Hugues de Bantel, co-founder and CEO of Cosmo Tech, an entrepreneur at heart, shares with us the secrets of his innovative company. The company, which has been very successful with a €18 million fundraising campaign, proposes to provide business managers with enhanced intelligence software that integrates human expertise and artificial intelligence.
What is your background?
I studied at a Neoma business school and completed the very international MBA at IMD in Lausanne. I started working in large groups but quickly joined small and medium-sized medical technology companies. I spent 7 years abroad in Southeast Asia and then in Japan creating companies that distributed medical products manufactured in France and distributed in Asia. I returned to France in 2002 to take over the general management of the medical technology company in which I worked, which was based in Lyon. I stayed there until 2008 with a business whose markets were located all over the world: in Europe, Asia and North America.
What did you do next?
In 2008, I left the company to develop a consulting business in order to help less mature and sometimes not even created companies to develop or allow companies to be created. My objective was to use my professional experience and offer it to other entrepreneurs of technology companies in France who are world leaders in their technology. A year later, I had the opportunity to meet Michel Morvan whose ideas echoed mine.
So that’s the idea that brought you together?
I was put in contact with Michel Morvan through an organization called ADERLY (Agence pour le développement économique de la région lyonnaise) linked to the ICC. He had met the team that was developing a technology that seemed to them to have a real interest in the future and as I was helping companies to grow and establish themselves in the market, they were convinced that we could collaborate. We met and his approach persuaded me to collaborate with him in the creation of our company. He thought that the 21st century would be a more complex century with increasingly difficult choices to make in a very uncertain environment. Michel was convinced that new technologies and methodologies would be needed to help leaders make optimal decisions. I shared this conviction. I left my consulting business to join the adventure in 2010.
What does Cosmo Tech offer?
Cosmo Tech offers decision support software for managers of industrial group management teams on their most complex subjects, which are often strategic for them as well. From an approach called augmented intelligence that combines data with human expertise to create models and propose several scenarios. These simulation software applications are particularly applicable to the optimization of industrial assets. To illustrate in a concrete way the contribution of our solutions, they will enable players such as RTE in electricity transmission to manage their investment and maintenance policy on the electricity networks. They can thus decide on the best investments and appropriate maintenance by analysing the impact of their choices in the short, medium and long term. An automotive manufacturer facing increasing complexity and uncertainty can optimize his value chain, his supply chain for example, by comparing different scenarios to make the best choices with an immediate business impact.
Was she proposing this from the beginning?
For large industrial groups, the challenge is that today we are evolving in a complex world and that to evolve in this one, only the systemic approach makes it possible to understand all the facets of a subject. Until now they have been thinking about each issue by silo, i. e. they could separate the subjects, but in this connected world all aspects are related and have an impact on each other and it is therefore no longer possible to separate them and the future must be approached in a totally different way. The second issue is that decisions were made on the basis of the intuition and experience of the leaders, and therefore on the basis of past experience. However, past data are no longer sufficient to anticipate the various transformations faced by large industrial companies. It is no longer possible to make decisions only on the basis of previously developed habits and methods. To anticipate in a complex environment, it is essential to combine data with collective intelligence: this is what we call augmented intelligence.
What were your main development phases?
In 2010, we created a service company by offering our solution to help large groups in their strategic decision-making. In 2014, we raised the first funds to finalize the development of our simulation platform. In 2018, we raised a further €18 million to create software solutions to help decision-makers make the best decisions to optimize the productivity of their assets.
What are the main difficulties encountered?
When you join a start-up, you have a lot of passion and it takes a lot to go through the ups and downs of a technology startup’s life! The main difficulty, and this is what makes this interesting since we work with large industrial groups, is that time is not the same for both types of companies. For a startup, the take-off runway is very short, while for an industrial site it can take a little longer or even a lot longer. This confrontation between the two remains the main difficulty we face as start-ups. A month of a startup represents a year or more in a large group.
What is your key to success?
Cultural diversity! A common vision that Michel Morvan and I share. Today, at Cosmo Tech, we are about 90 people with 15 nationalities! That’s not insignificant! Bringing people together with different academic and engineering backgrounds and also with different nationalities and cultures is our choice. This is probably from my personal experience. I have always had to work with very diverse teams, with Asians, distributors from all countries, employees from different nationalities. I have managed innovative companies in which innovation comes from working with different nationalities.
And gender diversity, I think?
We have also applied diversity in the gender distribution. Even though we are in a technological environment that is generally male, we have 30% female, which is a lot in a software environment like ours. We are proactive on this subject to create and foster this diversity, which is a real opportunity, and we will continue to do so. Diversity is an undeniable source of enrichment, because it makes it possible to grasp complex subjects with different perspectives and generate innovative ideas to anticipate. The richness of diversity is part of our DNA and our wealth of innovation.
Is diversity always positive?
Of course, it is easier if you have a very homogeneous team, everyone has the same culture and therefore will get along without difficulty. Achieving consensus will be easier. But when the perception is the same, it will not necessarily create innovation. Be careful though, because diversity can become negative if you do not put in place processes and an entrepreneurial spirit based on the recognition of differences. At some point, these differences must be recognized to highlight them and make their recognition a value for each employee. Denying the difference can lead to the opposite effect.
It must be harder to bring your employees together?
I think the most important thing is the meaning of our mission. It is in line with the new generations entering the labour market. We have an average age of 31 years and the young people who join us are full of enthusiasm, know-how and skills. They are looking for meaning and our vision speaks to them. She trains our teams who are enthusiastic about what we do.
How important are networks to you?
Michel Morvan and I are involved in associations or institutes such as the SystemX Institute of Technological Research, which brings together academics, start-ups and industrialists, or Think Smartgrids, which aims to develop the Intelligent Electrical Networks (IEEE) sector in France and promote it in Europe and internationally. In these innovation centres, you give and receive. You naturally strengthen your network but you devote time to it because you believe in the transformation of industry and you are convinced that France has a role to play in it.
How do you balance your personal and professional life?
I am in a full-time passion but the wisdom is to reserve beaches for yourself. I do this through other passions like my family and other fields that interest me a lot like culture. It is essential to preserve its secret gardens, sources of inspiration and inspiration in this world of uncertainty and to devote time to them.
“For a startup, the take-off runway is very short, while for an industrial site it can take a little longer or even a lot longer. This confrontation between the two is the main difficulty “
4 Tips from Hughes of Bantel
- Diversity is a choice that generates innovation.
- Open-mindedness towards other worlds.
- The enthusiasm that gives meaning to work and connects teams.
- Look ahead to anticipate and provide the best solutions.