Strategy & Innovation

Making a success of your innovative startup by Stanley Robotics

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Sébastien Deschaux
Director of innovation and R&D. Research expert in innovation sciences. Partner.

Known for its fundraising, innovative technology, television coverage and press articles, Stanley Robotics is one of the most successful French innovative startups. The company, launched in January 2015, is developing a valet robot solution mainly implemented in airports. By parking cars densely, the robot reduces the space occupied by vehicles, allowing more cars to be accommodated in the same parking lots. The startup thus contributes to the growth of traffic within the airport, while limiting the environmental impact. Travelers also benefit: less time looking for a free space, less stress at the thought of missing your plane, less time walking to get there and your car is safe from rude drivers. Stephane Evanno, COO of Stanley Robotics, takes the time to share his secrets of success! The concepts discussed may be obvious, yet they are often misapplied by innovative startups.

Find at least one paying customer, right from the start!

The Stanley Robotics approach

Working for airports was not originally planned. The idea was born from seeing someone using a car-mover, a device that takes the two wheels of a car and moves the car by manually pulling the car-mover. For Stanley Robotics, robotics needed to automate this process.
After coming up with this idea, the founders looked at which customer had the most pain points. Through their education in the startup world, they hypothesized that their idea was worthless and that the real value lay in the problem. So they set out to find a customer for whom the pain point was significant enough to validate their idea and the further development of the project.

Their goal was toidentify the market where their solution would add the most value quickly.

It is not always easy to identify the right market. An advantage for an innovative startup is that airports are relatively unfamiliar with robotics and artificial intelligence technologies. Moreover, Stanley Robotics was not looking for a partner who would have helped them develop their technology technically, but a complementary partner with a different culture. The airport problem was exploitable for them: every year, traffic increases by 10%. At an airport that attracts 10 million visitors annually, that's 1 million more passengers each year. A little more than a third of these future visitors will park in the parking lots. The pain point of airports is identified: how to accommodate new visitors in a space where there is no more space and very expensive to expand vertically.

Before Stanley Robotics started designing a technical solution and making prototypes, they went to meet the market. This is a fundamental step and Stéphane advises startups to go talk to as many customers as possible.

Thanks to a concept video, which Aurélien and Clément (his associates) call "the video made with tape", they filmed a car-mover that moved by itself. In reality, the levers were blocked by tape and the machine was pulled. However, this allowed potential customers to project themselves. This video generated a lot of meetings with project managers: parking, car rental companies, car manufacturers ...

Working with a large group as a startup

Stéphane's advice for a good cooperation

Stanley Robotics : innovative startup

In the case of Stanley Robotics, the construction of their robot was technically done in-house. But to be usable, it was essential that it be co-built with the airport teams. According to Stéphane, the difficulty lies in the balance between a startup with its own constraints, timeframes and ambitions, and a large group governed by other forces. The project management by Dynergie, an innovation consulting firm, and the coordination of the players were key elements in the success of the project.

Between large companies and startups, working in good cooperation is not always easy. Big companies have a lot of skills and sometimes you have to help them express themselves because of the splitting up of the stakeholders (the silo effect is more important). The question that a startup must ask itself is: "Have I understood the organization of the large group with which I will be working?". You have to know the key players, their roles, their contributions, etc... and ask them before going too far in the project. Otherwise, the project can be swept away very quickly by the game of actors.

The pitfall of large groups is that they "push" innovation, but don't go as deeply into the process, unlike startups, which know that innovation has to respond to a real problem, a real market, and requires a product that is quickly in tune with the market.

Creating a startup is a human adventure

Federating a complementary team

Stéphane, COO of Stanley Robotics, has been around the startup world a lot. His goal: to make innovation that is directly "business innovation". It is this vision that he wanted to apply to his startup. Succeeding with a startup involves a lot of sacrifices.

The whole team at Stanley Robotics is strongly involved in the project, everyone knows why they are there and what they have to do. It is a human adventure. He says it himself, "I feel like I'm 10 years younger."

COO of Stanley Robotics
It's fun every day, strategic choices to be made collectively on a daily basis and no one in the team is twiddling their thumbs

Stanley Robotics now exceeds 50 people. The startup is constantly evolving and new employees are recruited regularly.

According to Stéphane, a good core group of founders with complementary skills is essential for a successful startup.

Founders of the innovative startup Stanley Robotics

The desire to work with Aurélien, CTO, and Clément, CEO, appeared because Stéphane could provide them with the business vision they were lacking.

Recruit the first profiles

Recruitment was a difficult step for Stanley Robotics. The founders' lack of recruiting experience prevented them fromidentifying the right profiles for the startup's needs.

Now they have developed a recruitment method. They have defined values and they live them every day. These values have become their recruitment guide. For example, one of their values is "Own the company": they give shares of the company to each new employee.

Finding a first paying customer right from the start, working with large groups or federating a team are concepts that are regularly missing from the success of innovative startups. Stanley Robotics has been able to bounce back and readjust the vision of its approach by learning from its mistakes. It is thanks to this agility that the company has become one of the most successful French innovative startups in just a few years.

Sébastien Deschaux

Director of innovation and R&D. Research expert in innovation sciences. Partner.

Serial entrepreneur, engineer, incorrigible scientist, passionate about innovation, Lean Startup expert, activist for a better world. My job is simple: to transform innovative project ideas into profitable, high-growth businesses. To do this, there is no better strategy than to focus the value proposition until customers dream of buying. Then it's 100% action: sell, convince, develop, deliver and move forward. For project owners, working with me can be challenging. But it's also a guarantee to move forward at lightning speed, and to avoid spending several years of one's life living on the sidelines without moving forward on a project.

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