nr2, first French company to win the K-Startup Grand Challenge!
China has over 230 unicorns (start-ups valued more than $1 billion) with a valuation of well over $1 trillion. Could you name any of them? Probably not. But you should. These unicorns, and the vibrant start-up ecosystem of more than 150,000 innovative companies alongside them, are developing disruptive approaches to doing business which are spreading like wildfire, irrevocably transforming industries - locally and globally - at speed.
Maxim Parr and HEC alumnus Jordan Monnet, who together have over 20 years working in China, spotted the potential and speed of China’s innovation revolution as they were helping international companies navigate the market. In February 2019, they created a search engine to find and contextualize these innovations, evaluate their global potential, and see what can be learned from them.
This month, their technology - nr2 - won the K-Startup Grand Challenge, a global start-up competition organised by the South Korean Government, beating 1676 companies from 95 countries. The company has also been shortlisted for an innovation award sponsored by the French and Chinese governments, on Monday 16 December at the MEDEF in Paris.
“We can learn so much about the way innovation is developing through understanding start-up company data. Our algorithms have found numerous characteristics present in highly disruptive companies and we use this to help our users identify the next generation of disruptive companies,” Maxim and Jordan explain. “We started in China but we are building our search engine for innovation to be applicable anywhere.” Drawing on their technology and network, the company also provides a quarterly bulletin full of data-driven insights and innovation ideas from across Asia.
nr2’s European headquarters is located within HEC Paris, which has been hugely assisted the company’s global development and outlook:
"Entering the HEC incubator #Winterbatch 2019 meant that we were a part of an exciting ecosystem where we could quickly iterate on our product and rapidly develop our client base in France. It was a unique opportunity to learn from a community of world-class teams and ideas”, emphasizes Jordan.
Jordan has a long history with the HEC community, including speaking as the Business Keynote at the HEC Data Minds event earlier this year. Maxim and Jordan have also participated in various international events, including the inaugural Global Tech Advocates summit in Shanghai, where they spoke about Asian fintech and their plans to expand in South Korea and other Asian countries.
What of the challenges? "Building a cross-border innovation platform means we understand viscerally the challenges of operating across cultural, language and time differences. We are a team of 6 people and only two of us are from the same country.” , explains Jordan.
And what does 2020 hold for nr2? “We want to be at the forefront of discovering the next generation of disruption in China, South Korea and beyond, and put it in context for Western start-ups, corporates and investors to open up new markets and new possibilities”, says Jordan.
Written by Carolina Cataldi-Pedrosa