Benoit CHARRIER and Antoine BATARD joined the EDF Pulse Incubation intrapreneurship program in March 2023 with their Synapse project. Their goal? To develop a service enabling individuals to model a home in 3D and run a simulation to obtain an assessment of the building's energy performance (DPE). This service would then enable them to assess the best work to be carried out to improve the building's energy footprint, and then to commit to the work more quickly. At the end of the year, the Board of Investors decided not to continue incubating the project. Here's a look back at the entrepreneurial adventure of the two project leaders.
Can you tell us about the major stages in the Synapse project?
Benoit: It all started in 2020. Antoine and I wanted to make the most of the tools developed by EDF R&D to assess building consumption. That's how the Synapse project was created. Initially, we envisaged it as a BtoB tool for companies. It was with this model that we applied for the EDF Pulse Awards in 2022, and won the Incubation Special Award in March 2023. From there, we entered the START phase of the incubator. We then got closer to the business needs internally, and realized that they were more interested in a BtoC model than a BtoB one. So, during the START phase, we made our first pivot from a BtoB to a BtoC offering. We had to rethink our business plan, carry out market research, conduct interviews...
Antoine: The results enabled us to pass the incubation committee on July 11, 2023, and enter the MATCH phase of EDF Pulse Incubation. For three months, we conducted in-depth market research, interviewing over 300 individuals, and fine-tuned our business model. Then, at the beginning of September, the French government announced a new regulation requiring the use of an intermediary to carry out energy renovation work: "Mon Accompagnateur Rénov". This was the occasion for a second pivot for us, by studying the possibility of addressing this BtoBtoC target in addition to the BtoC one. We then re-prioritized our customer segments, drew up a marketing strategy, and studied the depth of the market to detail its potential.
Benoit: Unfortunately, the relevance of the proposed tests, the ability to bill a service to the customer, the technology and the changing regulatory context led the Board members to decide to stop incubating the project within EDF Pulse Incubation at the end of 2023.
What are the main lessons you've learned for your project?
Benoit: EDF Pulse Incubation enabled us to get into direct contact with our market to understand its needs, how it works and the players in place. It helped us to move from a very technical engineering vision to a business vision, and to build an offer that really corresponded to customers' expectations.
Antoine: Joining EDF Pulse Incubation also enabled us to devote 100% of our time to the project, instead of doing it in our spare time. We had a lot of support and guidance. We've also been challenged a lot, which is very motivating and rewarding.
What have you learned from EDF Pulse Incubation on a more personal level?
Benoit: EDF Pulse Incubation is all ups and downs, with a high frequency. You have to learn to adapt, and you also have to learn to reassure your stakeholders. During my adventure, I developed my listening and empathy skills enormously, which are essential if we are to fully understand the needs and points of view of our interlocutors.
Antoine: I was already a persevering person before joining EDF Pulse Incubation, but it's a trait of my personality that has developed even more with the intrapreneurial adventure. We're often challenged, and it's important to remain resilient, perseverant and not give up. The second thing that struck me was that you can't try to do everything right from the start. As an engineer, I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I tend to always want to do something perfect right from the start. You have to accept that with an incubated project, it doesn't work like that: you test & learn and improve your idea as you go along. You have to be willing to let go.
What advice would you give to people who want to try the EDF Pulse Incubation adventure?
Benoit: Go for it! It's true that you have to put yourself at risk a bit, by taking a break from regular assignments, but you learn so much! You get to meet new people, discover new ways of working, become more open-minded and gain a sense of perspective: it's really rewarding. All these skills are acquired and can be put to good use in other projects and missions, whatever the outcome of the incubation.
Antoine: Always listen to criticism, whether positive or negative. Persevere, stay motivated and resilient. Failure is a way of learning, not an end in itself.
What's next for you?
Benoit and Antoine: With the support of R&D teams, we took a leave of absence to set up our own company and continue the project on our own. Thanks to EDF Pulse Incubation, we've learned a lot and feel ready to continue the adventure. Of course, we'll continue to work closely with the EDF Group, and EDF R&D in particular.
Any final words?
Benoit and Antoine: We'd really like to thank the teams at the Innovation & Pulse Programs Direction and EDF Pulse Incubation for their support. When we spoke externally, we realized the quality of the support we received, and it's a real blessing to have such a program within the Group. Thank you for making this adventure possible, and thank you for keeping this program alive.