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Mentorship: Power of the X network in the service of start-ups of X-Up incubation programme

Interview | Kamil Beffa, Director General of Louis Dreyfus Armateurs & Start-up Mentor

Within the framework of mentorship of the start-ups of the 12th promotion of X-Up incubator of the Ecole Polytechnique, we had the pleasure to meet Mr. Kamil Beffa (X90), Deputy Director General of Louis Dreyfus Armateurs and mentor of the start-up SubR.

Discover his journey, career and his involvement with the incubator.


Story and journey of Kamil Beffa

Before assuming the role of Deputy DG of Louis Dreyfus Armateurs  in 2019, Kamil Beffa lived a dynamic professional life in France as well as internationally.

Student life : With a lead of four years in his education, Kamil Beffa had to wait for some years to secure his seat at Ecole Polytechnique, a school which interested him a lot. He studied civil engineering at Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées and pursued his Master’s degree in economics in parallel at the EHESS.

Since October 1996, he started working as a drilling engineer at Total. « I wanted to start my professional life abroad immediately. It is for this reason that I chose a giant corporate involved in oil drilling. » explains Kamil Beffa. After more than four years, he left and started working with McKinsey & Company as consultant and then Lafarge as quality manager at Paris and many other different countries for the next ten years. Thereafter, Kamil Beffa continued working in mid-sized companies such as CGG and Nexans where he became vice-president. Today, he is the Deputy Director General of Louis Dreyfus Armateurs, a medium-sized enterprise with 2500 employees.

He spent nine years abroad: Poland, Argentina, United Arab Emirates, Serbia, China etc. Passionate about languages, he speaks ten of them! « Currently I am learning Esperanto and Hebrew. My work takes up a lot of my time but I choose to pursue my passion of learning new languages before taking rest. » says Kamil Beffa. His international exposure got him interested in languages and he is fond of Serbia, Poland, Russia and China. Although he feels close to Slavic culture, China was a true culture shock for him despite learning Chinese. He advises people to do a good research on a place for knowing its people, culture and other issues with ease.

Kamil often changed his place of work which he explains simply: « I needed to progress and I always looked for opportunities and challenges. Once I felt that I had done a job enough, and that my evolution was getting limited, I changed the enterprise. As time passed, I moved towards small-scale enterprises because I had the feeling that there was more to do and better opportunities. My professional challenges pushed and motivated me to do better. »

Today, at Louis Dreyfus Armateurs, Kamil Beffa is facing a different kind of challenge : Covid-19. It has impacted the enterprise especially in transporting dry bulk. Other activities, however, are increasing such as offshore windfarms or laying of submarine telecommunication cables. There is also a possibility of difficulties in the UK waters due to Brexit as there are a lot of uncertainities. For 2021, Kamil Beffa plans to develop markets with potential and redirect resources and investments.

Kamil Beffa, mentor for the 12th promotion of X-Up

Every promotion of the X-Up incubator has a day-long speed dating event between start-up and mentors who are all Ecole Polytechnique alumni. These potential mentors are selected by program managers as per the requirements of the start-up. During this day dedicated to mentorship, each start-up meets three mentors who can guide them.

This is how Kamil Beffa became the mentor for SubR, a start-up incubated in the 12th promotion of X-Up « I like the project and the personality of the two entrepreneurs : enthusiastic, passionate and convinced about their interest in the start-up. I felt like helping them. My experience can help them in many aspects : develop business contacts, financing, think about industrial partners or focus on research… » explains Kamil Beffa

He did not have any mentors himself during studies but had the opportunity to meet one at the beginning of his career in the Lafarge group. Before becoming Director General of Lafarge in Serbia at the age of 33, Kamil Beffa was never responsible for 800 people. « Initially, I feared that I would not be able to perform well in this post. My manager in-charge of Central Europe assured me and suggested me to spend a week with the manager of South African region. The two countries are different but our personalities were similar and he taught me a lot in a few days. Moreover, he was a polytechnician too. » adds Kamil Beffa

His biggest advice to the start-ups : Using one’s network in the best possible and pertinent way. The network is not just professional but it also relates to the family, friends and their network. It is easy to be in touch with a multitude of interesting people on a number of subjects and it is important to be surrounded by them while creating one’s start-up. Why should you be solving a problem alone when you can get help from others ? It is this thought that motivated him to be a mentor for the X-Up incubation programme.