We have worked with our friends at the ENGIE Factory APAC for some months now (for instance for their recent call for projects or the launch) and this week we took some time with the driving force behind this project, Quentin Vaquette to get to know the project and the team.
First things first: what is the Engie Factory?
The energy transition to zero carbon is front and center of the Engie strategy, and the Factory is here to support and accelerate that. The whole idea behind the Factory is that the technologies are mostly available today, but now the challenge is to find the right business models to deploy them massively.
You can’t test these new models with a traditional organisation, so we created the Factory as a platform to ideate, find and test these new business models.
It’s very important to understand we’re not just an accelerator. We don’t take batches of startups, nor run them through a detailed incubation program. What we do is threefold:
- We build ventures with entrepreneurs, where we can help them with a competitive edge we have
- We collaborate to put strong partnerships in place
- We invest in these ventures with a minority share.
Tell us more about the call for Founders you just launched?
Sure. We’re looking for motivated people to join us, either with a co-founder already or precisely to find one. We want to build 4 teams of 2 people each, and help them build new ventures on topics that are important for Engie and where we have a competitive edge: Green Mobility, Smart Cities, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
The ultimate goal is to build a meaningful company together to accelerate the transition to zero carbon. Selected founders will be funded, given access to Engie’s domain expertise, and more importantly, be connected to customers among Engie’s client network across 60 countries.
A key metric we’re looking at is to either reduce costs or generate new business. We have a great example on workforce scheduling -a big topic for us- which has been built at the Engie Factory in LATAM, which will be scaled-up here in Singapore.
How does the team work with Startups?
We have a diverse team of 6 people, and all come very different area of expertise. Some come from VCs, others from accelerator or venture building.
During 3 months, we work as a team with the founder. We’re all in the same room and we really help the founder refine his idea, work on the business model, get more expertise, have access to new markets or quickly find the right partners.
We help the entrepreneur focus on what matters most to be successful, and after 3 months we must have an investment plan so we can go to the board to raise seed funding, sufficient to go to the product market fit.
What’s the story behind the Factory?
When I arrived in Asia, energy transition was still a new topic at the time. But I had an eye-opening moment when I spent some time diving in the Maldives. I was struck because this country is absolutely amazing, it’s beautiful beyond words…except there was a constant smell of diesel, because it’s the main source of energy. Being an engineer I just wondered if we could replace the diesel generators with 100% renewable hydrogen. It really bugged me and I found myself thinking about this problem between 2 dives, taking notes and gathering information…and at the end of the week I was convinced it was doable.
When I got back to work I decided to take 6 months to work on this as a side-project and I finally got the green light and the funding to take it to the next level and try to build a venture with it. I’ve designed a solution and worked for 6 months in Australia deploying it as a first, real life test.
Unfortunately it didn’t work out for commercial reasons, and this is where I realized that the whole problem of the energy transition is not about technology anymore but a matter of finding the right business model.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to find the right partners internally, especially Caroline Guyot, to work on a platform that would be designed specifically to test new business model to make it a reality. This was the beginning of the Engie Factory, and overall it took us about a year to make this a reality. We’re really proud of it!
You really are an entrepreneur within a corporate!
It’s interesting, because when I first had this idea I wondered if I should do it within Engie or create my own business. But I decided to take a chance and work on it as a venture inside Engie, and it’s been an amazing journey so far. At Engie everybody’s invited to think and act like entrepreneurs, and collaborate with each others. It needs teamwork and humility to be successful, which heavily contributes to our mission.