Innovation under pressure

Olivier Delcroix, who graduated in 2008 from UTC with the major ‘Computer sciences and applications’, decided to create Compellia, a start-up in France, after enriching experiences in both the Argentine and Spain. As Olivier sees it, differences in innovation between countries stem from differing demand formats enforced by their market-places.

Innovation under pressure

Tell our readers why and how your experience in Argentina was enriching after your university years

I chose to come to UTC for its international vista and outreach. Then, following a semester at the University Del Salvador, Buenos Aires, I decided to stay in the Argentine to work for a company Globant. Here we had a set of pioneering creators who were strongly inspired by what they observed in the Silicon Valley America, work styles and methods. That enabled me to access the very best in computer science and applications developments before they reached Europe. I learned what are called agile techniques, which allow you to come with computer science solutions very quickly. Customers are regularly associated with project progress so that the final product, delivered very rapidly, corresponded exactly to their expectations.
In just a few months, we completed a job that normally would have taken a year using classic consultations, finalized prototypes … Not only is this approach long, but the chances are one to ten that the solution finally proposed is found satisfactory by the customer! To attain this sort of efficiency level, we hold project progress get-togethers every morning. These scrum-meetings are very short – twenty minutes approx. max – but they allow everyone to have their say. The participants do so standing up this alone incites each person to be “to the point” in his/her expose … 

What were your impressions when you returned to Europe?

 My impression was that of travelling back in time. The work-place techniques I had learned in the Argentine were not yet in use here. My return also taught me to think about the way national markets operate with respect to innovation dissemination. I realized that the solutions available varied a lot from one country to another. In Spain, for example, texting is not unlimited as in France but is a pay-service. To get round this hurdle, the Spanish were quick to adopt WhatsApp® (USA) several years before the French. Another example, in Rome, Italy, there are very few public transports means, so the Italians develop the car-sharing app Enjoy which allows you to geolocalise cars free for hire and to leave this car almost anywhere when the trip is finished. In Paris, there are numerous Metro-lines and stations, so your car-share Autolib relies on just a few stations for its service outlets.

So, why did you choose France to locate Compellia?

In fact, it was the opportunity I had to get a job with a start-up that encouraged me to set up shop in the Paris area. The French digital scene, Paris particularly so, is a hive of activity. There are some excellent incubator-nurseries there. A French Tech subsidy helped us develop the data analysis brick that we at Compellia propose. In e-trade and digital marketing where we are quite active, several leaders such as Criteo are French. There is also a Greater Paris market-place for e-trade site monitoring that we also propose at Compellia.

In your opinion, what country appears the most attractive for a digital entrepreneur?

In Portugal, Lisbon has made considerable efforts to attract start-ups. The most recent Web Summit registered some 40 000 persons from all over the world. Many cities are vying with each other in the digital market, such as Berlin, Tel Aviv, London or Paris. The choices are wide open! Nonetheless, the USA still remains a leader and a standard-setter. The new e-marketing trends come from the USA. Personalised site presentations and contents for sites are tailor-made to fit the customers and now are among the latest innovations from across the Atlantic.