Coaching is a key pillar in any startup program – cue successful entrepreneurs like Sylvain Chery, Cofounder and Director of Agile Partner, to lend a hand.
(Featured Image: Sylvain Chery, CoFounder and Director of Agile Partner / Image Credit © Anna Katina)
When did you join the Fit 4 Start program?
I started in the third cycle when Michel Duchateau managed the team of coaches. I took over in the fourth cycle and now coordinate with two other coaches: Dan Toma and Oana Juncu. I think it is useful to have both a local coach on the team and one that is well-established in the Luxembourgish ecosystem in order to open doors and help startups effectively. The right introductions are important! I am delighted to share my experience and help them get a foothold in the local market.
How is Luxembourg a good “lab” for developing startups?
The country is a unique lab because of its human dimension. It is easy to make contacts. Its technological infrastructure also facilitates innovation. However, the internal market may be too small and too immature compared to some of our neighboring countries. Luxembourg nevertheless remains a solid gateway to the European market.
“The objective is to identify priorities and move forward quickly because the program only lasts four months, and we realize that startups have limited resources and need efficiency.”
As a coach what are you trying to pass on to entrepreneurs?
We are three coaches and we try to maintain a coordinated approach. At the beginning of the program we develop a plan and are careful to propose one that is coherent and not redundant. We have complementary skills and different fields of expertise.
For example, during the last cycle I focused on sharing my experience in product development, while the other two coaches discussed aspects related to customer acquisition, business models, etc. These areas are all central to the development of a product or a solution. My role is to help entrepreneurs define the scope of the product that they want to put on the market.
The objective is to identify priorities and move forward quickly because the program only lasts four months, and we realize that startups have limited resources and need efficiency. Therefore, they must concentrate on the essentials and not waste time and resources on secondary things that will not contribute to their current goals, which vary from one startup to another. Some are in an experimentation phase where they have to test the market, while others are in a more mature phase with a proven product and solution and need commercial and marketing guidance.
“As a coach, I strive to establish a trusting relationship with entrepreneurs who participate in the program so that we can move forward together.”
Why did you get involved in the program?
There are two reasons why I am so committed. Personally, entrepreneurship interests me enormously and turning an idea into commercial success inspires me. Professionally, the technical solutions and practical advice we offer at Agile Partner to companies carrying out their projects apply perfectly to startups with few resources that need to concentrate on the essentials. These young buds are in a learning phase both in terms of their clientele and the solution they are building. As a coach, I strive to establish a trusting relationship with entrepreneurs who participate in the program so that we can move forward together.
Are the technical requirements of the selected startups the same?
It depends. Some have real technical challenges and make technological innovation the heart of their solution, such as AIVA Technologies, L7 Defense or Ziggu. There is real technical know-how within their respective teams. Others tend to innovate in terms of services with fewer technical constraints and need a web or mobile platform to materialize their ideas. Finally, there are those that develop hardware. For these startups it is more difficult because they require phases of prototyping, production and industrialization, demanding additional skills and resources.
“Fit 4 Start offers a wealth of learning opportunities. I try to give entrepreneurs as much help as possible, but I also learn a lot from them.”
What do you expect from the next session?
We are constantly striving to improve the program from cycle to cycle. We notice, for example, that the needs of early-stage startups really differ from late-stage startups. The same is true for local and international startups. Taking the examples of L7 Defense or RealityPipe, each has a solution that works and relies on the program to enter the European market. Luxembourg is a real springboard for them. For these companies, we concentrated more on the opening of commercial doors than on providing technical coaching.
There is a real diversity of projects, allowing for rich exchanges between the selected startups. They help each other more than they compete with each other. We will see what types of projects we receive during this call for applications. Will they be in line with the country’s flagship sectors, such as space, energy, environment and transportation? Will they be fintechs? The tools available in Luxembourg are extensive. I cannot wait to read through the applications we will receive!
I would also like us to save time for startups, particularly in terms of administrative procedures. We could, for example, consider pooling each other’s contacts, sharing past experiences and facilitating connections. This would allow startups to be created faster in legal and administrative terms, and entrepreneurs could concentrate on developing their projects.
As a coach, I also want to continue to interact with entrepreneurs. Fit 4 Start offers a wealth of learning opportunities. I try to give entrepreneurs as much help as possible, but I also learn a lot from them.