BFM Académie, the first contest for new business creators on radio and television, is now in its 13th edition and this year, it is Jade Francine, creator of WeMaintain, an elevator maintenance company, who is the winner. Its slogan is “using digital technology to enhance the value of technical professions”. We had the pleasure of interviewing her and learning more about this somewhat revolutionary concept within this specific market.
The concept of WeMaintain
Jade Francine sees WeMaintain as an alternative to elevator maintenance. At present, the world market, with an impressive turnover of 35 billion dollars, is held by only 4 major groups, namely Kone, ThyssenKrupp, Schindler and Otis. The assessment made by Jade is that there is considerable dissatisfaction among both customers and technicians.
In this field, it should be noted that the installation of elevators only represents 20% of the turnover while maintenance represents 80%. In Paris, for example, 25% of the elevators are over 40 years old!
The technicians each have a fleet of elevators to manage, this fleet being increased as they develop their skills. As legislation requires them to make a mandatory check-up of each elevator at six-week intervals, it becomes almost impossible for them to deal with breakdowns in a satisfactory way, which becomes frustrating for them and also for the customer.
Customers have established a maintenance contract with a sales representative of one of these companies, but often lack visibility on costs and often face a long decision-making chain for all troubleshooting, which significantly increases response times.
Technicians, on the other hand, are not 100% responsible for their fleet because they often have to change sectors.
The digital tool WeMaintain will allow the technician to become independent, and therefore responsible and self-sufficient, with the possibility of earning a better living, while maintaining a smaller number of elevators and, therefore, being able to do his job better. It will also enable better contact with customers of all kinds.
The elevator technician’s dissatisfaction
The elevator technician is a highly qualified person whose main task in France and Belgium is mainly preventive: he must check his fleet once every 6 weeks. Troubleshooting interventions come in addition to this task. His biggest challenge is not to be in direct contact with the customer and therefore not able to be responsible for the elevators he takes care of.
The fact that a technician, for insurance reasons, cannot become self-employed as in most professions also prevents him from receiving a salary that meets his expectations, even though, compared to other technical occupations, that of elevator technician is the highest paid in the United States.
Benoît Dupont is one of the co-founders of WeMaintain. After 10 years at Otis, he was able to understand these potential areas of dissatisfaction and, while working in foreign countries, realised that the problems were the same for both the technician and the customer, regardless of the country. You need to adapt to the person who creates the value, in other words, the technician.
The transition from concept to business: and market research in all this?
At the beginning of 2017, in position in China, and seeing many Chinese companies setting up in this field, Benoit Dupont is determined to build a “European giant”. The choice was to launch this company in France.
His extensive network of contacts in France was an essential factor in the decision to create this company. A real market research was not carried out, but some technicians and customers were interviewed to find out the crucial points they wanted to see in this application. This was still a matter of convenience, but with reliable people, the contractor knew well. This could have been dangerous for the long-term without Jade Francine’s experience in business and management, as she had a clear perspective on entrepreneurial projects.
The main stages of development
- The launch took place in early 2017, without CTO. The first development of the platform was made thanks to an external service provider in India. AppCooker was used to design an app and made a mock-up.
- Once the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) was finalised, the decision was taken to launch in France. In May 2017, a meeting with Tristan who became CTO and who greatly appreciated the human aspect of this concept of revaluing technical professions through the use of digital technology and who wished to have a particular technique.
- In October 2017, back in Paris to explore investment funds (fundraising with those who finance investment funds: LP’s).
- At the end of 2017 was the moment when WeMaintain became known after winning a first start-up competition: the MIPIM in Hong Kong. Some media outlets have begun to publish articles about the company.
- This was followed by a first place in the European company ranking in the Harvard competition. This was the first time in the history of this competition that a European company had won.
- Finally, it was the BFM Academy’s competition that brought a lot of visibility and allowed WeMaintain to become a real player in their sector really.
The future of WeMaintain
Two main sectors are important in the elevator market, Europe and Asia, and it is therefore here that WeMaintain could consider developing.
The focus is on the conjunction of factors:
- the concentration of elevators: modern cities.
- low salaries of technicians in most countries.
- the degree of maturity of the technology: opening-up to innovative markets.
- regulations to be respected.
The WeMaintain Key Figures
- age: 1 year.
- Funds raised: €1.8m (February 2018).
- 13 people within the company.
- 40 technicians on the waiting list.
Posted in Entrepreneurship, Innovation.