An incubator backed by a major: is this the formula which the construction, real estate and energy markets need today, to take on the challenges of our time?
Disruptive innovationsare emerging more and more regularly at the initiative of start-ups in VINCI’s historic business lines – a phenomenon that had been observed in the energy sector for many years, but which until very recently was very infrequent in the real estate or construction sectors. What is striking today is the explosion in the number of start-ups that create solutions for the planning, construction and operation of buildings or infrastructures. Using ConTech (technology construction) as an example, a sector focused on the constructive process, global investment doubled from 2017 to 2018 to more than $6 billion and is expected to exceed $10 billion in 2019. The programmes supported by Leonard help capture and deploy these innovations, whether they come from our employees or from start-ups outside the Group.
What motivated the creation of the SEED and CATALYST programmes?
Leonard, since its creation, has been working to detect, support and deploy start-ups external to the Group. The SEED and CATALYST programmes were designed to lend structure respectively around a start-up accelerator in the start-up phase, with SEED, and around a collaboration programme for start-ups in commercial deployment, with CATALYST.
How are the participating start-ups selected?
More than 400 start-ups around the world submitted their applications to be part of the first SEED and CATALYST programmes. Leonard’s teams first assessed the quality of the candidate start-ups, focusing on their viability, the quality of their team, their level of maturity and the robustness of their financing. Thereafter, the selection was finalised on the basis of discussions with a wide range of Group specialists, who enabled us to determine how well the proposed projects would apply to our businesses.
What are the ties between these two programmes and the Leonard Intrapreneurs programme?
Through intrapreneurship, any Group employee can come up with a business project and ultimately bring it to life, in a new undertaking. Very often, the subjects identified by our intrapreneurs are also identified by start-ups outside the Group (and vice versa). When this kind of “co-emergence“ occurs, it is also a good indicator of how relevant an idea is. Each overlap denotes an opportunity for internal/ external collaborationand co-developments to be explored in order to maximise the chances of a breakthrough innovation making it to the market. And if you lend any credence to Thomas Edison, genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration…
What are the features specific to SEED and CATALYST, compared to other incubation programmes?
The bedrock with this type of programme is the quality of the sourcing, in other words, the offer’s attractiveness. To be competitive within the multitude of accelerators, incubators, start-ups and the like, the offer must be clear and differentiated.
With SEED, we enable recently-formed start-ups to validate their value proposition with VINCI employees who could become their customers in the future. We offer entrepreneurship training in partnership with Stanford University in California to prepare them as best possible for their first fund-raising exercise, and we host them for six months on our premises. Each start-up receives over €30,000 to support its first months of growth. Leonard ups the value of its programme by making an equity investment in each SEED start-up.
CATALYST, in contrast, is not an investment programme, but a support programme for start-ups, scale-ups or SMEs that develop relevant, mature and scalable offers for the VINCI Group. The start-ups that we target are really in need of a player that knows how to help them build their networks and successfully move through those first stages of interaction, with the right players, and within a Group as decentralized as ours. We put the keys in their hands, and thus enable them to save valuable time.
What are the benefits for the start-ups receiving support? And for VINCI?
The SEED programme helps anchor VINCI Group right at the heart of the ecosystem of new players now inventing the future of cities and infrastructures. We fill a gap on the global market with an offer that enables early-stage start- ups to put their offers to the test with our operational teams, before they attempt their first fundraising. These start-ups have no exclusive ties to VINCI, but will have grown with us – and we with them.
As to the CATALYST programme, its aim is to speed up and streamline the launch of partnerships between start-ups and the VINCI Group. For VINCI, it means access to the best products and services developed by start-ups anywhere in the world, to enhance our own offers or develop new ones.
What are the two programmes’ objectives for this year?
The aim for 2019 was indeed to launch these programmes. In 2020, the aim will be to show traction externally, with the start- ups, and internally, with our employees.
For SEED, this traction will be achieved if the start-ups we support manage to raise funds from venture capital investment funds to continue their adventure.
For CATALYST, it will be about showing that the products and services supported by the start-ups entering the programme are widely adopted by our employees. On the scale of the CAC40, less than 5% of pilot projects with a start-up ultimately give rise to a long-term relationship. With CATALYST, we want to boost that success rate to 50%!