you have the opportunity to do something, do it.”

Marc Cirera


Guest profile

Marc Cirera is a business ethics and corporate social responsibility (CSR) specialist with a clear vision: a world where companies operate in a more sustainable and responsible way.

He founded Companies for Good because he knows that good business practices help companies perform better and because he knows that businesses have the potential to solve some of the world’s most pressing issues.

A born entrepreneur, Marc was introduced into the business world at a very early age by his grandfather, a self-made businessman. At 19, Marc set up his first business in hospitality while studying Economy & Business Administration in Barcelona. Marc ran the business for four years, then sold it and used the profits to pursue his Master’s in Business Ethics in Sydney.

After graduation, Marc moved to London where he worked at communications consultancy, Radley Yeldar, as an Employee Engagement & Sustainability consultant for 5 years. He helped multinational companies become stronger by putting ethics, values, and CSR at the heart of their organizations.

Marc landed in Dubai in 2015 and joined the sustainability team of the luxury retail giant Chalhoub Group. In parallel to his full-time job, he developed and launched Companies for Good (in 2017) and has been fully dedicated to the social impact start-up since November 2018.

Worst investment ever

Marc was traveling around South America, as a backpacker, after quitting his job in London. Being an entrepreneur at heart, Marc went looking for any opportunities as he backpacked in South America.

Smelling an opportunity

Marc noticed that bus transportation was the most popular mode of transportation given that planes were expensive and there was no railway line. People would use buses to travel across cities and countries. The buses were quite comfortable.

One thing was missing, though. The process to find information such as bus timings and routes and purchase the ticket was a nightmare, especially for tourists who could not speak Spanish. Immediately, Marc got the idea to create something like Skyscanner, but for the bus transportation in South America.

Coming up with the coolest solution

Marc spent about a year working on the application. He did many cool things, such as an amazing website, a fantastic name, and the coolest logo. Marc started talking with loads of bus companies and sharing his idea of selling their bus tickets online. And they loved it, of course, because it meant more business for them.

Going in full-time

Marc traveled to South America again sometime later to negotiate the rates. He did pretty much everything that needed to be done to set up the business.

At some point, Marc realized that he needed to put his full attention to the business. He could not be traveling while developing a business idea. So he dedicated himself full-time. He created a team and financed the whole business because he was 99% sure it would be a great business model. Marc truly believed it could be amazing and was ready to invest in it.

Losing interest

The business model was wholly dependent on selling bus tickets. After a year of doing it, Marc realized that this was something he just couldn’t see himself doing 5-10 years down the line. There was just no motivation to keep doing it, and so he wrapped up the business.

Lessons learned

Find that one thing that motivates you the most and do it

If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, do something that motivates you. Something that you will want to continue doing for a long time. Think about the things that inspire and drive you as a person and as an entrepreneur. What are the things that make you wake up every morning and be excited? What kind of job would you like to do that doesn’t feel like you’re working? Before spending time and money on anything, spend some time thinking about what will make you happy and keep you motivated.

Whenever you have a chance to do something, do it

Whenever you have the drive to do something, do it as long as you know it is the right thing to do. Do not waste too much time thinking; just learn by experience. And if you realize that it is not the right thing for you, that’s fine; move on and try something else. Everything you learned from this experience stays with you.

Andrew’s takeaways

First, make sure that there is a problem your product can solve

Before you launch a product, find an existing pain that the customer feels and let your product offer a solution. This must be a pain that is valuable enough for them to pay for a solution. What might look like a problem to you may not necessarily be a problem to the customer.

It is okay to walk away from an idea that is no longer working

If you find yourself at a point where you decide that an idea you had is no longer working, it is perfectly okay to walk away. The idea may not have worked, but at least you tried. And just like Mark, you will not regret walking away because you tried.

Actionable advice

Go to the market from day one. Do not wait until everything is perfect. Go out there, test your idea, make it work, and keep improving it as you get feedback.

No. 1 goal for the next 12 months

Marc’s number one goal for the next 12 months is to plant 10,000 trees to make the UAE greener and mitigate climate change.

Parting words


“It is good to look back and reflect on what you did well, what you did not, what the journey has been, and to be proud of all the achievements.”

