Intrapreneurs Program: “I wouldn’t go back for anything in the world”

On June 22, Leonard's Intrapreneurs 2022 Demo Day marked the end of the incubation phase of the program dedicated to innovative project leaders from the VINCI group. This annual event is an opportunity for Intrapreneurs to pitch their solution in front of a wider audience: the project sponsors, internal experts, as well as members of the VINCI executive committee. An opportunity to look back at Waste Marketplace and Greendeed, two successful projects from the Intrapreneurs program.

Jérome de Tomasi is the founder and CEO of Waste Marketplace, a digital solution to facilitate industrial and construction waste management. He was part of the first class of the Intrapreneurs program, in 2017. “I had an idea in mind for several years: simplifying, digitizing and optimizing the management of construction site waste, on a model similar to Uber. Just when I had given up on the idea, I heard about Leonard’s Intrapreneurs program. And that’s when I said to myself that I had to do it.”

Emmanuel Fleurier and Eddy Sovic are co-founders of Greendeed, a solution that aims to optimize wasted energy from industrial activities by financing energy efficiency projects. They were part of the 2021 class and are now celebrating the startup’s first year. “We wanted to develop an idea related to the area of Energy As A Service. A colleague working within the Actemium brand recommended the Intrapreneurs program to us, and we decided to apply.”

The incubation phase of the Intrapreneurs program lasts four months, during which VINCI employees whose projects have been selected devote one day a week to their idea. Development of the value proposition, market sizing, financial modeling, preparation of a sales pitch: each week, a new module aims to challenge the initial idea of the project. Jérome de Tomasi remembers the kick-off event of the Intrapreneurs program: “We were told we would have to make sixty calls to present our idea and get feedback. At the time, no one believed it, we thought it was crazy! And yet, at the end of the incubation period, I had done more than a hundred!”

Thanks to an applied method based on an entrepreneurship course developed by the Stanford Center for Professional Development, the initial idea is quickly confronted with the reality of the market. And it is not uncommon for the project presented at Demo Day to be quite different a few months later.

“We were working on a value proposition that we derived into two very distinct offers during the Intrapreneurs course, and in the end it was the second product that boosted sales. The software we built was the keystone of Greendeed’s success, even though I must admit that I wasn’t convinced at first,” admits Emmanuel Fleurier. Today, Greendeed acts both as a provider of “certificats d’économie d’énergie (CEE) thanks to an application that manages the entire process of obtaining CEEs, and also offers an innovative service contract (Energy As A Service) for large projects that allows customers to sell energy savings rather than work. A new business model that facilitates the decarbonization of the industry by giving customers the opportunity to carry out their project without having to invest.

Jérome de Tomasi during the Intrapreneurs Demo Day 2022

Confronting the initial model with the first potential users of the solution is a crucial step, a first test for the team.

“When we wanted to test the model developed during the incubation phase, we took a list of all the waste transporters in the Rhône region – there are seven hundred of them. There were four of us in a small office, each of us on our mobile phone. We spent the day getting rejections. When finally someone said that they were maybe ready to test the solution, we jumped for joy! It would have been a difficult situation to overcome on my own, but in a group it was more fun.”

Above all, this experience allowed Jérôme de Tomasi to question the initial model, and to develop a relevant offer for users. He adds, “Probably the most important thing I learned is that if you don’t have one problem, one solution, and one customer, you can launch whatever you want but you’ll hit a wall. It sounds basic, but it’s something you don’t know at first without doing some entrepreneurial method.”

Intrapreneurship means a lot of twists and turns, but it also means the support of the Leonard team, internal VINCI mentors, and coaches, also known as “entrepreneurs in residence”, who are well versed in the exercise and who follow the project leaders on a weekly basis.

“I wouldn’t go back for anything in the world. The Leonard period is so exhilarating, exciting, destabilizing. You go from being on the payroll in a comfortable position to having to accept that your coach is half your age. It teaches you humility very quickly,” smiles Jérome de Tomasi. And Emmanuel Fleurier adds, “You have to work hard, because each new step is an excuse to give up. You have to try to follow all the recommendations, the orientation of the coach, know how to take the best advice from the mentors, try to capture all the positive aspects of the Stanford modules. But above all, you have to know how to enjoy yourself and be passionate.”

Today, Waste Marketplace represents about forty employees, more than 9 million in revenues in 2021, and a fundraising of €2M to accelerate the growth of the business. “When I made the business plan at the beginning, I had made much more reasonable forecasts. The Leonard team told me that we had to double the figures, I didn’t believe it. And now we are doing 25% more than we had planned”, Jérôme de Tomasi enthuses.

Emmanuel Fleurier and Eddy Sovic share the same observation for Greendeed: “We had made forecasts that seemed very ambitious at the time of incubation, and we see today that these figures are achievable. We realize that it’s feasible, and that’s a pleasant surprise.

Emmanuel Fleurier during the Intrapreneurs Demo Day  2022

And the adventure doesn’t stop there. Waste Marketplace’s ambition is to be present in several countries and to be the first alternative operator of industrial and construction waste in Europe. The startup has just been selected by the Big Booster Auvergne Rhône Alpes, which helps startups in the region to scale globally.

As for Greendeed, the platform is acquiring more than fifty new users per month. The goal now is to double or even triple the number of users of the solution. “Our activity as a CEE provider will ensure the base of our activity. For the moment, we have been able to help sign contracts that represent more than 4 million euros in sales for the group’s companies. The goal now is to reach 1500 users (group installers) and to expand to other branches such as VINCI Construction.”

Emmanuel Fleurier and Eddy Sovic also insist on the richness of the community they have been able to create thanks to their software platform and which allows them to collect a lot of valuable data. According to Jérome de Tomasi, this question of data will be central to future innovation models: “innovation lies in new models of data generation and acquisition.”

According to Emmanuel Fleurier, innovation can take many forms. According to him, Greendeed’s innovation is not only in the Energy As A Service itself, but also in the way the CEE platform has been designed to fit user’s needs. “Our competitors don’t have this fully dematerialized platform aspect. The innovation is not in the product itself, but in the way things are done.”
Are you still hesitating to apply to the program?

For Eddy Sovic, “the Intrapreneurs program is the best time you’ll ever have, because you’ll be able to test your idea on the market. The resources made available are exceptional, so you have to make the most of them. Moreover, at VINCI in the broadest sense, there is a lot of good will. Leonard is a place where directors and partners come and go on a daily basis… it’s the ideal way to expand your network within VINCI”.

Eddy Sovic and Emmanuel Fleurier during the Intrapreneurs Demo Day 2022

Jérome de Tomasi adds that he thought for a long time that he was a good sidekick: “At the beginning of the entrepreneurial adventure, you have to do everything. The intrapreneurship course showed me that I was a much more operational person than my job would have led me to believe. And that I had the ability to get people on board. Experience reveals things you didn’t think you were capable of doing.”

He concludes, “Open your ears and take advantage, incorporate as much as you can. The method is great and it will serve you well whether you continue in intrapreneurship or not.”

So, ready to give it a try?

To apply to the Intrapreneurs program, click here : link

A webinar is organized on Monday July 11 at 12:15 (Paris time) for all inquiries about the Intrapreneurs program : link


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