As part of its X-Up program, the École Polytechnique startup incubator and gas pedal offers each startup the opportunity to be accompanied by one or more mentors.
A mentor is a person who, thanks to his or her experience, is able to offer guidance, insight and advice. He or she does not give answers, but helps to find them, can sometimes just be there to serve as a role model, can set an example through his or her career, relationships, experiences in general, etc. To conclude, he is there to inspire and help entrepreneurs discover their challenges.
What were the key stages in your career and what expertise do you have?
After graduating from AgroParisTech after the Ecole Polytechnique (X94), I spent about 20 years in the agri-food industry. This has enabled me to acquire technical expertise in certain areas, as for example in food coating, which is the main subject for the process that Proteme is developing and wishes to offer for coating fruit and vegetables and other commodities.
In addition, this career path has given me a knowledge of the players in the agri-food sector that can also be very useful to a startup like Proteme, both in terms of finding potential outlets for its proposal and in terms of dealing with people who have significant technical expertise in their type of process.
What does entrepreneurship mean to you?
For me, it is above all an adventure. I haven't had the opportunity, personally, to found a company or to participate in an entrepreneurial project, but I've been lucky enough to work in companies where the entrepreneurial spirit was a strong point. I am thinking in particular of my experiences at Kalizea or within the Roullier group, where the desire to grow externally and to innovate in order to extend the proposals to more sectors and to more potential customers was part of the entrepreneurial spirit that one seeks in an entrepreneurial adventure.
It is an adventure, regardless of the size or sector of the company, which is synonymous with growth and development.
What advice do we usually hear that you would disagree with?
Young startups are often advised to focus on one key development to be more efficient and I think that on the contrary, a startup should explore a wide field of possibilities. The startup spirit is rather favorable to this type of development. You shouldn't focus too much on a single outlet and remain open even if you have to prioritize.
What led you to become a mentor in the incubation program for early stage startups X-Up?
Personally, I had the opportunity to manage an R&D center for two years and I really enjoyed that experience and it served me well in my career. The idea was to find this spirit of development and entrepreneurship. In addition, I wanted to be able to support young project leaders in the environment that is being strengthened around the Ecole Polytechnique.
What are the main missions of a mentor?
I was able to meet the other mentors and exchange ideas and I think that having several mentors with different profiles is very interesting because they complement each other. Connecting and opening up my network is undoubtedly a very useful aspect for Proteme. Because of my experience in R&D on the subject of coating, I hope to have been able to provide a technical opinion that will be useful to them in order to complete their development and have a process that is as efficient as possible.
I have already followed a startup, Ynsect, which has since become a beautiful gem of the Frecn foodtech sector. At the very beginning of its development phase, they wanted to know how a traditional animal nutrition plant worked and I was able to open the doors of a Roullier Group plant to them. I've been following them ever since, since a fellow Polytechnicien is one of the founders of Ynsect. I was able to bring an outside perspective to this startup which has become a great company and it is this experience that made me want to go into mentoring. Indeed, even if I have a classical job in the food industry, there are interesting things to be inspired by the way it works today and to find the way of tomorrow for these startups.
What do you think about innovation in France?
In the food industry, we have a lot of assets to be at the forefront of global foodtech. I think that the public authorities have understood that they have a role to play and that they have effective levers for action, particularly powerful relays as BPI France. We have the opportunity to develop new flagship companies and it is in our interest to do so in order to be among the great nations that count in terms of innovation.
What advice would you give to startups in their relations with corporations?
The DNA of startups is that they know how to present themselves and find the necessary interlocutors for their development.
To startups at Ecole Polytechnique in particular, I would say that we always underestimate the strength of the network. By having a good network approach, by knowing how to rely on relays and by communicating right, you can open unsuspected doors at the beginning of an entrepreneurial adventure.
Spend the necessary time, have a good approach and know how to use your network, which is powerful to open doors.