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Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center

Trone, the startup that reinvents a boring occasion and makes it a memorable experience

Last year, we introduced you to Hugo Volpei and his start-up Trone, incubated at Station F, with his mission of revolutionizing the way we see toilets. The entrepreneur has successfully accomplished this mission, sparing no expense to create exquisite experiences throughout France and in Switzerland, Slovakia, Holland and Lebanon.


If you haven’t yet experienced it for yourself, head to one of the restaurants founded by Victor Lugger and Tigrane Seydoux (both HEC Alumni).  Their Big Mamma chain of restaurants has locations in Paris, Lille, Lyon and London. Have a seat on a throne at the La Felicita restaurant and enjoy one of several unique atmospheres. You’re in for a treat! 
Rumor has it that the chain will expand to add three locations in France and abroad this year. 

We recently had a chance to discover Trone in a new environment at the opening in the Opera district in Paris of the first pastry shop by Cédric Grolet (see). Grolet is a star of Instagram and was voted the world’s best pastry chef in 2018.
“La Scène”, a restaurant founded by Top Chef’s Stéphanie Le Quellec, and architects Toro & Liautard also contacted Hugo Volpei to offer their customers this unique experience. 

The fast-growing start-up is starting the new year with a recruitment campaign that is currently underway and fundraising planned for February. Most importantly, it is launching a new offer focused on “user needs”, with a new generation of toilets set to be marketed by the end of the year, featuring even more original designs and the elimination of unwelcome odours! 

Stay tuned for more! 


Meet Hugo Volpei H2017

Hugo Volpei

Who are you? 

I’m originally from Nice and have been in Paris for around ten years now. I have always been interested in everything that relates to lifestyle and daily life. When I was younger, I bought T-shirts that I painted and sold. I was also very drawn to architecture as a profession. I promised myself that someday I would work with this field in one way or another. I also wanted to start a restaurant, which I will definitely do someday. 
During my first year at HEC, I had the opportunity to do an exchange program with Parsons School of Design in New-York, and it really inspired me. 
Through my various experiences, I realized that I wanted to create a physical product that would bring renewed delight to everyday life through a strong brand. Trone is now enabling me to combine all the things I enjoy—design, architecture, craftsmanship, and restaurants (many of our customers are restaurant owners). I love to take the raw materials of daily life and redesign them to create something nicer, cool and more beautiful.

Where did you get the idea for Trone? 

When I was visiting a friend in London, we went to a restaurant called Sketch where there is an entire room for the toilets. It is an experience in itself, with amazing decoration, changing lights, and sound effects. They offer an extraordinary experience. But once you go in the stall, it’s all over. The toilets are just white and boring.
When I left the restaurant, I realized there was a real opportunity here to reinvent a boring occasion and make it a memorable experience. 
The idea was to reinvent something that had never been reinvented before. Today, this is still our vision: capitalize on our experience with toilets and eventually reinvent other everyday objects. 
Trone brings together design, architecture, and the hotel and restaurant industry. I take the things I love and combine them to create a unique experience, reflecting our brand’s DNA in a way that turns simple trip to the bathroom into a unique and unforgettable experience. 

What would you have done if you hadn't become an entrepreneur? 

If I hadn’t become an entrepreneur... I would have liked to be a secret agent! (laughs).
Seriously though, I think I would have gotten into the restaurant business, architecture or landscaping, which also offer opportunities for entrepreneurship and reinventing daily life.

How has the HEC incubator helped you? 

It created many connections, both with the experts from the incubator who support us and provide valuable assistance with the challenges involved in Trone’s various stages of development, and with other start-ups. 
It’s a network of daily mutual assistance, in which we can all contact each other and ask questions, based our needs, skills and affinities. 
The HEC incubator and Station F also provided a framework, structure and greater exposure, which is no small matter, especially when it comes to recruitment.

What do you wish you had known before you started your own company? 

Something they don't tell you enough and that is critical–you have to be able to pick up the phone and call people. To find contracts and customers, but especially to ask for help or advice. The HEC network is an amazing resource, whenever you’re facing a problem related to a specific issue, you can find a member who is skilled in the area to offer guidance. It is an amazing time saver and the assistance is priceless. 

What do you see as the key qualities for an entrepreneur? 

I would say resilience, optimism and energy on a daily basis (fairly “conventional” qualities) but also the ability to engage with your teams, to have a goal that you are moving towards, to constantly keep the big picture in mind so you can keep aiming higher. Being a good leader means gathering people to work on a project that was not theirs to begin with. It means communicating the desire to invest in the project’s success and fully take part in the adventure. We can’t do anything by ourselves; we won't go anywhere without a team. Personally, I have decided to be completely transparent with my team so that everyone feels integrated and understood.