September 2018. They are around ten lucky, hand-picked young entrepreneurs of the second Techstars Paris class. They come from all over the world and their team was selected from almost one thousand applicants.
Over 13 weeks, there is a marathon of interviews and workshops. Over 80 Air Liquide mentors, executives and experts attend to share their experience and support the startuppers. The discussions are lively and much is questioned. “We send them back to their draft 20 times to polish their strategy and adjust their project,” explains Bruno Aidan, Chief Data Officer and Head of La Factory1 at Air Liquide.
Give first is the Techstars' mantra. “We are expecting mentors to give without expecting anything in return, with kindness and empathy,” says Julien Quintard, Director of Techstars Paris. The interaction is nevertheless a win-win. Bruno Aidan stresses that “this collaborative approach to help entrepreneurs bring their project to life is very refreshing for Air Liquide employees.”
The pressure rises up to the final Demo Day. At the Grand Rex, young entrepreneurs have only six minutes to convince potential investors. Last year, €6.3 million was raised at Euronext Paris by start-ups accelerated by Techstars.
corporate partners including Air Liquide
weeks of mentoring for start-ups (program length)
start-ups accelerated since 2017
With its expertise in accelerating projects, Techstars also organizes a bootcamp to enable companies to develop intrapreneurship projects with start-up methods. For six weeks, two teams of Air Liquide employees work with an incubator to bring momentum to their project in the making. On the agenda: words from startuppers who have successfully completed their project, brainstorming sessions and discussions on good practices with other intrapreneurs. “The objective is to teach start-up methods to large companies,” explains Julien Quintard. “Our teams learn to think differently and experiment with working methods based on agility and adapting to market needs. The experience has helped spread an entrepreneurial approach within Air Liquide,” said Bruno Aidan.
Air Liquide executives as mentors
Air Liquide experts to support start-ups accelerated by Techstars
This ecosystem, unique in its open innovation concept, benefits all parties. Two projects identified by Techstars have already been adopted by Air Liquide: the AI assistant RampUp, which facilitates onboarding of new employees, and the Wakeo platform, which enables real-time monitoring of helium containers.
“The financial and human investment is significant,” adds Julien Quintard. But these inspiring and collaborative exchanges add to the energy.” Air Liquide has embarked on this partnership with a three-fold objective: find new technologies that can enhance its business and services, open up to new markets and advance methods of working. The reviews are very positive and greatly contribute to spreading an entrepreneurial,agile and customer-centric approach at Air Liquide.
Open Innovation to accelerate speed to market
In a fast-changing world, Air Liquide is anticipating the needs of its customers by joining an open ecosystem that relies both on the Group's internal communities and on external networks of innovation. Air Liquide has established more than 200 R&D partnerships with universities and manufacturers and works with more than 100 start-ups worldwide to accelerate the launch of new solutions.
1 La Factory is the Air Liquide team that provides the digital skills (data scientists, designers, etc.) needed to develop the Group's digital solutions.
Article published on July 22, 2019