Marc Cirera


Read full transcript

Andrew Stotz 00:01
Hello fellow risk takers, and welcome to my worst investment ever stories of loss to give you winning in our community, we know that the win in investing, you must take risk. But to win big, you've got to reduce it. And I bet you're exposed to investment risk right now to reduce it, go to my worst investment ever.com and download the risk reduction checklist I made specifically for you, my podcast listener, based on the lessons I've learned from all of my guests, fellow risk takers, this is your worst podcast hosts Andrew Stotz, from Ace Don's Academy, and I'm here with featured guests, Mark cerebra. Mark, are you ready to rock


Andrew Stotz 00:45
So let me introduce you to the audience. Mark is a business ethics and corporate social responsibility specialist with a clear vision, a world where companies operate in a more sustainable and responsible way. He founded companies for good because he knows that good business practices help companies perform better. And because he knows that businesses have the potential to solve some of the world's most pressing issues. Mark, take a minute and Philly further tidbits about your life.

Marc Cirera 01:22
Thank you so much. And I'm so much looking forward to sharing my failures with you.

Andrew Stotz 01:29
We're gonna have some fun. And it's an interesting thing. Maybe you could just tell us briefly about companies for good and what you're doing with that?

Marc Cirera 01:38
Yes, so companies for good. It's a social enterprise that I found that four years ago in the United Arab Emirates in Dubai. And what we do is we help businesses involve that employees into doing good things for the community and environment. So it's all about getting people involved into doing good. And that could be the shape of planting trees, cleaning up a beach, supporting refugees, interacting and empowering children with special needs. So a wide range of initiatives that really make sure that employees have the opportunity to contribute to

the world.

Andrew Stotz 02:16
And it's interesting, you know, when I read, read your bio, and looked at what you're doing, the the thing that I find fascinating is that you're saying that businesses have the potential to solve the world's some of the world's most pressing problems, a lot of people look to governments thinking that they will solve our problems, why do you think that businesses can solve our problems?

Marc Cirera 02:41
Well, I think businesses have the drive to do things, and, and actually benefits them to be sustainable and to create stronger community around them. And I mean, we have seen for many years how governments have tried to solve some of the problems. And unfortunately, we still have a long journey. There are a lot of politics involved and add processes. And businesses have the capacity to do things faster.

I think they have

Marc Cirera 03:17
a lot of people with really good potential to do that. And they have the resources to do it. So it's just a matter of shifting the focus and trying to look always for this kind of Win Win scenarios in anything they do. And I do believe that if businesses look for, how can we make things financially sustainable, as well as environmental and socially sustainable, everybody will win?

Andrew Stotz 03:42
Yeah, that's great. And, you know, there's two aspects to this. You know, the first aspect is a company that's existing doing its business. And they say, we want to add some more corporate responsibility, activities to make sure that we are giving back to our community. And then of course, there's other problems that businesses solve through innovation. This last week, I was a judge in a case competition in Thailand. It's a global Case Competition called the Bangkok business challenge. And the team that won that competition had come up with new technology for making a paper cup that's completely biodegradable, yet can be used in all the places that we use paper cups. And, you know, if they can really operationalize that, first of all, they're going to get rich. And second of all, they're going to solve a problem. And, you know, that's exciting. So I love it. You know, I do think that business is ultimately has the potential for innovation. Yeah, there's a lot of bad actors in this people, of course, then you got people within business that are just breaking laws or don't have any ethics themselves. And there's a responsibility in society to deal with polluters or people that are, you know, not following the rules. But when companies follow the rules, and they do innovate, you know, there's a lot of things We've evolved over the years through business. so fantastic. Companies for good Ladies and gentlemen, check it out. I'll have links in the show notes. So you can learn more about mark. But now it's time to share your worst investment ever. And since no one ever goes into their worst investment thinking it will be. Tell us a bit about the circumstances leading up to it, and then tell us your story.

