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Sharing is the spirit of being a start-up

Other innovations
12/02/2016

Shortly after his company won the call for projects in "Pooling resources for industry" (with two other startups, Devolis and Arcange), we met up with Arnaud Muller of Creative Data at the CES, where he was exhibiting in the same area for startups as ENGIE and the French Tech.

We took the opportunity to talk to him about the collaborative startup “spirit” that his team uses in conceiving all its projects and about how he used this approach to work together with other companies to win the call for projects.

Hello Arnaud, is sharing the “spirit” of being a startup?

Yes, putting our skills together is really at the heart of how we operate! We work in an incubator and it’s natural in this kind of context to go looking for the skills we need just next door. This is what happened when we responded to ENGIE’s call for projects.

We read in the call for projects that there was a need to digitally connect industrial areas by providing a shared tool and by offering services. Well, this is a process we use every day in the incubator, where we aim to cross boundaries and share.
In a way the idea was to reproduce the startup ecosystem in an industrial area.

We knew we had the foundations of a project thanks to our platform Saagie, but we were missing the app part and the strategic approach and communications aspect. Luckily, just next door to us were these other startups with the skills that fit these requirements: Devolis, which develops smart apps, and Arcange, a communications agency that can provide coaching on the communications and dissemination aspects.

How did you approach putting together your response to this call for projects?

For us, it would have been a mistake to create a new tool or platform that wouldn’t be used because it didn’t correspond to the needs of the market. We can think up whatever we like, but we have to be sure it meets needs on the ground.

Working with Arcange was essential for us to address this challenge. They specialize among other things in business strategy, and can assess real needs on the ground and in doing so prevent a project from being driven by technology rather than the requirements of its future users. This means initially listening to the customer to pick out their actual needs and putting them at the center of the project.

Another fundamental thing for us is using an iterative development process that gets approved by the users at every step of the project. This agile approach lets us adhere closely to those same needs and to confirm that the platform we are proposing is relevant.
Being agile in this way is also key for developing the project in the future: if it works for the ten industries in the test area, and definitively adopted, then it allows us to build on this experience to bring it to different areas while adapting it as need be. The actual nature of the project will help us adapt, since we can analyze user behavior to identify what is being used or not, and try to understand the barriers that keep certain modules from being used.

What are the bricks involved in the project?

The main component of the project is the Saagie platform developed by Creative Data. It helps connect and analyze company data sets, whether the data comes from internal sources or is collected outside (e.g. weather information, etc.).

Devolis provides the software layer for the project, and will also be the main contractor.

Arcange handles the communication aspect and the training process to get the product on-boarded.
In short, we built an innovative mechanism based on within the project itself since the platform the platform is both the result of working together and a way to do so.

What are the next steps?

We are currently working on the business model and looking for funding. Our institutional partners mainly consist of the Paris-Seine-Normandie axis and AUPAES, which will serve as the test area.

But we have also made contacts with other networks such as the GRANDDE network, which is working on the sustainability and societal impacts and has highly developed knowledge of the area.

The "building the economic model" phase has also helped us move forward to the next steps, since we are meeting future users and assessing their needs.

The MVP (minimum viable product) is next, which we will use to outline the product and establish its basic minimum features, followed by the prototyping phase and trials with users.

We want to move through these stages quickly once we pin down the funding. The realities on the ground will then guide how the rest of the project moves forward and the platform evolves. Our goal is to demonstrate the concept’s viability in a given area and make sure the users are satisfied before expanding elsewhere.
We’ve gone with a freemium model, in which the building blocks are free, in order to limit potential obstacles to clients adopting the tool. We are then going to develop additional paying modules.

Last question: what does participating in the CES represent for Creative Data?

The CES has confirmed that our platform is relevant while also surprising us in certain ways.

CES was a way for us to check that our solution was suited to foreign markets while also spotting potential competitors and their technical solutions.
We found that in our market (simplifying data analysis) there were few comparable competitors (startups, at least). We also met prospective American clients who were very interested in our solution. Our goal is to now find partners in the US to develop smart apps that make it possible to use the data in our platform in the US market.

So the CES has helped us in the following ways:
- Confirming that there’s a US market
- Finding gaming partners
- Confirming the uniqueness of our approach

The company going through a significant acceleration period right now. This actually started before the CES, with major customers such as Caisse d'Epargne, Vente Privée and Icade.
Our ultimate goal is to open up more widely on the domestic market and then internationally, and in this regard the CES could be decisive.

Source: Christine Leroy