Start-up Weekend Europe 2019 Paris Edition: a weekend to remember

I attended my first start-up weekend this year, and I owe that to my students. A team of dedicated young people who took a great initiative and proposed a project which they built entirely from the ground up. What I saw and lived on March 29-31 was very inspiring, and I thoroughly enjoyed the event. Here is my account of this 2019 Paris edition of Start-up Weekend Europe, an event organised by Techstars and my students of the Advanced Master’s in Digital Business Strategy of Grenoble Ecole de Management. A perfect addition to the new “lecturer’s desk section” of Digital Me Up.
Start-up weekend Europe Paris Edition 2019

The organising team from left to right: Sergio Gonzalez*, Chris Cokson, Julie Company*, Baptiste Horn*, Caroline Laherre*, Heloise Leduc**, Lucas Brossier*, Samanzar Chowdhury (Sweden)

*Advanced Master’s student – 2019 academic year and ** 2020 academic year Birth of Start-up Weekend Europe Paris Edition 2019 One day last year, Baptiste Horn (academic year 2018-2019) came to me and suggested that we should organise the 2019 Paris edition of Start-up Weekend Europe. At first, I found this was a good idea, but I had no clue how to get this done. No worries, Baptiste said, we held one already in Oxford last year, and we’ll help you with that. So here we went and talked about the idea to the head of GEM Exec Ed Gael Fouillard who readily agreed to help us. GEM had suddenly become one of the main sponsors of the 2019 event. Finding the venue was easy too. We talked to Patrizia Angiolani, our GEM Paris campus manager and all was settled in a matter of minutes.
Start-up Weekend Europe Paris Edition 2019

The room was packed on Sunday March 31 for the results. Baptiste is standing on the left. He can be proud of what his team and himself have achieved. Well done!

The team went on to organise the event, and all went smoothly. It took place on March 29-31 on our PARIS Campus at Ranelagh in the 16th district of Paris. On Friday 29 at 7:00 pm The event was already teeming with people and Khizar Naeem, our facilitator from Holland, even said it was one of the biggest he had ever attended. Seven teams of 3 to 10 people competed over three days on launching new ideas, and 3 of them were rewarded with prizes.
Start-up weekend Europe Paris Edition 2019

Khizar Naeem was an amazing facilitator for the Start-up weekend Europe Paris Edition 2019. Even though he nicked my glass of Coke but I’m not one to bear a grudge.

“12% of start-up weekend teams will go on working on their ideas.” “Statistically, 12% of teams will continue with their start-up weekend idea but what is important is that failure should never make you a quitter. You will fail, and that’s OK!” were Khizar’s words of introduction. Test and learn is the motto. Friday evening, 7:00  pm – The kick-off Khizar was an amazing host. He involved everyone from the start and asking the audience to come up with random nouns. He then assigned two keywords to each team who had to pitch on a start-up idea based on these random words in a matter of minutes. And some of the pitches were, beyond the fun, quite convincing given the circumstances. “If you can do this in just a few minutes, imagine what you will do in 54 hours!” Khizar went on. And so they went on working. Some until late in the night. Some even had to take a nap on location.
Start-up weekend

It’s not always easy to stay awake when you are taking part in a Start-up Weekend

Final presentations Start-up weekend Paris – 31/03/2019 I came back on Sunday at 4:00 pm. The weather was incredibly balmy; there were tourists all over the place I realised, as I was riding my Brompton bike to the Ranelagh campus. None of the people from the start-up weekend had noticed the warmer climes however. They were still hard at work when I arrived, swotting on their presentations. Entering the “Feel good zone” “We are in the feel good zone” Khizar said. This is the “don’t talk to me” period. A bit what I lived during my Rugby years. That moment right before the match when you are waiting for the ref’s whistle to blow and time is like suspended. “We are building start-ups but now the stress is gone” Naeem went on, even though it wasn’t entirely true that there was no stress left. The process You’ll have to present your start-up “in front of scary judges” Khizar added. But I guarantee that none of them was menacing.
From left to right, Candice Capelle (community leader at start-up Weekend), GEM's Severine Le Loarne and French Start-up entrepreneur and Jamespot founder Alain Garnier.

From left to right, Candice Capelle (community leader at start-up Weekend), GEM’s Severine Le Loarne and French Start-up entrepreneur and Jamespot founder Alain Garnier.

