A podium at the Paris Agricultural Show start-up contest, a great leap forward in the project definition and a first meeting with researchers from French National institute for agronomical research: Caroline Grellier’s viticulture by-products upgrading project, named La Termatière, saw things fall into place in February.
The life of a start-up is not plain-sailing. You sometimes spend months working on an aspect of the project and it only takes a moment for something to click into place and you make a great leap forward. Even better than a session with a psychologist, my first days of training at Alter’Incub allowed me to work on the identity of the project, that progressed from the baby stage (the idea exists) to the stage of a teenager who is looking for his/her place in society.
This work on the identity of the concept carried on during the Agreen Startup / “La Startup est dans le pré” (the start-up is in the field) contest, the booster of projects, co-organised by Sup’Agro and APCA, within the context of the Paris Agricultural Show, held from the 20th to the 22nd of February 2015.
2 mins to recruit
Two short minutes to pitch my project in the auditorium in front of all the participants and mentors of “La Startup est dans le pré” with an objective to recruit team-mates with technical and commercial profiles that would complement my creative profile.
First bet a success: Rita, international business student in food-processing, Benjamin Furlan, a graduate from Arts & Métiers (prestigious engineering school), and Johan Ricaut, business school student and laureate of the same contest in Nantes in January, join me for the week-end.
— PILLAUD Hervé (@Herve_Pillaud) 20 Février 2015
And the new name for the project is adopted: La Termatière evokes materials from the soil as well as an organisation similar to a termite mound for the collective cooperative (SCIC).
Then begins a long briefing on where the project stands, during which my dear colleagues make it very clear for me that the words “sell, buy, client, market” will need to come out of my mouth naturally in order to convince. Within one hour, we establish the “go to market”, i.e. our market entry strategy: what product to be produced by whom? Whom to sell to? Why? The choice falls on a shim-stock made of vine shoot fibre felt designed for the transport of bottles, 100% bio-sourced and simple to produce in small series, to be sold initially to large vineyards.
1 min for the slaughterhouse
What on earth is the slaughterhouse? A demanding jury, ready to cut to pieces precarious projects, pitched in one minute flat. La Termatière slips through the sharpened knives. We take note of the constructive remarks and get back to work. A large brainstorming led by Pierre Alzingre, the creator and organiser of “la Startup est dans le pré”, makes us discover insights that allow us to end up with this definition:
“ La Termatière is a design agency specialised in the co-development of new materials and products 100% bio-sourced, designed from agricultural by-products (waste) for the same agricultural channels.”
The day before, I wasn’t thinking of creating a design agency… however, it rather does make sense. My designer profile provides the originality and added value of the project. For me, design is a strategic innovation tool, placed upstream of R&D in agro-materials, allowing us to design finished products that are useful, convey meaning and reveal the intelligence of the material.
Enough to spend a good night’s sleep, with clear ideas.
3 mins live from the Agricultural Show
— Jean-Marc Goachet (@jmgoachet) 22 Février 2015
Last recommendations from Pascal Peny and Gaspard Lépine, mentors of AgroValo, and last adjustments to the pitch, carried out live on the set of Campagnes TV, in the middle of the Agricultural Show. Three minutes is short…far too short to introduce one’s team. I am therefore missing 15 seconds and two slides to round off my presentation. A little frustrating, it will serve as experience!
Whilst waiting for the results of the jury, I meet a first potential customer, the experimental vineyard of the National institute for agronomical research (Inra), Pech’Rouge, the representative of which seems rather curious when discovering my samples. La Termatière claims the third place on the podium! And, beyond the contest, earns good visibility. You can now follow the project on Facebook and Twitter.
In bio-material country
On the 25th of February, I experienced the equivalent of a 25th of December: impatience, excitement and surprises. It is the first time I meet the team of Inra chemists that works actively on the viticulture by-products upgrading.
I come out of the meeting with sparkling eyes. One hour and a half playing with my homemade samples, putting forward a whole bunch of hypotheses to check with regards to the supposed super magic powers of my new materials, 100% vine bio-sourced, made in France even made in soil. The opportunity to dream a little and begin each phrase with “it would be brilliant if it could…”.
For the first time, I am confronting my maker approach to scientists. And ideas keep coming! From this visit of the laboratory, I mainly retain that these researchers are not men/women in a white blouse with glasses, hidden behind clean lab benches where beakers, test tubes, glass containers and other utensils are lined up, but more like a cheerful group of creative people who have a DIY spirit. I discover with astonishment that they also tinker, in their own way, with methods that differ from makers, but with equipment sometimes similar to mine, at least for my material experimentation phases: a mini-oven, silicon moulds bought at the local DIY store, and cooking objects to produce their top-confidential mixtures.
Unlike a fablab, the word “patent” pops up regularly in the conversation. Nothing unusual since this tinkering must allow industrial channels to innovate on a large scale. It remains to find out where I position myself…