Alexandre Le Moëligou describes himself as an extremely motivated Web entrepreneur. This is what drove him, as the co-founder of Folks Interactive, to take part in the second edition of InnoBahn Ubisoft last July. A springboard for a start-up, an open innovation1 opportunity for a big company: this is the story of Folks Interactive and the National Bank, from the perspective of Alexandre Le Moëligou, who takes a look back at his experience.
Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal (CCMM) – Introduce us to Folks Interactive.
Alexandre Le Moëligou (A.L.M.) – Folks Interactive is a start-up specializing in the development of easy-to-use Web and mobile applications that allow people to communicate in better ways. All of our applications are built on a real-time technology model: providing people with uninterrupted multi-platform use, making it possible to collaborate or interact with others at lightning speed. In three years, we created three applications, including TIES and the one developed for the National Bank.
CCMM – What interested you in the National Bank’s challenge?
A.L.M. – The National Bank’s problem set was what we specialize in. The company wanted to enhance the experience of its best clients and partners during its events. It seems that directors and representatives were having a hard time spotting their VIPs and providing them with practical information on site.
To solve the problem, we therefore proposed an event-based communications application that allows clients and partners to connect to each other, based on shared interests. Beyond the solution, we proposed a vision to the National Bank, and that’s what convinced the company.
CCMM – So the National Bank selected you to go ahead with this pilot project. How does one implement a solution of this kind?
A.L.M. – At our first meeting, we meet with field teams that study the application and tell us that it won’t work [laughs]. That’s the challenge with an open innovation product: even though a start-up carries out the necessary research to understand the market its product is intended for, nothing can replace experience in the field—in this case, that of the client. As far as implementing an innovative solution is concerned, it implies that the start-up has an ability to adapt, and that the big company is willing to provide guidance. It is this synergy that leads to a project’s success.
CCMM – How did this synergy materialize for you?
A.L.M. – The National Bank didn’t want an application, but it was determined to have us develop a new solution. We therefore had to start at zero, coming up with some other technology. To help us, the Bank suggested we provide some assistance to the Rogers Cup, which it sponsors. We observed how things took place in the field and got a better understanding of the issues the company was facing. This led to the creation of a mobile site, which worked with an automated texting system. The idea of a game was central to the project. The goal was to test the product during the Coupe Banque Nationale, in Québec City, in September.
CCMM – Tell us a little more about your technology.
A.L.M. – We came up with a predictive sports game, with a points and rewards system, and drawings for gift certificates. In more concrete terms, when the VIP client arrived at the event, he went through an activation kiosk, providing the Bank’s employees with his telephone number. A bit later, he received a link giving him access to the game interface. To log in, he first had to provide answers to several questions, such as his seat number, row… This information was sent by text message to the National Bank representative and the marketing team. This is how we resolved the communication problem the Bank had underscored. It’s a problem that is, in fact, common at events.
CCMM – What were the clients’ impressions of your product after the Coupe Banque Nationale?
A.L.M. – We got an enormous amount of positive reactions from clients, who rated us 10 out of 10. Later, our product was made available to all clients, not just to VIPs. Our pilot project is now complete, and it’s been a great success for our start-up.
CCMM – What did you take away from your InnoBahn Ubisoft experience?
A.L.M. – It’s an opportunity for start-ups. We developed a product whose intellectual property rights belong to us that is being used by a renowned institution. I also understood the seriousness of the big companies that submitted their challenges. The National Bank was very open-minded, it guided us at each step of the process, and ensured our success. Now, we have a business contract with the company.
One other point: the pitch practice day. I found it to be very relevant, filled with tools and learning experiences. Our pitch was made more professional. It was an added value for us, as we have had to make this type of pitch again several times to National Bank management. If there’s one piece of advice I could give to the start-ups taking part in the next edition of InnoBahn Ubisoft, it would be: don’t underestimate how much you need to prepare. You only get four minutes and your speech needs to go smoothly. Practice fifty times, until you feel you’re ready.
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To submit your innovation challenge or support the event, contact Loubna Chamcham.