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Start-up and student societies from HEC Paris showcase to l'oréal how they dare

HEC students went head to head on December 5, presenting their innovative projects to win funding from L’Oréal

dare award loreal

L’Oréal is a supporter of the HEC Paris Entrepreneurship Center through the newly launched Entrepreneurship Chair. This partnership is representative of L’Oréal’s commitment to nurturing the entrepreneurial spirits of the future. L’Oréal signed this Chair with the CEO of L’Oréal France Hervé Navellou and the Dean of HEC Paris Peter Todd representing the School. Through this Chair they provide essential backing to keep the work of the Entrepreneurship Center going within programs and other activities, which include providing advice and incubation services to nurture up-and-coming enterprises.

The HEC Paris Campus played host to a cohort of senior executives of L’Oréal on December 5 as they attended the L’Oréal Dare Award finals. The event was jointly organized by L’Oréal and Start’HEC with the aim of encouraging creativity and innovation in HEC. Navellou, the CEO of L’Oréal France was present to form a panel alongside the Dean of the school, Peter Todd, and the Associate Dean, Eloïc Peyrache, to judge the pitches of a shortlist of six student’s start-ups and six student societies. Of which the three best from each category received prizes.

There was also an audience vote where everyone in the hall could use their smartphones to make their voices heard.


  • Final results of the Pitch Challenge:

First prize: CoPelican 
Second Prize: AcurI
Third Prize: Hablo


  • Final results of the Student Society challenge:

First prize : HEC Positive Restructuring
Second Prize: HEC International Society
Third Prize: Girls HEC Rugby

CoPelican and Acuri: the digital start-ups that most dare to innovate. We spoke to the founders of these two start-ups which each took home a L’Oréal Dare Award this evening.

Interview with the startup CoPelican: winner of the Dare Award by L’Oréal

copelican maade

First up, the excellent pitch made by Maade Guettouche, cofounder of the start-up CoPelican, which is incubated at HEC, was perfectly designed to win the unanimous support of the jury members, eventually gaining first prize. We met up with this young graduate of the Grande Ecole, who chose the Digital specialization, to find out more.

Explain to us the service offered by CoPelican?

CoPelican is a collaborative, environmentally-friendly solution which allows customers to send objects with travellers.

All the senders need to do is to post on the platform describing the object that is to be sent and the price that they are willing to pay for its transportation. Next different journeys are offered to the sender who must then select the Pelican Traveller to suit them in order to entrust their object to them to be transported carefully to its destination. Furthermore, the Pelican Travellers sign up for the site by giving information about their next journeys and their transportation capacities.

The CoPelican senders can benefit from a transportation service which is efficient, tailored, secure and affordable, and the travellers (the Pelicans) easily make their journeys more profitable, all doing so in an eco-friendly way.

How did the idea for this project come to you originally?

copelican logo

In fact, I had myself experienced this impossible task of trying to send an object to a loved one, in France or abroad, several times. Be it either because it required special attention, and therefore couldn’t be sent by classic services - which aren’t very flexible or suitable for delicate items, or just simply because the prices set for these services were way over the cost of the actual goods that I wanted to send! For this reason I had to find travellers around me who were doing the same journeys or even having to make the journeys myself or even just accept that the items could not be sent at all.

Around me I used to see my friends doing several journeys back and forth in order to move themselves in ready for an exchange or an internship, or even paying very high fees in order to send goods without even a guarantee that they will arrive in a decent state or within the required time frame. However, each day thousands of people travel by train, car or bus throughout France and the rest of the world with extra space available which could be used to transport these objects.

Now with CoPelican, all you need to do is post an advert on the site and in a few minutes you will find the right person to transport your guitar, the keys that you lost on holiday, the present you have bought for your loved one or even the interior decoration that you have found on the other side of France.

How has your experience in the Grande Ecole program and the Digital specialization to your benefitted you as an entrepreneur?

