With the COVID-19 pandemic causing difficulties for people across the world, entrepreneurs are taking the challenges head-on and devising innovative solutions for the smooth functioning of society. To fuel the creative spirit of our student-entrepreneurs, SKEMA Ventures recently organized the Startup Kafe event at SKEMA’s campuses in France, the USA, and China.
More than 200 students participated in the Startup Kafe events across our campuses. At our French campuses in Lille, Paris and Sophia Antipolis, it took place on February 8. While it was organized online due to the health and safety restrictions, its format was the same. The students who had been selected to pitch their business projects were given two minutes to present them in front of an audience comprising students from SKEMA and its partner schools, alumni entrepreneurs, stakeholders from the local entrepreneurship ecosystem, and others.
Ten projects were pitched at the Paris campus related to diverse fields, such as health and wellness, home rental and services, management consulting for SMEs, eco-responsible packaging, etc. Romain Masina, founder of Odysway, interacted with the participants and shared his entrepreneurial experience. “Leave aside the things you don’t have control over and focus on the things you have,” he advised the students. Luana Di Carlo, who pitched the project ‘Native’ with her business partner Chanel Pruvost, said: “We would like to thank Startup Kafe’s hosts. Even though we couldn’t meet physically, it was a rewarding experience. We got to connect to other entrepreneurs that work on similar markets and that are willing to help us. Such a pleasure to be part of this support network!”
At the Lille campus, 16 pitchers presented their projects related to applications for smartphones, connected objects, and projects oriented towards sustainable development, among others. They discussed their projects and also their challenges with the participants and received excellent guidance and support. Many startups used this opportunity to seek the assistance of our partners such as INRIA and schedule a meeting. Pierre Gaignard, founder of Monsieur Biltong, and Théo Vanmarcke, founder of we-van.com, were the guest speakers. Laurie Barbarin, INRIA’s partnerships manager, was also present at the event.
Audience at the Sophia Antipolis campus got to listen to 6 business pitches related to virtual reality services, recycling waste, health and wellness, lifestyle, etc. SKEMA alumnus Benjamin Parent, director of business development at Plastic Odyssey, was the guest speaker.
Startup Kafe was held at the Raleigh campus on February 17. Over 50 people attended it, including students, faculty, and guests. While some students attended it physically at the campus (with masks, following physical distancing measures), others participated virtually, including a team that pitched its business idea from France.
Mitch Weisberg, manager of SKEMA Ventures Raleigh, coordinated the event with the help of the SKEMA Ventures Club of Raleigh. The 14 business pitches presented by students were quite diverse, covering both social as well as commercial projects. One of the highlights of the evening was a presentation by SKEMA alumna and entrepreneur Camille Fenain. During her talk, Camille spoke about her successful startup Additive Solutions, a nationwide car shipping company. She shared the lessons she learnt among the way and encouraging tips for student entrepreneurs, including one of her favourite quotes from Henry Ford, “The real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.
Startup Kafe was organized on March 19 at the Suzhou campus in partnership with Suzhou Dushu Lake Entrepreneurship University, Southeast University’s Suzhou campus, and Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. Several Chinese and international students, experts, and investors participated in intense entrepreneurial brainstorming during the event.
Based at SKEMA’s Paris campus, Xiaojing Sun shared her project on building an online platform to facilitate the studies and daily life of students during this tough pandemic. Mouhamed Diouf from SKEMA’s Suzhou campus pitched his idea of an online visual education platform. Shiyang Gao from the Suzhou campus of Southeast University shared her blueprint for creating an online platform offering English training, based on her own successful experience. Her classmate, Mingyu Liu, pitched his project related to the “sharing economy” and the “paid knowledge” industry. The last pitch was by Zhan Sun from Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. He presented his WeChat mini-program “Match, Match, Match”, dedicated to establishing the most suitable match for Chinese youth.
SKEMA Suzhou’s campus director Matthieu Dumont and academic director Hua Lin shared their feedback through Microsoft Teams. Potential investor Jie Liu, founder and CEO of Suzhou Fabiao Intelligent Technology Co., Ltd., and Chali Zhou, manager of SKEMA Ventures in China, communicated directly with the students on campus and emphasized the importance of focusing on consumers’ needs from different market segments. “Entrepreneurship draws inspiration from daily life. Startup Kafe is an event where you can easily explore your ideas and spark your creativity,” concluded Chali Zhou.
Watch a recap of the event: