In this podcast, Pierre-Nicolas Schwab welcomes Victor Reutenauer, the co-founder of Fotonower. After a doctorate in mathematics applied to database indexing, he embarked on an entrepreneurial career with the ambition of finding concrete applications for image recognition, a branch of artificial intelligence. Today it is in the automobile industry (automation of claims processing) and the waste processing industry (automated sorting) that the company has found its first openings. Its entrepreneurial background perfectly illustrates the flexibility needed in the start-up period to identify the right opportunities. It also allows the company to grasp how to use customer feedback to improve its product and increase its chances of success.
- Chapter 1: your entrepreneurial experience in 3² points
- Chapter 2: the genesis of the entrepreneurial idea
- Chapter 3: Validation of the business idea
- Chapter 4: Getting Started
- Chapter 5: Take-off
- Chapter 6: the future
- IntoTheMinds podcasts
The marketing idea to remember absolutely
The weak signals you can collect from your future customers are a source of improvement for your products. Remember to be attentive to the lack of response, partial responses, late responses.
3 key figures
€1m invested in R&D in the last 5 years. Contracts have been signed with 10 key accounts. In the automobile sector, 1 million claims files have been processed.
3 tips for future start-ups
Tip 1: to be tenacious and to cling to one’s ideas, to one’s desires
Tip 2: draw on strong competencies
Tip 3: to surround yourself with a team that will allow you to complement your skills
3 essential skills to launch your start-up
Marketing, project management and technology. According to Victor Reutenauer the presence of a technical breakthrough aspect is important for the success of the start-up.
As is often the case in entrepreneurship, the genesis was opportunistic, first by joining a project like CTO, then by starting his own business. This path also testifies – once again – to the importance of effectual logic. The entrepreneur has specific skills (technical skills in the field of databases) which, combined with an entrepreneurial desire, lead to the creation of a business.
To fully understand Fotonower’s business, you can take a look at the 2 videos below. The first one presents the applications in the automobile sector, the second one in waste sorting.
The validation of the idea was done in the field, in contact with customers. Formal market research was, therefore, not carried out. Instead, continuous market research was favoured, integrating feedback from prospects and customers at every moment to meet their needs as closely as possible.
Feedback from prospects is the most difficult to integrate because it is often weak signals, no response, partial responses, late responses. This is what I observe to be the most difficult to integrate, but also what has the most value in the end: the bad news.
We note in the podcast a real reflection, built, on the role of the prospect, on the need to satisfy his needs by adjusting the development. This is once again part of the effectual logic and illustrates the need for the entrepreneur to remain flexible. Victor Reutenauer’s lucidity regarding “bad news” is also noteworthy. In the final analysis, the bad news is only a value-added expression that the entrepreneur must be able to grasp. The ability to question oneself in the face of such bad news is a factor that contributes positively to success.
In a start-up type entrepreneurial project, you put your guts on the table, it’s on-going market research that needs to be done and adjustments made.
Fieldwork, personal contacts and the beginning of the execution of the idea, are the 3 elements that allowed the start of the business. If the network is essential for the start-up, according to Victor Reutenauer, it can be built up in a few months, particularly by using professional social networks.
The signals that showed a positive reaction from the market were, first of all, the competitors who were raising money in the automobile market (claims automation). In the area of waste sorting, visits from prospects made it clear that a technical solution could be achieved relatively quickly.
This story reminds us that you don’t necessarily have to be the first to enter a market to find your place there. Innovation often means improving products or services, combining existing solutions to extract more value from them. The lesson to be learned is that being an innovator does not necessarily mean being an inventor (watch this video).
Despite all the difficulties, I preferred to continue moving forward in entrepreneurship with all the inherent risks.
Tips for building your network of prospects
If you’re starting from scratch to build a network, be smart (especially in times of crisis). Use a simple way to enhance the value of your prospects and make a relevant communication.
- Launch a podcast with the means at hand: for a few dozen Euros you can produce an episode by following our advice.
- Host the podcast on a platform known as Libsyn or Soundcloud.
- Send an email (or contact on LinkedIn) to 50 of the most important people in your industry and the 50 clients you would like to have.
- Recycle the podcast into a blog article that you will promote on social networks (the article you are currently reading is a good illustration).
- Build an audience by hosting your show and welcoming the people who matter in your industry.
- Share exclusive excerpts, bonuses, by email to encourage others to join your mailing list (beware of the RGPD nevertheless)
- Ask your guests to suggest names of people to invite and then get a recommendation.
- Be perseverant: you must not miss any broadcast deadlines to be sure to retain your audience.
Fotonower’s recipe for taking things to the next level has been to hire competent people. The human aspects are crucial to manage at any stage of development. However, finding the right people remains a major challenge, especially in IT, where talent is in high demand. Keeping this talent, once trained, is also crucial:
It’s something we try to do with common sense and a lot of humility. I think it’s a keyword in all these approaches and we try to give everyone a chance to grow and opportunities to develop their skills.
This story corroborates a lot of the discussions I’ve had (before the Coronavirus crisis anyway) with start-up creators. Fulfilment and skills development are critical aspects of attracting and retaining candidates for IT positions … and keeping them.
What you know how to do, you have to delegate, what you don’t know how to do, you have to do it yourself.
International expansion is obviously on the list. Key account customers will serve as “bridgeheads” to open up to new countries. To achieve this growth, marketing and business development have been identified as critical competencies. Please do not hesitate to make yourself known to Victor Reutenauer if you see yourself in one or other of these functions. 🙂
In 2 years Fotonower hopes to be present in 10 European countries and is aiming for a turnover of 50m€ within 5 years.
A podcast to help you develop your start-up
In 2020 we are changing the format of our podcasts. The objective is to help you develop your start-up by providing you with relevant information on specific topics.
Our podcasts are now divided into chapters of +/- 3 minutes. Each section is dedicated to a specific topic or development phase. You can, therefore, listen to the entire podcast or choose to listen to only part of it by directly selecting the one that interests you the most.
Images : courtesy Shutterstock
Tags: artificial intelligence, startup