Immersion in the heart of the UNIL HEC Accelerator for business projects
6th session | August to December 2018 – Now in their fourth month of a program known for both its effectiveness and rigorous demands, the FitProt, PhageForward and ISTIA Digital Solutions teams are on fire! How are these projects getting on inside the accelerator and what new features is the program offering?
Since its launch in 2016, the UNIL HEC Accelerator has welcomed 15 teams, helping them to make their projects a reality. Today, thanks to this five-month coaching program, several start-ups are attracting coverage in the media or their economic and/or industrial sectors: Légumes Perchés, Buildigo and Greenastic are some excellent examples.
For this sixth session, which began in August and will finish in late December, we wanted to test the water with a closer look at the program itself.
What is it like to be part of the adventure in the accelerator?
The project teams currently taking part in the program were happy to join in and tell us about their experiences after over three months’ coaching as part of the program.
HEC Lausanne graduate and founder of the FitProt project, a service for sportsmen and sportswomen aimed at facilitating access to personalized nutrition, José Ibarra explains: “One of the main lessons you learn in the accelerator is that first of all, you need to check that the solution you are offering the customer meets a real need. Otherwise, they’ll never be prepared to pay for it.” While the principle may seem relatively logical, applying it in practice is not so straightforward and budding entrepreneurs regularly pay the price for it. Encouraged by the manager of the accelerator program, Nadine Reichenthal (a lecturer at HEC Lausanne), to go out and meet his future customers as they left the gym, he discovered that the problem he was trying to solve was not necessarily seen in the same way by the main people interested. “The gap in perception will have significant repercussions when it comes to thinking about the type of customer we want to target,” comments José Ibarra.
For PhageForward, a treatment program fighting antibiotic resistance, the experience has been different. Led by Dr. Shawna McCallin, a researcher at CHUV, the PhageForward project is taking shape, developing and becoming a tangible reality without necessarily undergoing any radical changes to the initial basic premise. “The UNIL HEC Accelerator program is helping to refine our aims in practical terms, by identifying and highlighting the activities that are central to the launch of the project, and improving how we communicate it,” explains Shawna McCallin.
According to the young researcher, the accelerator has given the project a degree of legitimacy. It is also helping her to plan for the future, by pointing the way to the next steps. Thanks to the funding made available, for example, the members of PhageForward have been able to carry out tests of the product and then identify, based on the results obtained, the future local partners they might work with. What’s more, their next milestones have already been identified, driven by the momentum of the accelerator program. “We’re already embarking on our next steps. For example, we’re in the process of applying to the SNSF for their Bridge Proof of Concept program,” explains Shawna. For her, the accelerator program is a source of inspiration and a driver that is helping her to pursue her idea and ambitions as far as possible: “Patients are dying at CHUV, in Switzerland and all over the world because of resistant infections. PhageForward needs to help change that!”
Turning back to José Ibarra and the FitProt project, what he most appreciates in the whole program is the fact that once all the steps in the accelerator have been completed, FitProt will be clear about its chances of success. “We’ll be able to make decisions about the commercial development of FitProt on a much sounder basis,” he concludes.
Members of the ISTIA Digital Solutions team, whose aim is to digitize doctors’ surgeries, agree: “I’m finding it an exciting experience and in particular, it’s helping to assess whether our project has potential. The UNIL HEC Accelerator offers us the financial and intellectual resources to prepare for the launch phase,” explains Céline Arethens, student at HEC Lausanne.
News from the UNIL HEC Accelerator
The program is a dynamic initiative that continues to evolve with each session. This summer, an entire co-working space was created in the accelerator’s premises in the Amphipôle building on the UNIL campus. Around 20 work spaces have been created. ”We are hoping to create a co-working space for anyone with a taste for entrepreneurship in the UNIL community and organize more networking events,” explains Nadine Reichenthal.
Monthly training sessions are also now available to anyone who signs up on the accelerator website, as a way of cultivating and strengthening the entrepreneurial culture in the UNIL community. The next course will be a Media Training session delivered by an RTS La Première journalist. It will be advertised soon on the UNIL HEC Accelerator’s website and Facebook page.
Finally, anyone in the UNIL community who is interested in talking about their entrepreneurial project is invited to get in touch via the UNIL HEC Accelerator website (under Office Hours) for a 30-minute coaching session.
Check your calendar!
par Chantal Behar