Inside Impulse

Our accelerator’s story #1 by Henri-François Martin

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Yoy’e probably wondering how vente-privee ended up creating its own corporate accelerating program?

Then, you’ve come to the right place, and you’ll find here our story told by the very Head of vente-privee accelerator : Henri-François Martin.

Stay tuned, it’s only the first epiosde…

In January 2016, a few months before Station F’s opening, vente-privee’s board asked me to create its startup accelerator.

After years of external expansion, making vente-privee a key player on the European market, and facing the apparition of operational inertia – proper to large companies, this open innovation approach was meant to enhance our agility, our businesses’ productivity, always aiming for an improvement and a reinvention of our online shopping experience for our millions of members.

  • 1st step: Defining our mission, our value creation, thus, our legitimacy

As I was myself an entrepreneur in the past, I had the chance to integrate one of these support structures such as HEC’s incubator, Entreprendre Paris network, or even Scientipôle. This enabled me to experiment the upsides as well as the limits of the French support ecosystem.

Today, there are three big families among the latter:

  • The incubators, most performing for the creation phase of a startup, when you have to go from an idea to the marketing of a product or a service. They definitely provide startups with mentors, within an efficient support structure and with a strong network to help the entrepreneurs during their first months. Yet, they find it hard to generate an actual growth – which is not the core of their value proposition anyway.

  • The traditional “accelerators”, often likened to venture funds, acquire a part of the startup’s capital in exchange of an intense coaching and a support structure, until their first fund raising – on which they can act as a leverage and thus get a piece of the cake for themselves.

  • A few corporate accelerating programs such as the Microsoft’s one, Orange’s or Havas’. Their approach is definitely closer to what we wanted to offer to the ecosystem, but I was sorry to find so little information and documentation regarding their structure, because we could have learned a lot from their history.

In order to build a relevant open innovation strategy, we had to be complementary to these stakeholders, while guaranteeing measurable and fast results – not only for vente-privee’s collaborators that were embarking with thus on this journey, but also for the startups.

Since we are a corporate program, we are no teacher or fund raiser. Our legitimacy rests on our business, technical and product-driven background. This is why we chose to offer a program that was committing to test the startup’s technology onto vente-privee (both website and mobile app). Through this POC (Proof of Concept), the startup is scaling its product to millions of users or thousands of employees – depending on its tool’s nature- and thus grants itself accelerated legitimacy and visibility on the market. In return, vente-privee quickly gets tangible answers regarding innovations, that can be interesting for both our partnering brands and our millions of members.

Then, this enabled us to keep being an innovative e-commerce stakeholder within a competitive landscape, in which “competition is not between the big ones and the small ones anymore, but rather between the fast one the slow ones” – as Ilan BENHAIM, co-founder of vente-privee- is saying.

Thanks to this “win-win” equation, we would offer an innovative support, creating a bridge between a big group and a startup, while generating growth – but without buying shares of having them pay for the support we provide.

Then, we just had to structure our internal operating mode, identify who would be our first startups, recruit the future accelerator team and successfully support our first batch…

  • To be continued…

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