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HEC Challenges+ Alumni present at Las Vegas CES 2017

Graduates from the 2014-16 HEC promotions accompanied their nascent startup companies - as varied as interactive robotics for children, electromagnetic pain relievers and automobile sector applications – to the 2017 CES in Eureka Park, Las Vegas. What lessons did they draw from this Mecca for innovation? An exchange with three French startups who enjoyed their baptism of fire in the Nevada desert.

Challenge + las vegas

“An extraordinary but exhausting experience. Very business-oriented, a far cry from the Foire de Paris,” exclaimed Eric Labanne, cofounder and CEO of Greenerwave. The former Challenge+ graduate insisted on the quality of the contacts made at the Consumer Electronic Show and its wide media coverage. “At Greenerwave we propose solutions to better pick up and amplify electromagnetic waves indoors. They seduced a good number of professionals at the CES,” Labanne insisted days after returning to his Nice headquarters. “It led to us to signing a few Non-Disclosure Agreements which will lay the groundwork to signing contracts.” 
The HEC alumni student from 2016-1 believes some lessons learnt at Jouy-en-Josas allowed him to advance in his negotiations at the CES: “I was able to refine my approach thanks to the market-product structure I learnt during my year of studies. At HEC I also acquired further self-confidence and integrated the intellectual liveliness that is part-and-parcel of business.”

French Startups Make Their CES Mark

Greenerwave was one of 233 French startups present in the Nevada capital between January 5-8 for the 50th edition of the CES. With its impressive French Tech delegation, France had the second biggest delegation of startups, a far better performance than the last 2016 edition. For Nicolas Karst, it was both the diversity and the density of the people he met which marked him. “It was non-stop for the entire four days,” said the cofounder of Sublimed. “There were at least 150,000 visitors from a wide diversity of backgrounds: health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, salespeople, the lot.” Karst’s startup was created in October 2015 to assist patients with chronic backache. Based in Grenoble, the Challenge+ graduate was delighted with the opportunities offered by the CES, notably meeting people he would never have otherwise met, “including French representatives”.

However Nicolas Karst is doubtful he will return to the CES on an annual basis. “We have created a therapy based on the transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, something we call actiTENS,” he pursued. “It’s a product for the general public, we are therefore prescribers, directly in touch with this public. It’s not really necessary to constantly exchange with intermediaries like those we met at Eureka Park. You have to take into account the expense, two people over ten days, it’s a large investment of time and money.” After its first Seed Fund run last June, Sublimed hopes to launch actiTENS in 2018.

Exposing Oneself to the Global Media Glare

Antoine Noel and his Japet startup finds himself at the same development stage as Sublimed. This young entrepreneur from Lille took advantage of the CES to launch his own 1 million dollar seed fund campaign. “We had excellent media coverage in Las Vegas,” The 2015-2 Challenge+ graduate said, glowing with the overall positive fallout from his week at the heart of Eureka Park. “Through its media campaigns, the CES gives a more dynamic image of companies present. We had plenty of articles in the press, ranging from Technical Crunch to The Wall Street Journal. Is it a coincidence that we’ve already received two important propositions? It’s hard to judge, of course,” Noel admitted. “The CES gave us unexpected opportunities for collaborations, such as one with the French army. But we can only analyze the real results in a few months time.”

Like Sublimed, Japet treats back problems – this time chronic lumbago. Noel and his partner Damien Bratic have created an exoskeleton with the collaboration of the medical staff from Lille’s CHRU hospital. They are now awaiting CE marking before the end of the year. Winners of the Siemens Innovation Grand Prix 2014, the pair believe the communications classes organized by Challenge+ were a decisive factor in their CES experience. “The classes on the media gave us the groundwork to present the benefits of the exoskeleton in a rapid and efficient manner. And before arriving we used the lessons learnt in strategy and marketing to prepare what turned out to be an intensely powerful American experience.

Worldwide Aim

It is no mean feat to demarcate oneself in the midst of the 3,800 stands at a CES that is spread out over around 800,000 m². But the relationships created between French representatives are often facilitated by this event. It allowed Nicolas Karst, for example, to exchange with institutional representatives and other French startups. “In Challenges+ we are confronted with business circles both diverse in background and experience. HEC is essentially geared for the practical side of business. Perhaps it’s unconscious but, at the CES, this gave me confidence, I didn’t hesitate for a second to show my product, to seek out institutional or political representatives and to ascertain the impact of these exchanges.”

At present, it is a question of sifting through the contacts and promises, according to Eric Labarre. “Our aim at Greenerwave is global, and we are now preparing the Shanghai CES taking place in six months. It gives you an idea of just how beneficial we thought Las Vegas was in terms of return for your money and time.”
The three company directors also share a common feeling that things are on the move in France. “These last few years I feel there is a truly dynamic movement in terms of startups and their public financing,” claims Antoine Noel. “More and more new French companies are exporting their goods and becoming international. The French savoir-faire is beginning to receive the recognition it deserves.” At the CES 2017 in Eureka Park, this phenomenon did not go unnoticed: French startups returned with 47 trophies. That is 10% of these innovation awards, some of the most prized given out at this annual event.