Marc Cirera 05:25
So I was travelling around South America, as a backpacker, after quitting my job in the big city in London, I just left everything behind and went to backpack around South America. And while I was traveling there, I mean, I'm an entrepreneur by default, so I couldn't help helping myself to find opportunities here and there. And I saw that bus transportation is the biggest one in South America, most people are traveling across countries or cities by bus. planes are quite expensive, and only a few people can afford them. And there is no really a rail system. So yeah, everybody's travelling by bus, tourist as well as locals, the buses are amazing. Like they have by entertainment, you can like recreate the seeds. They're incredible. However, the process to find information, bus timings and routes as well as to purchase the ticket. At that point. That was five. It was a bloody nightmare. And I was lucky I could speak Spanish for Barcelona originally. So I could actually go to the bus station, talk to people find out where the bus was going and buy your ticket. But I I came across a few English speaking people that were so frustrated, because there was a bus station and they had to go elsewhere. And they couldn't find a bus ticket. And they couldn't basically like book it online, like anything else you can do these days. And so obviously, like the idea I had was to create some sort of like Skyscanner, but for the bus transportation in South America, and is spent like a year working on it. I did a lot of cool things. I had an amazing website. And amazing name, the coolest logo. I started talking with loads of bus companies and sharing with them my idea of selling their bus tickets online. And they loved it, of course, because it was it meant more business for them. And yeah, I traveled there again sometime later to negotiate the rates. So I did pretty much everything that needed to be done in order to set up the business until I reached the point that I needed to put my full attention to it. So it couldn't be like traveling. And while developing a business idea. No, I needed to dedicate myself full time, I needed to create a team and I needed Of course, financial resources to make that whole business idea reality. And I was 99% sure it would be a great business model. I really believed it could be amazing. And I was ready to invest in it. And then at some point I just clicked. I don't know exactly how but I just clicked. And I realized I couldn't care less about selling tickets. I didn't motivate me at all. Even though I think it was a good business idea that I had to spend a year working on it. I just, I don't know, I couldn't care less. It was not my thing. I didn't want to be selling bus tickets. So that's my story. I completely failed because I chose to create a business that it was zero fulfilling for me.

Andrew Stotz 08:52
And how did you wrap it up? How did you, you know, ended?

Marc Cirera 08:58
Well, I told the people I had involved on the journey that if they wanted to continue with my idea, and with everything I created, they could do it. I told them that basically the tools that I realized that it was not meaningful to me that the prospect of in five years time 10 years time having a great company that was growing and being successful in the sense of pure business. But he was based on selling bus tickets to people was zero motivating to me and that I had Yeah, I had lost the motivation to really make it happen and that I really wanted to do something something that was closer to my heart.

Andrew Stotz 09:46
And how would you summarize the lessons that you learn from this experience?

Marc Cirera 09:53
So the most important one is from the onset. Think about what kind of thinks motivating, what drives you as a person as an entrepreneur? Because it could be in personal life, but also in business, it doesn't really matter is what are the things that really make you wake up every morning and be excited? What is the kind of job that you would like to do that doesn't feel like you're working? I know, it's a cliche, but it's so important. Like, before spending time and money to anything,


Marc Cirera 10:26
spend some time thinking, what will make you happy? What will motivate you? That that's the main lesson lesson I would I would

Andrew Stotz 10:34
take out of this. Just curious, why didn't you think of that? Like, what were you just so excited about the idea or you've been exposed to start up and people say, all find a pain and solve it? You know, what was it that kept you kind of blind to that until you were deeper into it?

Marc Cirera 10:54
I think it's partly society. We are born in a capital capitalist world, right? And it seems that you need to make money and be successful in order to be somebody. Otherwise, if you're just doing what you feel is the right thing and falling, following your instincts you had, but you're not making money, then it seems you're a failure in society. And this is something that perhaps most of us, when we are, when we grow up, we have it like as a as a backpack, almost, you know, that we need to learn how to get rid of, and also that the era we were born, that we have seen, like the Mark Zuckerberg and the likes, and you know, creating amazing tabs out of the blue and being really successful. I think that also played a key role into this kind of thinking.

Andrew Stotz 11:47
So maybe I'll summarize a few things I take away from it. You know, the first thing is, in the world of startup, we often talk about, you know, you got to solve a pain. And you know, here you found a pain. However, there's more to it than that, right? First, you got to find a pain, but you've got to make sure that it's a pain, the customer feels, you know, one of the questions, why have they gone on so long with this, maybe it doesn't bother them, it just bothers those few tourists that are frustrated. And then then you have to find a pain that the customer feels, and they're willing to pay for, like solving that pain is valuable enough that they're willing to pay. And this is kind of the steps, but I'm going to add in the last step that is coming from you is that you got to find a pay a pain that the customer feels that they're willing to pay for, and that you want to solve.


