How L’Atelier’s Open Innovation Lab turns challenges into win-wins through matchmaking
When a company’s challenge is a startup’s speciality, a win-win situation is born: an innovative solution for the former, a significant new contract for the latter and a business opportunity for both.
L’Atelier Open Innovation Lab has been bridging the gap between clients’ issues and startups’ answers for the past four years.
Its matchmaking methodology sets it apart from peers and uses client needs as a starting point. Only afterwards is the BNP Paribas Group’s pan-European network leveraged to pinpoint the startup best-suited to deliver a quick solution.
Last October, Open Innovation Lab decided to take this model a step further. While past initiatives had focused on matching startups with mid- to large-sized companies, its newest project would bring Group business lines into the mix.
“We now have a Group initiative where we connect our business units with startups in one place.”
Within a mere two months of this initial idea, the Fintech Accelerator became a reality and a call for applications was made. Internal business units, such as securities, insurance, wealth management and French retail banking, presented the issues that they wanted solved.
“We now have a Group initiative where we connect our business units with startups in one place. They all have different issues, but we give them a methodology that works, a collaborative support and mentoring system, and quick results,” said Yoann Jaffré, Head of Open Innovation Lab.
To ensure an international talent pool, they reached out to lux future lab and the wider Group startup community to help identify appropriate candidates. The result was that 28% of applicants were from outside of France, with 10 startups from Luxembourg, eight from the UK and others from as far as the US, Israel, Singapore and Senegal.
“We have the advantage that in France, in Luxembourg and in many other countries where we are present, we have contacts who know all of the startups in their region and can quickly identify potential partners,” Jaffré said.
In February, after sifting through 142 applications, six startups were selected, along with two identified in 2015. The eight finalists include a peer-to-peer insurance broker, a RegTech company and an AI solutions provider.
lux future lab’s own KYC3 is among them and will apply its powerful technology to strengthen BNP Paribas Wealth Management in the areas of regulatory and reputational risk. Each participant has four months to develop its proof of concept, during which time they are hosted at the BNP Paribas We Are Innovation space in Paris.
The program’s first phase emphasizes collaboration — business model, pricing and logistics — and involves consulting with internal IT and compliance experts.
“We don’t provide technical support, but we support the startup in designing the right way to collaborate with a large corporate. There are hundreds of thousands of startups so the collaboration phase is crucial for differentiation,” Jaffré said.
“It is not easy to establish European startups in a European market. We want to connect them to all of our ecosystems because it’s important for entrepreneurs to have access to other countries.”
Phase two functions as a traditional accelerator and addresses sales strategy, fundraising and marketing, with ongoing support from mentors and experts. By early July, proof of concept development will be complete and, if successful, startups will enter into a long-term, contractual relationship with the BNP Paribas Group.
Although the Accelerator is hosted in France, assignments can be based abroad and led by the respective country’s local team.
In addition to the Fintech Accelerator, L’Atelier has a second six-month accelerator program for mid- to large-size companies who are each matched with 10 startups. Both accelerators were launched within the last 1.5 years and have quickly gained traction.
A strong methodology is not all that sets the program apart. With the Group’s international network of startup and innovation organizations at its fingertips, Open Innovation lab has the advantage of broad market access.
This startup and innovation footprint stretches across the globe, from Belgium, to Italy, to Turkey and beyond. L’Atelier, with nearly 40 years on the innovation and technology scene, is present in the US, China and Europe.
As the network has grown, so have the types of collaborations. Open innovation lab and lux future lab first began working together over three years ago, communicating on events, keeping one another informed about their respective startup ecosystems, and introducing each other’s startups to local investors.
“As a startup, the first thing you are interested
in is the time to market.”
“It is not easy to establish European startups in a European market,” Jaffré said. “We want to connect them to all of our ecosystems because it’s important for entrepreneurs to have access to other countries. For example, it’s easier for KYC3 to come to Paris when we are already here and can present them to the market.”
With more and more companies looking to innovate with startups Open Innovation Lab is working to further scale the detection and selection process in order to meet demand. One priority is to accompany an increasing number of startups, business units and corporates without compromising the quality of its programs.
Corporate matchmaking isn’t always easy. “We do the same job of detecting startups as venture capitalists. We need a lot of expertise and time to analyze them,” Jaffré said.
As the number of participants grows, he sees the group’s network of European ecosystems as the answer to overcoming the scalability versus quality conundrum: “Connecting all of our ecosystems is one way to maximize our time,” he said.
What’s in the pipeline for Open Innovation Lab? — Eventually, scaling the Accelerator so that it can be used as a vehicle to help startups across Europe decrease their time to market.
“As a startup, the first thing you are interested in is the time to market. The accelerator could give startups a faster way to connect to corporate needs,” Jaffré said.