Birth of a startup studio
Why you should read
Hi. My name is Renan. I’m the CEO of the newly founded Opeo Startup Studio. Before that, I held various positions in research, manufacturing and technology. I’m lucky enough to be associated with four incredible co-founders with a background in manufacturing and consulting.
You might find the read below interesting because :
A. It is the genuine line of thinking that we are following to make a risky bet with a non-negligible impact on the lives and financial future of us as founders, thus providing an opinion with actual skin in the game ;
B. It provides an outlook on various topics, from technical revolution to BigCo troubles to attract talent to the rise of populism to 4.0 revolution to fundamental shift in corporate power structures ;
C. It has pretty pictures.
A brief and rocky history of changing the world
Any passerby can attest that software ate a good chunk of the world, and is eating more, fueled by Moore’s law , great technologists and great designers.
VC money followed the lead after learning the hard way about hype cycles. Bar 2000-craze, 2018 is the hottest time to get funding.
Technology changed everything, the way we get informations, how we consume news, how we listen to music, how we choose our airlines, how we shop, how we interact, how we work, how we date, how we get from point A to point B. Banking and healthcare are hot right now with the slew of innovators coming to fundamentally change the market.
By looking at this graph, the first conclusion is immediate : disrupted sectors are offering much more value to the end-user than poorly disrupted ones. Think music before Napster, the iPod and Deezer, retail before Amazon, video before Netflix and Youtube. Manufacturing, right now, is pre-Napster.
The second conclusion of these disruptions is the increasing wealth gap : fewer and fewer people have the skillset, positioning, and knowledge needed to contribute in a networked world, while an increasing percentage of the value created goes towards those few.
One of the first order consequence of this is the war for talents raging around technology. Big traditional companies are struggling recruiting talents who can get a fortune working for a technology company. Small tech firms have trouble recruiting the very specific talents they need. And big tech firms have trouble retaining the very valuable and trained workforce essential to their workings. Those highly capable people have an unprecedented bargaining power and are using it for personal and collective gains.
The main second order effect of this is what academics have dubbed the “Lost territories” effect : the vast majority of local towns are not lucky enough to be specialized and particularly contributive in that new world. The worldwide polarization of a two-digits percentage of voters towards an anti-innovation stance is actually an hyper-local vote that makes sense.
The technological revolution has thus created a complex situation where :
- The value unlocked is immense, and is still to be unfolded ;
- A few knowledgeable workers are in a position to be fully in control of their future and choose what they want to work on ;
- The majority of the population is not part of this movement and feels left out, creating hard-to-fix movements around the globe.
At the Studio, we want to fully embrace reality and act to, at the same time :
- Contribute to fixing what’s broken in our territories, mainly the gap between “lost territories” and hubs ;
- Provide an exceptional environment to unlock the potential of people and technology in the manufacturing space ;
- Profit from this process, on par with the best investments available on the market.
We want to help launch 10 companies in the next three years, focused on organizational (no deeptech, no hardware) disruptive startups in manufacturing, by being there at day 1 and until the company is mature enough to raise meaningful funds.
Why manufacturing ?
Because manufacturing is a labour-intensive industry where technology can help solve the lack of possibilities in the areas not blessed with being in the heart of technology-enabled value creation.
By creating this special batch of tech-enabled companies, and a networked community ready to change the manufacturing landscape. By recruiting the best founders, those who could work anywhere, and choose to work for a meaningful future of work in the manufacturing field. By presenting to the world impactful products and business models.
What about the economics ?
Because a startup studio model relies heavily on extremely early stage structuration and value creation, the metrics are brutal. We expect a 50% internal failure rate. In true power law fashion, we expect only one of the ten ventures to return more than 60% of the total future value of the Studio, more than the totality of the investment in less than three years. With early projections, we intend a return on par with successful venture capital firms.
The Studio provides :
- Access to our network of would-be founders (CTO, CEO and COO profiles) to constitute the team ;
- Access to the flow of insights generated by the awesome consultants of OPEO and our methodology of early-stage startup structuration ;
- Access to our network of more than 1200 industrial companies and 8000 professionnals ;
- Hands-on 4 days per week of a junior ressource, 2 days per week of a senior ressource for 10 months , acting as on-demand ressources with the final say being of the entrepreneurs ;
- 30Ke start funding, with further investments remaining a possibility ;
- A 0.05% to 0.2% share in the parent company (Opeo Startup Studio).
The founders sign off 15% of the equity of the new startup for the Studio.
This deal represents our best bet to attract world-class entrepreneurs to solve meaningful issues and create value together :
- Founders are in control and the Studio is at their service to help them pick relevant issues, iterate a solution with early adopters and capable ressources ;
- The economics and relatively low equity shares were designed to attract the best talents with an unmistakingly good deal, with the objective of growing the pie rather than fighting over crumbs ;
- The community created is real with shares of the parent company being distributed to all entrepreneurs ensuring a common incentive for this whole venture to work.
This is a pretty big set of bets.
Two models are dominating the startup market right now :
- Incubators, which propose a place and some animation to a very large number of startups. They dilute risk by having an extremely large number of startups in the portfolio and proposing minor dilution. Most of the value of those is in the ecosystem created, and despite the smashing success of Y combinator, it is not a secret that most incubators suck ;
- Venture capital funds, which propose funds in exchange for equity, no questions asked. The equity and investments are significant and funds diversify their risks by picking the right company, choosing not-so-early projects and having more than one company in the portfolio. Various debates about “founder friendly funds” cannot hide the fact that incentives are often misaligned between an investor and the management team.
Although visionary early birds pioneered the startup studio model some years ago, it has not quite found its place yet.
The startup studio model invests more heavily in its portfolio than an incubator, thus being more risky. It invests in its portfolio an amount comparable to a fund. But it is way earlier, thus insuring a greater share of the value. Also, it provides structuration and hands-on co-building with the entrepreneurs.
Our first bet is that the shared higher purpose, caring community, excellent delivery and aligned incentives will create disproportionate value in this nascent model, and ultimately shape the shape of manufacturing.
Our second bet is that the manufacturing world is ready for radical innovations. While there are a number of signals out there that the timing is right, several key components must be tackled such as the traditionnaly high cost of acquisition, constrained world of IT in a plant, legal and safety barriers to entry, to name a few.
Our third, and most important bet, is that incredible founders will be attracted by our vision and want to take the deal, starting a community that will shape the future of our “lost territories” and contribute to a meaningful world.
So, here we stand. Time will tell if we were right, let’s execute. Four months in, ten incredible individuals are working to make this a reality, so that’s a start.
If you want to work with us or know more, please drop by at our Parisian office @ 10 rue Chabanais, 75002 Paris. Or tweet me @siponza. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Many many thanks to Michael Valentin, co-founder of the Studio who believed in the model from the start, Charles Bouygues, Frederic Sandei, David Machenaud, as awesome co-founders of this venture, Odile Ricour for her dedication and care, Ilyass Ramdani and Andréas Blondeau for believing in the model and forming the first generation of the Studio employees, Emilie Sallé, Théo Sarda and Simon Bastide for being the first ever team to join before even the start of the model, Marc Nègre, Thomas Reygagne, for being the second team and believing in what we want to become, Marco Pozzi and Aurélien Hérault, for being awesome board members, our industrial partners, who are testing everyday with us and welcome radically different models in their organizations, all the OPEO team and family for helping nurture the project. Final thanks to M de Guilhermier for his wisdom, Thibaut Eleziere for his mentoring, and everyone I for sure forgot.