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​Amiens Startup Weekend: making space to meet

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ENGIE is a partner of the first Startup Weekend held by Tech Amienoise from January 29 to 31, 2016. At the origin of both the non-profit association and the hackathon is Arnaud Jibaut, a serial entrepreneur who is passionate about local development and culture.We asked him to talk to us about this first event, which was meant to prove to the people of Amiens that it’s possible to be an entrepreneur in Picardy!

Hello Arnaud, how did your background lead you to organize this first startup weekend?

I’ve been creating sites in Amiens since 2002, initially as a freelancer and since 2006 as part of Awelty. My web agency work has gradually expanded. Out of personal interest, I created a cultural agenda that lets people find out about cultural events around Amiens. It was successful enough that I then created cultural agendas for all of the departments.
I also had the idea for a tool that would let people create their own websites, e-monsite. This idea, which was disruptive when it was launched, is still a great success since 1000 new sites are created every day using the platform.

Throughout my career, I have found that while the necessary talents and opportunities exist in Amiens, it is not so easy to set up your company here. In a nutshell, Amiens is a little lacking in startup culture.

This is the case despite the fact that the university offers a strong program in computer programming, and despite the city’s significant cultural life, all of which are conditions that would seem to make it ripe for developing entrepreneurship. But in reality Picardy has one of the lowest rates of business creation in France.

So we established Tech Amiens in May 2015 to remedy this situation and get the word out to potential entrepreneurs as well as institutional partners. There was a strong desire to unite people, to help them, to create networks, to provide opportunities for self-instruction, in short to make other entrepreneurs want to launch their projects!
Hosting a startup weekend is a logical next step in this process.

What will happen during the startup weekend?

A Startup Weekend is a kind of hackathon in which participants have 54 hours to create a startup team and to persuade a selection committee made up of professionals.

All kinds of profiles are welcome and desired: students, developers, graphic designers, communicators, etc.
Participants find out about each other and present their ideas and skills on Friday night, and teams are then created based on shared affinities or according to the needs of each project.
Mentors from the professional or non-profit worlds then help the teams build a viable project over the next two days, down to the smallest details: its website, business plans, scale models, etc.

On Sunday evening all of the projects are presented to the selection committee, who will choose 3 winners, who will get things like equipment, training, software licenses, and more. For all of the participants it serves as an immersion in the startup experience, an opportunity to meet experienced entrepreneurs, to expand their networks and to learn!

The weekend will have an open atmosphere that is hopefully conducive to learning and discovery, involving everything from hard work to friendly moments of relaxation: a concert, a big game, relaxation time. With one month to go till the weekend, we have already 55 participants registered, which is a very satisfactory first step. We would like to recruit more students, but to do so, we might have to wait until the end of winter holidays ...

Registration is open until the weekend itself, but space is limited to 100 people to make it practical to meet people and form teams.

ENGIE is partner of the startup weekend. Is it important to you that large corporations are involved in this type of activity?

Xavier Pruvot, an ENGIE regional delegate, had contacted Amiens Tech since it was created, even before the idea for the startup weekend, and we had talked about the Group's open innovation policy.

Getting big companies such as ENGIE involved gives our project more credibility among other local partners, for example. It is also an opportunity for participants to boost their ideas, their projects. Partnerships were formed with ENGIE subsidiaries and those of other large groups during previous startup weekends held elsewhere, which gave those projects an immediate outcome and an important testing ground.
In Amiens, there are few great examples of digital entrepreneurship. The unemployment rate in Picardy is high but very few companies are created there. We hope this initiative will prove that starting a business in Amiens is possible. Encounters between different kinds of people will be fundamental for this to happen.

Source: Christine Leroy

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