Marc Cirera 12:44
exactly. That's, that's a very good summary. And to be honest, the first two points have been proven to be true. Because like the one while I was developing my idea in parallel, there were other people developing it, I found out afterwards. But during 2015 2016 and 17, the type of companies that were selling bus tickets online in South America popped up like mushrooms, there are now like at least nine or 10 of them, some of them really backed up by by investment groups, and by startup accelerators, and they have raised millions to to develop those that infrastructure to sell bus tickets, because I did some market research and it was huge the potential the amount of like millions of people every day taking buses, or like using the buses, the mode of transport, and not having a system to buy it in an easy way from the convenience at home or from the mall. And so the business case was their customers appreciate it. And it's working now that it's happening. But the third button was missing. It was it's almost like a three pillar chair. And if one of the pillars is missing, you just fall. And in my case, it was clearly the purpose of the business that was missing for me.

Andrew Stotz 14:07
And that that reminds me of the last thing that I take away is that there's like this, there's this do or die point in any startup where it's like, okay, now this is going to get real. And for me, and one of my startups that I failed that was when we got to the point that I realized, oh, I've got to raise like three to $5 million to make this really work. And once I saw, first of all the challenge of that, but the second all that the idea wasn't strong enough to, you know, raise that money. And I felt like the management team wasn't strong enough to fight out in the global marketplace. Because you know, the minute you raise that money, the minute you go out there, the competition is brutal. And so I think the lesson that I want, you know, listeners to take from this too is the idea that if you've come to that decision point It just doesn't feel right. It's perfectly okay to walk away. And you can see that even in marks case, though, he said that there's other companies that have done the idea, and they're big, and they're backed by a lot of money. But I don't sense that Mark has any regret from walking away from that. And I believe that it's not the right thing for you to do walking away is the right thing, you know, to do. So. Would you have any other comment about that?

Marc Cirera 15:29
Yeah, one last remark, as you were talking, it just came to my mind that, yes, I'm happy I ran away, because he was not the right thing for me. And now I have something that I really love. And I really like. But also, I'm glad I did it. I'm glad I spent that year working on that business idea. Because it's helped me realize what I didn't want. And Shouldn't I had, like, if I didn't have spent all that time into that idea. Who knows, if now I would be thinking, I should have done that. I could have built a business there. I could be rich, whatever. Like, the point is, I think whenever you have a drive to do something, do it. But also listen to yourself, if what you're doing is the right thing or not. But do it don't waste too much time thinking just learn by experience. And if you realize that it's not the right thing for you, that's fine. You move on you try something else. But all that all that learning stays with you.

Andrew Stotz 16:29
Yeah, it's a great point. And it's something that I always talk about when I talk to young people is also, you know, what I always say is they say, Well, how did you become successful and all that stuff, and I say I quit a lot. And, you know, like, my point about that is that the only way that you're going to know if you really like something is to do it. And kind of try it, you know, and try it. And see, as I tell my interns if you leave this internship, feeling like you do not want to be a financial analyst, like me as an example. That's gold. I mean, imagine if you didn't learn that you thought you tried to grant you when you graduate, you try to get that job, and you worked in it for three years, and it sucked. You know, that's gold. And so I also realize in life, that the one thing that we can have certainty about is what we're in, we can never really know what's coming. So therefore


Andrew Stotz 17:28
Yeah, if you have the certainty about it, like this isn't right, then you need to leave. And many people don't, many people stay in a situation, that doesn't feel right. Because they don't know what else to do, or what's going to happen. If we're talking about relationships, we're talking about jobs and all that stuff. They end up staying in it. So my challenge from you know, to the listener here is, once you realize that it's not for you walk away, just walk away.

Marc Cirera 17:55
Absolutely. And it goes along with the saying, right, that is that you always regret the things you haven't done, not the things you have done. And so it's it's absolutely, that's whenever you have the opportunity to do something, do it. And then keep checking if that feels right for you. And if you're enjoying it, and if you're happy with it. And if you are fantastic carry on. And if you feel that it's not the right thing, perfect. Take that learning and move on to something else until you find what you really enjoy. There's only one life in it, we need to live it to the maximum.

Andrew Stotz 18:26
Exactly. Now, the next question, I want you to think about a young person who stumbles upon an idea like you did. Now, of course, you and I know that no experience is wasted. If you're aware, and you want to learn. But the truth is that, you know, we want to help young people to go from strength to strength, and not have to go through a year of doing something that you know. So my question to you is based upon what you learn from this story, and what you continue to learn, what one action would you recommend our listeners stuck in a bus station in South America take to avoid suffering the same fate?