My course in the Grande Ecole of HEC Paris has allowed me to broach very early the subjects which are key within the business development process. This has provided me with extensive training in corporate finance, business law, marketing and strategy.

It has also given me the opportunity to have several experiences in start-ups as a right hand man to entrepreneurs during my M1 year and gap year in France and in Cambodia through a program offered by HEC and within a student association which I was member of. In order to better understand the issues faced by entrepreneurs when creating their own start-ups, I also worked in an investment fund and every week I took practical entrepreneurship classes which allowed me to go about these internships with well-formed strategies for managing the challenges involved.

Finally, it was through the specialization in Digital Business that I was really able to bring my entrepreneurial ideas into reality and fully invest all of my energies into them. After a first semester full of content relevant to various practical challenges for businesses on subjects such as big data, innovation and disruption in several sectors, connected objects or even digital strategy. I joined the digital entrepreneurship track alongside the CoPelican team where we were helped by numerous experts and several entrepreneurs and investors in the launching of our start-up.

How are you planning on using the prize money?

First of all I have to thank all of the jury members once again; Hervé Navellou (CEO of L’Oréal France), Peter Todd and Eloïc Peyrache, as well as the Start’HEC association which nominated us as the start-up who dares to innovate in awarding us with the L’Oréal Dare Award First Prize. This prize, which highlights the needs of our users and the relevance of our solution in response to these needs, allows us – above all - to gain visibility in order to make CoPelican known among a greater number of people and to recruit a programmer and a business developer to join our team very soon.

Acuri: second prize of the L’Oréal Dare Award

Next, the L’Oréal Dare Award Second Prize was awarded to Acuri, a project designed by two students from the MiM Grande Ecole program, Wei Chei and Wenting Ding.

Please can you explain to us what the concept of Acuri is all about?

acuri logo

Acuri is a mobile application that gets customers to the right stores, brands and products while shopping in-store. It offers users accurate indoor navigation and accurate personalized product recommendation so that users can have a more convenient in-store shopping experience.

 Indoor navigation allows users to find their desired products or destinations easily in places which are too large or too complicated to navigate around. Personalized product recommendation is originated from online retailers. Amazon, for example, recommends products that you may like on its website. Most of time, we are tempted to buy the recommended products because they fit our needs.

Acuri wants to bring the personalization from online into stores, tailoring the shopping experience to each individual user. Acuri users can scan items in store within application for recommendations. We also notify users when they are close to products or promotions that perfectly fit their profiles. Once users decide to buy one product from the recommendations, Acuri takes them to the product with step by step indoor navigation. In nutshell, Acuri brings users convenience and gives users the tool to discover the fun of shopping.

How did the idea come to you?

The technical origin of this idea is from my second-year project. Then we came together to identify possible business applications for this technology. We noticed that in large shopping malls, the store-layout can be confusing. Regular customers can waste a considerate amount of time finding the store they are interested in. In addition, if the products that customers planned to purchase are out of stock, it is hard for them to find a substitution quickly. The time taken finding the alternative may lead to the loss of sales. Therefore, we come up with the idea of navigation together with recommendation. Moreover, inspired by the recommendation system of Amazon, we pushed our idea further, providing not only substitutional but also suggested complementary products. Thus, we come up with the function of personalized recommendations.

How will do you plan on utilizing the money that you have been awarded?

Our prize money will mainly be used to further develop the project. To begin with, we will try to reach out to different talented profiles to work on the prototype development, and the prize money may be used as bonus.

How do you feel the school has supported your entrepreneurial spirit?

HEC Paris is a great school to meet smart people from different backgrounds. Here, my engineering background is my identity and I can befriend smart peers who may have studied business, finance or industrial design before they came to HEC. For a project or a start-up, having talented individuals from different fields around you is extremely helpful.
I feel that our school strongly encourages aspiring entrepreneurs, from the Entrepreneurship Center to Start’HEC. If you are interested in entrepreneurship, you will be able to find events to attend and people to talk to.
Overall, we really appreciate the support that we receive from the school for our entrepreneurial spirit.