Vincent Genti: why large companies make friends with startups

    This fall, the Leroy Merlin teams, together with #tceh, conducted a business hackathon - project teams gathered to change the repair market. Why this is needed and what impact it will have on the market - in an interview with the organizers and Vincent Genti, head of the Russian division of Leroy Merlin.

    Video report:

    Leroy Merlin is a company that is not associated with technology, how do you plan to change your image? Why do companies need startups and how did they come to this?

    Participation in an event such as “Startup: Nails and electrical tape” for Leroy Merlin is not only a matter of reputation, it is much deeper. We strive to reveal new facets of our business and our culture in the direction of technology, and there are requirements that we must meet. Such events move the business towards innovation, help improve efficiency and seek new talent. Of course, “Startup: Nails and electrical tape” is just one of many areas for the development of the company and the integration of new technologies.

    Why was it decided to conduct a hackathon to search for new channels? Why didn’t you choose some ready-made working startups, why the hackathon format?

    Let's clarify that it was rather a business hackathon, where the emphasis was on business areas - a technology that is outside the plane of the needs of the market has very little chance of success. We wanted to focus on an event about the collision of technology with the reality of the market. We are fortunate that in Russia there is a #tceh team that shares these values ​​and has experience in conducting similar events. As a result of joint work, we got such a start-up weekend, which was called "Startup: nails and electrical tape." This name, because the first prototypes need to be made as simple and understandable as possible.

    You can get confused in the variety of platforms for developing projects: hackathons, accelerators, incubators. However, we deliberately chose the format of collaboration, as this is an opportunity to team up with young talented specialists from different fields to solve problems: build hypotheses together, exchange ideas and watch how business projects “crystallize”. I am sure that we made the right choice, because these two days were very strong in energy. 150 talented and inquisitive minds, which eagerly absorb knowledge and experience, created and transformed their ideas with cosmic speed and the teams went to the result.

    But this does not mean that we do not want to be friends with startups outside of events. We continue to improve the technological approach and work on the development of other progressive formats of cooperation. We analyzed existing startups, and in the future we will get acquainted with the most important incubators in Russia in order to understand how we can jointly organize effective cooperation. As part of the development strategy of Leroy Merlin, we strive to gain successful experience in different directions and formats. For Leroy Merlin, “Startup: Nails and Insulating Tape” was a successful beginning to get to know each other and discover the wonderful world of ideas, the world where young technology projects live.

    And before the hackathon, what were the channels, how did they work?

    There are many channels, but the question is not in their quantity and quality, but in what needs to be looked into the future. The world is becoming more and more connected with the world of technology, you need to keep up with the times. And of course, collaboration helps a lot to get a fresh look at the existing course of things.

    It is important that our experience working with channels has helped young teams who have chosen the repair industry as their destination. We carry out qualitative research of customers in order to get feedback from our stores; customer comments on social networks are important to us. All this is a huge array of data.

    In the future, the interaction will be based on the same thing - attracting customers - or are there any other plans or aspects of the business for which startups can also be attracted? What kind?

    This is our first experience with startups, but not the last. I think that the format can be applied in other aspects of our business. For example, this is an excellent training option for both employees and customers. There are many ideas for implementation.

    Does the company plan to hold any events besides hackathons? Maybe accelerators? Incubators?

    Above, I have already opened this question a little. It remains only to add that, making a choice in favor of a particular format in cooperation with young teams, we are guided by the long-term prospect of our future partnership. We aim to work with startups, we are ready to invest in projects and develop them. In general, I am sure that Russia has enormous potential, unlimited opportunities for development. We will work with different projects in different formats. It is a fact.

    How do you look at similar events from the same IKEA that holds the hackathon?

    Yes, it’s obvious that now many companies are working with startups. On the one hand, this is a trend, and on the other hand, it is a new effective way of working to quickly launch experiments.

    Is Leroy Merlin planning to hold similar events in other countries? Have you already collaborated with some young startups in other markets?

    Of course, in other countries where Leroy Merlin is present in Italy, France, Spain, there are similar projects. The point is that each of our business units develops its market in proportion to modern realities and following regional characteristics.

    On behalf of the organizers:

    What tools did the hackathon participants access? Who was on the jury? What are the criteria for selecting winners? What will be the cooperation with the winners (“mentoring from the tops”)? What did the jury like the winners?

    Like most young teams that make their first startup, the participants made beautiful stories exclusively inside their imagination. We have created the conditions in which their business models are faced with reality. Repair Calculator, Virtual Assistant, Photo Search, and Leroy Merlin Repair Club are the winning projects that have best proven the viability of their projects. There were many criteria, but the main thing was to confirm the usefulness and relevance of the startup for the real problems that people face during the repair.

    About the tools - of course, we did not leave the participants alone with this task: the teams went through workshops on packaging ideas, learned to develop a project according to the Traction methodology, worked with real Leroy clients who kindly agreed to come to the event.

    Prizes for the winners, we made almost useful for the future guys. For example, the project “Repair Calculator”, which helps to calculate the cost of all repair costs, has good prospects, but the guys need to work more focused - they got a month in coworking #tceh.

    "Virtual Assistant" - an automated service for answering questions that arise during the repair. Its creators will study the repair market more deeply and improve professional competencies - they received a grant of 250,000 rubles for educational courses and 3-month access to the Leroy Merlin workspace.

    “Leroy Merlin Repair Club” is a community of buyers whose authors will find it useful to live in the world of the repair market and study it as deep as possible. They got 3 months in the Leroy Merlin workspace.

    The Search by Photography team, which received a mentoring prize, will be in touch with Vincent Genti, General Director of Leroy Merlin Vostok - his experience will help children survive in a harsh world.

    How were participants drawn to the hackathon and how many were willing to participate?

    There were much more applications for participation than the platform could accommodate, so we had to not only close the registration, but also look through the lists of registered ones. At the selection stage, we were surprised at how many ideas and those who wanted to deal with the pain of repair. It was cool to watch how our digital community, accustomed to gadgets and simple service solutions, gathered for the brainstorm of a situation that usually everyone faces alone.

    What is the difference between the Ikea hackathon and the “Startup: Nails and electrical tape” event by Leroy Merlin?

    In the case of IKEA, we will talk about ideas for improving the functionality of the MEGA mobile application, and with Leroy Merlin - about working with an omni channel that combines offline and online together.

    Rostourism launches the National Tourism Portal (NTP) - a federal-level project. NTP is actively developing and is designed to stimulate domestic and inbound tourism, providing access to extensive information about attractions, historical and cultural features, etc.

    For the NTP, API was specially developed , with the help of which this information can be applied in your own projects using open data.

    What you need to do
    Come December 4 with your project or join the team. Get an introduction on the challenges facing the tourism industry. Propose a solution and prove in 3 days that it is viable.

    the main task: take the API and find it the most effective application to travel around Russia has become easier, more comfortable and more interesting.

    For whom it will be useful:
    • Startups who want to get a strong ally in the face of Rostourism.
    • Those who are ready to make a travel start-up and are waiting for a sign from above. Actually, here it is, this sign.
    • Specialists in the field of development, marketing, design and business development who want to know how it works in a startup.

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