7 teams went on presenting  and every team was granted five minutes to pitch their ideas, all pitches were timed. Then came the Q&A session. Amongst these seven pitches, 3 teams were awarded prizes And the winner is team 4: Kataea  Kataea’s team, led by Aline Sicard, thought that there was a serious issue with women’s sport equipment. “It’s a struggle” Aline said. Football, Rugby, Combat sports mean that, in France only, one million women need equipment and can’t always find what they need. “A revolution is happening and manufacturers know that a 1% growth is hinging on women” Aline described.
Start-up weekend Europe Paris Edition 2019 winner

Start-up weekend Europe Paris Edition 2019 winning team: Kataea

The first thing they did was to survey 200 people online and in the high-street. The Kataea team proposed to create an e-commerce platform and a community-based marketplace as well as product design to go with it. A MVP was built by the team over the weekend. A 5-year forecast back-of-a-packet of cigarette calculation showed that license holders only account for 10% of total sportspeople. Year one costs for setting up the project were thought to amount at approx. € 650k. The jury raised a few questions regarding competition and product-development but the overall impression was very good and the team was awarded the first prize hands down. “There is a gap in this market” Pr. Le Loarne commented. “That was very well spotted even though I have my reservations about product-design which would require multimillion R&D investments” she added. Second place for team 6: Freshboard Second came Bruno Kaufmann’s Freshboard, a project which changed names a couple of times since then, but is in the process of incubating. So he told me when I met him in mid April, recapping on his project, which I must admit I found most interesting and very apt.
Start-up weekend Europe Paris Edition 2019 runner up

Start-up weekend Europe Paris Edition 2019 runner up team leader Kaufmann talks into the microphone

A mid-tier business CEO faces 3 problems Kaufmann explained: 1) CEOs are very much on their own and need help and don’t always know who to turn to 2) most of the time CEOs come across new issues for which they are not well prepared 3) Lastly, the persons closest to them (their accountant, partners and friends…) aren’t always the best people who can advise them. Amongst the many problems faced by CEOs one must point out international expansion as a recurring issue named by all. In France only, many SMEs need help. “There are 41,000 businesses like this” Kaufmann added, “and we know that 86% of CEOs who set up an advisory board have derived a proper result from this”. Here’s what Freshboard is about: “making advisory boards accessible to all such CEOs and creating a virtuous circle between business leaders and advisors.” The Freshboard team had already identified 50 stakeholders at the time, ready to volunteer as advisors. Working with the chambers of commerce and various not-for-profits is also on the agenda. A one-year support package including 2 advisors and 2 IRL meetings per annum and the ability to ask questions on a continuous basis would cost around € 2,000, the team evaluated. Questions were asked by the jury about how advisors would be remunerated, and the team responded that two thirds of the overall sum would be devoted to them. That is to say €300 4 times a year, i.e. once every quarter. There are other players in that field but all the members of the jury agreed that there was a need for something new as proposed by the team. What clinched it for Freshboard is that “things that work well are those which are down to earth and can be replicated” Garnier said. Warnings were issued however: “You’ll have to nail down the business model very precisely” the seasoned entrepreneur added. “Such a business model cannot be too simplistic and maybe some sort of freemium model would work well in your case” was his conclusion. Third place for team 1: PICKME  Back into e-commerce. Pickme wanted to address the last mile delivery issue. One that is regularly coming back to the table and is still unsolved. “30% of deliveries fail in the last mile!” pitched the Pickme team leader. “It’s extremely frustrating” she added. Costs are huge as “supply chain management amounts to 20% of the overall cost of e-commerce whereas consumers choose home delivery in 40% of cases.” Pickme’s idea is to replace centralised management of deliveries by a community-driven delivery system enabling neighbours to help each other and make a little money on the side while they are at it. Some sort of Airbnb of deliveries in a word.
Start-up weekend Europe Paris Edition 2019 3rd place

Start-up weekend Europe Paris Edition 2019 3rd place went to the Pickme team. Boy do they look happy!

Instead of opting for home delivery, the idea is that consumers choose Pickme and ask a neighbour to do the job for them. The latter, named “pickers,” agree to collect the parcels and hand them over to the consumer. Hence creating a community feeling as well as preventing delivery issues or parcels being delivered at the wrong time in the wrong hands. The team’s aim is to convince 190,000 e-merchants to switch to Pickme and bring down delivery failure rated from 30 to 5%. Pickers could make €2.40 per delivery and over a one-year period, it’s up to €2,400 additional revenue that they could make. 82% of the 50 people the team interviewed declared they would be agreeable to becoming “pickers.” Out of 250 million yearly deliveries, the team aims at a 10% market share. Pickme’s objective is to join an incubator and test a MVP and start building a community.
Start-up Weekend Europe Paris Edition 2019

The Start-up Weekend Europe Paris Edition 2019 poster was entirely made by our students. The logo is an original design by Laura Mengot (academic year 2018-2019)

The members of the jury found the “pitch very interesting” Candice said, “very specific and professional, even though the jury made a few reservations with regards to the implementation of the project which would require partnerships to be set up.” Overall, the jury was impressed with the idea and its market potential. This blog isn’t big enough to hold all the information I gathered from that start-up weekend event and I have omitted the presentations from the 4 other teams. I hope they will bot bear a grudge. As Khizar said in his introduction, it is possible to build a start-up in just 54 hours, all the teams were able to demonstrate great creativity, both from an innovation and a business point of view. This 2019 Paris edition of Start-up Weekend Europe certainly was something and I’m looking forward to next year’s edition.