As part of the launch of IOT Startup Studio Brussels, the accelerator of IOT startups in the Brussels region, we were invited to visit the IOT Valley in Toulouse in September 2017. An impressive discovery that will bring about close collaborations with Brussels … Guided tour!
Welcome to the IOT Valley Innovation Day – Toulouse September 2017.
The IOT Valley, located in Labège in the suburbs of Toulouse, is considered by many as the epicenter of the “Startup-IOT” phenomenon in Europe.
Labège is also the location of Sigfox’s headquarters, a 300-person “scale-up” created in 2009, which operates through a franchise licensing system with SNOs (Sigfox Network Operators), a proprietary IOT global network. They raised € 150m in November 2016.
During the conversation we had with their CEO, Ludovic Le Moan, it is clear that Sigfox’s goal is to become the low cost operator of the IOT (in comparison with LoRa and other LPWAN technologies) and therefore, be given the opportunity to be present on the IOT market of mass “B2C” like intelligent energy meters and or connected health.
The heart of the “IOT Valley” reactor
The IOT Valley is an ASBL that manages the site. It was established in 2012 and employs 13 people. IOT Valley manages 12,000 m2 of building on 3 industrial buildings (IOT 1, 2 and 3) made available by the regional council.
— IOT 1 hosts the offices of Sigfox.
— IOT2 hosts the “Connected Camp” accelerator, the IOT Valley team and part of the alumni startups.
— IOT 3 hosts the offices of Corporates (Cap Gemini, Michelin, etc …) who decided to place part of their team “Innovation” on site in the IOT Valley ecosystem.
A total of 700 people work on the current site.
The Connected Camp Accelerator
Here we see the area reserved for the accelerator of the IOT Valley: the Connected Camp. In the foreground you see the demo tables in preparation for the “Demo day” taking place in the “Showroom” at the Innovation Day.
Selected startups are welcomed into the accelerator for a period of 9 months.
In order to maximize quality, recruitment takes place at the “stream of water” (no principle of “cohort”). The startups come to the selection committee composed mainly by the team of IOT Valley and representatives of the Corporates.
Between 5 and 9 startups are at all times in the Connected Camp, but in the opinion of the IOT Valley team they would rather limit this number in order to concentrate on quality companies (often identified from the beginning) .
Corporate Link – Connected Camp Accelerator
The connections between the Corporates, present on the spot, and the startups in acceleration are obviously very close.
In addition, IOT Valley has decided not to take a stake in accelerated startups, but rather to contractually pay them 2% of their turnover if the turnover exceeds € 500K / year and this up to € 80K. which represents the approximate investment of IOT Valley in the accelerated startup).
IOT Valley thus has a model where the financing comes mainly from the Corporates (minimum ticket € 100K up to € 1M) from the region and the French state through its initiative “FrenchTech” (supported by E. Macron) .
We were particularly impressed by the quality and intellectual brilliance of the IOT Valley team members (average age 25 …).
The “Fab Lab” of IOT Valley
To be able to work, develop and prototype in the IOT, you need hardware.
No less than 2 state-of-the-art 3D printers (Ultimaker) are part of the hardware available to IOT Valley’s startups (accelerated and alumni).
Mentors of the IOT Valley – Connected Camp
Altogether, since 2012, nearly 50 startups have gone through the IOT Valley (originally called TIC Valley and not solely focused on the IOT).
Each of the founders (CEO / CTO / CMO) of the startups alumni undertake to coach the startups of the Connected Camp (in addition to the team and the partners of IOT Valley).
Since no start-up investment is planned, there is no mentoring fee for this work. They do it mainly to give back to the startup community.
Of course nothing prevents them from taking part in the sputtering startups if the “fit” is good with the team of founders.
Moreover, some startups alumni are now companies of 60 people achieving 5-10 million euros of turnover.
Next to CapGemini, Michelin and others, there are a lot of IOT players in the corporate offices of IOT Valley.
Here is a picture of the showroom of PTC, one of the leaders of the IOT platforms with the acquisition of Thingsworx for 112M $ in 2013.
Being present at the very heart of the IOT ecosystem becomes a necessity for Corporates who want to stay tuned to innovation, motivate their researchers internally, propose problems to be solved at the startups and hire brilliant staff healthy, to buy back the company to integrate it.
The game of “critical mass” thus plays a full part when it comes to attracting the best talents at all levels.
This environment reassures the future Corporates partners hesitating to buy a product / service at a startup given the strength and seriousness of the support structure.
Innovation Day 2017 Program
Every year at the end of September, IOT Valley holds an Innovation Day which invites all the players in the field of IOT, mainly in France.
We can find all the communities concerned by the IOT Valley:
— Corporates supporting IOT Valley such as AG2R La Mondiale, Michelin, SPIE, SNCF, Cap Gemini, Airbus Industrie, etc.
— The startups participating in the Connected Camp, the IOT Valley accelerator.
— The Alumni startups of IOT Valley and TIC Valley.
— The IOT Valley & Sigfox team.
— Future “corporates” and customers of startups present.
— The academic world.
— The press.
— Outside guests (we! )
This event further strengthens the confidence of the “Candidate” Corporates.
3 minutes “Random pitch session”
The day begins with “Random Pitch Session”, 3-minute pitching sessions not only by the accelerator startups but also by the alumni and even the corporates.
The grid of questions is standard (with small variations) and requires buzzing before moving on to the next question in 3 minutes.
Rooms all full.
2 conference rooms with a capacity of approximately 150 people each have not been unoccupied during the day and this despite a bright sun outside and a nice collection of food truck and other free jumping type attraction ‘elastic.
VIP Lunch at Sigfox
At lunch we were invited by Sigfox to lunch in their office in IOT 1 with 100 other VIPs.
The entire Sigfox team was present, including Ludovic Le Moan, CEO.
A lot of prestigious people present Professor Laurent Alexandre, a French prominent figure in the field of artificial intelligence.
“Demo day” of the Connected Camp
In the “showroom” section, Connected camps startups and alumni had the opportunity to present their products and services to Innovation Day visitors.
Here the adventurer Jean-Louis Etienne is particularly interested in solar drones allowing to fly 10 hours without interruptions for the surveillance of culture in Africa and which are largely inspired by the “SolarImpulse” of Solvay.
Closing conference by Jean-Louis Etienne in “Special guest”
The whole event ended with a dynamic conference on resilience (see program above) by the adventurer Jean-Louis Etienne, who came to talk about his new and ambitious project:
the “Polar Pod” (http://www.jeanlouisetienne.com/polarpod).
Party and Fun
At the end of the IOT Valley “Innovation Day”, evening of relaxation outside (we are in Toulouse 😉 with concert, food and drink.