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Seed Entrepreneurship Summit 2017: A Major Success

The principle actors of the 2017 Seed Entrepreneurship Summit, held between March 31 and April 1, declared themselves “delighted” at the outcome of this pioneering first edition. It was built on the synergies between HEC Seed and Université Paris-Saclay’s Student Entrepreneurship Day. They have taken heart from a strong turnout, high-quality workshops and exciting pitch competitions.

HEC Seed Entrepreneurs 2017

Indeed, the Summit conjugated two separate meetings organized in the previous years by student entrepreneurship clusters in both establishments. In the past, HEC students engineered their own Seed event, whilst the Pôle Entrepreneuriat Innovation Université, Paris-Saclay, PEIPS, masterminded its Journée Etudiant Entrepreneur, or JEE.“We decided this would be an ideal time to merge HEC Seed and the JEE, to give maximum exposure to the thousands of startups being created here in France,” explains co-organizer Alex Viladegut of HEC Paris. “It has led to a very positive dynamic between HEC and Université Paris-Saclay which I’m convinced we can build on.”

Inspiring Role-Models

One of Alex Viladegut’s fellow-organizers, Clémentine Delphin was also enthusiastic about the new collaboration. She is Project Manager in Entrepreneurship at Université Paris-Saclay. Delphin was impressed by the dynamism of the novice entrepreneurs who shared their projects and vision during the pitches and workshops organized on the HEC campus throughout April 1. “The Seed Entrepreneurship Summit was a great opportunity for both HEC Paris and Université Paris-Saclay to make their students - from business studies and engineering education, respectively, - work together on entrepreneurial projects. The two student associations involved, HEC Seed and Start in Saclay, were strongly committed to this ambitious event, taking the lead in its organization. And, the local authorities such as the Communauté d’agglomération Paris-Saclay largely supported the summit.”

Challenging World For Startups

The students were undoubtedly inspired by the quality of the opening speeches the day before. The Summit kicked off at the BPI France’s Le Hub with three keynote talks by entrepreneurs who have forged major careers and were happy to share tips and anecdotes with the audience. Senior Partner at McKinsey, Eric Labaye exposed an academic analysis of how digitalization is transforming the corporate world, encouraging students to plunge into the technological revolution “with relish”. Jean-Marc Patouillaud, a General Partner at Partech, shared the vision of investors faced with a radically evolving business world. But it was Ilan Behnhaim, cofounder of Vente-Privé, who most impressed the public by revealing the day-to-day challenges his company has to face. “Ilan had a strong impact on us all with his honest descriptions of trying to satisfy customers’ needs that constantly evolve,” insists Alex. “He really helped students open up to the debate,” adds Clémentine Delphin, “and they were happy to share their pre-occupations about plunging into an uncertain startup world. 

Building the Society of Tomorrow

The following day, hundreds of entrepreneurs converged on HEC’s Hall d’Honneur to connect with other entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and students. Attendants could also follow or participate in workshops with titles as diverse as “Find a mission before a million”, “Protect your intellectual property!” and “The design Sprint (from Google Ventures)”. “We’ve had very good feedback from those involved,” says Viladegut, stressing the fact that over 500 people turned up. This compared favorably to the 300 that attended the 2016 HEC Seed event. Over 30 workshops tried to answer key questions on the best management practices to apply, the most coherent profiles to pick or what relationship should be established between startups and major groups.Concurrently, students vied with each other in four pitch competitions which offered prize money of 2,500€ for each winner. “All the teams from our three faculties had been extensively coached,” confides Clémentine Delphin, “and we saw how this personal investment paid dividends. There were some outstanding pitches.” 40 technological and digital projects were presented to a world-class jury, essentially made up of European investors. The winners were Perlego, Advocate, InHeart and RunOptics. “Student entrepreneurship is emerging as one of the major priorities for our faculties,” noted both HEC Dean Peter Todd and Université Paris-Saclay President Gilles Bloch in the event’s program introduction. The quality of the pitches, the enthusiasm of workshop participants and the number of those attending underlined Bloch’s concluding remark: “They build today the society of tomorrow – the promise of an exciting future."