Marc Cirera 19:06
Yeah, I would say one of the recommendations would be go to the market. The minute minute one. Like Don't wait until everything's perfect. That's one of the mistakes I made when I was developing this idea of selling bus tickets. Yes, Paddy was not my thing. But partly I spent like a year building like the best website and making all the partnerships and having everything ready. I even had like the social media channels and I I haven't even mentioned I had like Facebook page. It doesn't make any sense. What I did with companies for good it was to take absolutely the opposite approach. So I created the website by myself, the dodgiest website you have ever seen. I had like a very dodgy logo. I had nothing I didn't I didn't even have a straight license. I know legally, I'm not allowed to say that. But you know, it's past. It was five years ago. But without having the basics, I went to the bank. And I started asking companies, in this case, my potential clients, if they would have been interested in what I was offering, in an at that point, again, I had only a couple of services, not the wide range of initiatives we have now. I was telling others, I have a tree planting and a beach cleanup, would you be interested. And luckily, I found that like, large multinational companies that were interesting, the first event we did, he was with DHL. And I had to tell them, like, can I send you the invoice in a few weeks, because I didn't have a trade license to raise the second one was, was Kellogg's, and then came Standard Chartered. And so all these big brands kept coming. And I was able to improve my business and make it grow and basically build it. While I was already having customers proving the business concept, improving things, and having money as well like having an income to survive,

right. And so

Marc Cirera 21:08
that that was for me, a huge learning from my previous mistake that I didn't apply the second one. And that I would recommend to every single entrepreneur or everybody who wants to set up like an idea. Go out there, test it, make it work, and keep improving it as you get feedback. And as you're, as you're running it, rather than waiting, you know, when you're in your garage, or in your office, trying to be perfect, because then when you get out there, maybe it's too late. Or maybe you're too tired, or maybe you don't have any money left in your pocket. Just you know, action action, get out there and do. That's my

Andrew Stotz 21:46
my so lady, ladies and gentlemen, this is golden advice from Mark, you know, go to the market. Now, think about the birds, the little baby birds in the nest. Now one of them was happy that they got kicked out of the nest. They weren't ready. But it was time to fly. And just get out there and go to the market. Beautiful. Okay, last question. What's your number one goal for the next 12 months.

Marc Cirera 22:12
We want to plan 1000s of trees. Yeah, we have already planted 3000 this year. And we want to reach the 10,000 by the end of the year. And by that I don't mean like just paying some money and somebody else planting it. I mean, like physically getting, you know, with our team of volunteers with our companies getting out there digging holes, and like planting it to make the UAE much greener and to yet to try to mitigate climate change. Because man, this is like the biggest threat we have upon us. And we really need to do something about it. All of us, teachers, students, businessman, governments, everybody needs to really look at climate change, because it's going to be a serious threat over the next few years.

Andrew Stotz 23:04
Great. And for the listeners out there that want to learn more, I'll have links in the show notes so you can learn more about what Mark is doing, and how you can get involved. Well, listeners, there you have it another story of loss to keep you winning. My number one goal for the next 12 months is to help you my listeners to reduce risk in your life. So go to my worst investment ever.com right now and download the risk reduction checklist and see how you measure up. As we conclude, Mark, I want to thank you again for coming on the show. And on behalf of East Arts Academy, I hereby award you alumni status for turning your worst investment ever into your best teaching moment. Do you have any parting words for the audience?

Marc Cirera 23:51
Well, it's been a pleasure to be here. And yeah, how can I my words, actually, that it's good to look back and reflect on what you did well, what you didn't and what the journey has been and to be proud of all the achievements because thanks to this interview, I look back four or five years, five years. And I hadn't thought that in a while. And it feels good. And it feels like so much progress has been done. And yeah, I feel I feel fulfilled and happy after this interview. So thank you so much. I do.

Andrew Stotz 24:26
That's fantastic. And I know that the listeners have gained also. And that's the beauty of the podcast, we all gain through it. So that's a wrap on another great story to help us create, grow and protect our well fellow risk takers. This is your worst podcast hose Andrew Stotz saying. I'll see you on the upside.


Connect with Marc Cirera

Andrew’s books

Andrew’s online programs

Connect with Andrew Stotz:

About the show & host, Andrew Stotz

Welcome to My Worst Investment Ever podcast hosted by Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, where you will hear stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community, we know that to win in investing you must take the risk, but to win big, you’ve got to reduce it.

Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, Ph.D., CFA, is also the CEO of A. Stotz Investment Research and A. Stotz Academy, which helps people create, grow, measure, and protect their wealth.

Leave a Comment