So I see you know about startups and at the same time, you hold an innovation-related position in a large company. So you know, both sides of the table. And so you might have some insights on the key drivers that encourage companies like yours to engage in open innovation and specifically to partner with startups. So can you elaborate a bit on your views and the ones of Engie?
Okay. Actually, I think it’s some kind of a journey. In the beginning, people tend to start doing things by themself. You do some incubation projects and you want to develop things and then at some point you realize this is just not gonna make it. And there are so many things out there. There’s the technology innovation, that’s everything that’s moving around the digital, and there is the customer expectation (they want more environmental stuff). They want also different experiences. And at some point, you just realize, that if you want to do everything yourself, it’s not going to work. So you need to onboard the external world, as I was saying. When you start working, you want to do things by yourself, and then you realize there’s really an added value in collaborating and in including all this intelligence from the external world. So I really believe that as a company, we have a role to play in society. And it’s also very important that we collaborate with many stakeholders because that gives us also a grasp of what’s living in our ecosystem amongst our customers, and amongst the countries in which we operate. So we need to be connected in many different ways. And the startup world, in particular, gives, first all this innovation and this complexity that we cannot master internally. But it also gives us a view of what’s living in the new generation. And I think that’s extremely important for a company to also know what motivates the young generation, what do they want to innovate in? These entrepreneurs usually go with their heart, with their guts and they go for a start that’s really dear to their heart. And working with them allows us also to anticipate the world and also to be more in tune with our own employees, with the new generation that we hire. So there are countless benefits. Maybe I was not very structured, but really the key is we have things to gain by working with startups.
Very interesting and I totally share those views. But on the other hand, they also come with their challenges, right. And difficulties and one of them, maybe the most prominent of all, is the difficulty of identifying the right partner to work with. Since, as you said, there are so many companies in the world. It’s like looking for a needle in the haystack. And from the Engie perspective, what challenges do you face the most?
Well, I think you just put the right name on it. There’s such a stack out there. It’s how do you know where to start? If you make a Google search, I was doing that while Yifan was speaking. I was thinking, okay, maybe I’m going to do an environmental trading – wow 3000 million result. That was the answer from Google. This is not a way to go. So if you want to work and collaborate with external stakeholders, with startups, with small companies, making a Google search 300 million, forget it. I mean, you’re getting everything from company to just a paper and it’s just useless. So historically people use a lot their network. I know someone who works in this domain and that’s one way that can help obviously. But I mean it doesn’t have this serendipity effect that you get when you do a Google search. Because you basically rely on your own network and you may actually miss some very interesting connections that you could come from somewhere that you didn’t expect. The alternative, that basically all big companies do is to work with dedicated teams, either internal or you just hire a consultant. You say, okay, I now want to do a bio biomethane trading and what are the companies? And we have a very specific topic and then you can work, but it’s very expensive.
And so you do need these teams internally obviously, but you want to use them occasionally, I would say. You want to use them in the right space and you don’t want to use them maybe just to get ideas. So there’s a balance between 300 million and a very costly very fine search. And I think this is the challenge that we face as a company. How do we position ourselves between the network to limited? Specific consultancy is quite expensive and Google searches are quite random.