The Start-up Weekend, Compiegne, at the UTC Daniel Thomas Innovation Centre

Sharing photos “live” with your friends, finding all you want to know about a City in a single “app”, etc. These are just two of the projects that emerged during the Start-Up Weekend, Compiegne –that took place May 15-17, 2015 at the UTC Daniel Thomas Innovation Centre

The Start-up Weekend, Compiegne, at the UTC Daniel Thomas Innovation Centre

The concept of a Start-up Weekend initially came from the USA and was organized by the UTC students for the first time last year. The objective for the weekend is to set up a start-up in just 54h by collaborative team work. "We want to develop the start-up spirit in the Picardie Region, and enable everyone to exchange ideas and identify possible associates”, explains Cédric Carvahlo, a member of the organizing tam. The UTC Innovation Centre seemed an ideal venue for this sort of event, thanks notably to its “creativity rooms”, Ninon Durivault, co-organizer confirms: "The UTC Innovation Centre is indeed the ideal place to host an event like this. The project platform on which the participants work has its tables and mobile walls so that the can organize the work space as they wish. Moreover, the number of surfaces available allow the participants to w<rite on the walls, to stick up Post-its® and express all their potential creativity”.

This second edition saw 60 participants came to Compiegne, one third with no connections with UTC. “The truth is, we decided to participate in the Start-up Weekend to finalize a project among a bunch of friends” says Jérôme Durand, UTC student, for whom this was his first participation.

These participants (students, lecturers, research staff, “creatives”, company mangers …) may or may not have an idea in mind when they arrive, as was the case of Fabrice Faradèche, manager of the Blanchisserie Centrale [a chain of professional cleaners] in the city of Soissons and President of the Picardie Entrepreneurs’ Network, who wanted to find a way to ‘mark’, i.e., follow clothes form residents in retirement homes. In every case, “the participants had just 60 seconds to present their idea(s) and trigger an interest in the audience so as to be able to put a team together”, explains Nicolas Borri, co-organiser. 

Out of 23 ideas presented in this manner, 12 were pre-selected for the next step.

What is specific to this kind of event is that there is a rich mix of profiles in the teams. “Given that the participants come from different UTC specialties (GSU-urban engineering, GI-Computer sciences, GM-Mechanical engineering, Master’s in Design course and IUT students in computer sciences and software engineering), the transverse aspects of the projects was seen as highly attractive”, says Jérôme Durand. 

The selected participants then have exactly 54 h to specify their initial idea better, to produce and present a business plan and then make a prototype at the UTC Fab’Lab … all of which provides for an intense and very rewarding experience, as witnesses Jihane LFRIDI, a member of the PicatchUS team: “Firstly, we wanted to create a conducive organization spirit, that would enable us to move forward efficiently. We progressed in team work discussions on the various points and then we assigned tasks to each team member. By analyzing the market, we were also able to present a business plan. It was great experience to test our limits in terms of work capacity and project concentration”, adds Jerome who concludes: “We were able, above all other considerations, to discover new project management tools specific to the world of start(ups and these we learned from the Start-up Weekend organizers and various coaches on hand during the event.”

When the 54h expired, the teams presented their work before the Jury – the latter comprising professionals of the fields studied and other staff members of UTC, to try to convince them that their projects were indeed viable.

In the final selection, three start-ups received awards after this year’s edition:

CitiZEN: an “app” desired to bring together a mass of information relative to a city: including transport, road works, landmarks ..

Picatch’Us: this «app » allows you to create a photo-album that can be shared to simply exchanging photos on special occasions, events, nights-out.

Web Family: a system to identify residents’ clothes (in retirement homes).

For these teams, the game goes on, and the teams want to pursue their projects. “For example, during the summer holidays we hope to develop the ‘app’ and we are beginning to imagine a partnership with the City of Compiegne”, confirms Jérôme Durand, project CitiZEN. “A long-range objective of our project would be to see it universally useful and spreads over a maximum number of cities: in this configuration, the ‘app would update itself as it moves into, or nears a new city. However, we do not want to ‘jump the gun’, so to speak. Just making the app work for and in Compiegne is going to require loads of work, but at the same time it will allow us to adjust parameters to have the ‘app’ fit urban problems even better”.

The PicatchUS team has the ambition to pursue the project to its end: “The ‘app’ base enables instantaneous sharing of the photos with a group of friends and family during a given event in a totally safe manner, adds Nicolas Zantour, a UTC graduate. Even for the participants exterior to UTC, the story goes on “I would like to see computer science students collaborate for some of the ‘app’ developments accompanied by our Project leader”, announces Fabrice Faradèche.

The adventure goes on too for the organizers of the Start-up Weekend: “The concept has been tested and certified and we now know exactly what our audience expect and the process we must follow for the next edition, in the 2015 second semester”.