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  • Véronique Méot

Under 30 and Already Entrepreneurs

Whether they see themselves as serial entrepreneurs or heads of SMEs, the under-30s are getting involved in activities that address social or environmental issues. They are taking the reins with strength and dynamism.

At the age of 20, Jules Simiand-Brocherie made headlines when he was listed as the youngest in Forbes magazine's "30 under 30" ranking for 2022. He heads ExtraStudent, a company founded in 2021, which publishes a social network for school sharing and employs five people. The young man who matured his project on the school benches - he had launched the "Élèves solidaires" platform during the first confinement - has succeeded in developing the subscriber base of his mobile application without making any marketing investments.

"It just goes to show how much interest there is," he says with satisfaction. His business model is based on marketing the qualified data collected, selling subscriptions to schools, and a digital career fair concept. The aim? To have 1.5 million users by the end of 2024. To achieve this, we're raising funds to recruit two salespeople, a developer, and a CMO", explains the budding entrepreneur.

"Quite often, entrepreneurship students think of concepts that are aimed at their peers, so we encourage them to broaden the spectrum," notes Pascal Corbel, who is in charge of student entrepreneurship and a professor at the University of Paris Saclay. It was during his training that Alexandre Guenoun, aged 24, came up with the idea of developing Jobamax, the Tinder of jobs, dedicated to Generation Z. "I was watching my friends surf the Internet," he says. "I used to watch my friends surfing on Tinder with a smile and a relaxed attitude, and I could see that the others, who were looking for jobs and internships, were surfing recruitment sites with difficulty and little pleasure! Yet the equation is the same: help two parties to find each other, discover each other, and get along", he would later confide.

In the meantime, he joined HEC and then Cornell University and Yale to acquire the skills needed to create his start-up, which was launched in April 2022. A year later, it has more than 100,000 users and 12 employees.

A commitment to CSR

The other major theme that drives the twenty-somethings is "the environment and, more generally, impact", notes Pascal Corbel. Dominique Restino, Chairman of the Twoo group and founder of Moovjee (a network of young people and students whose prize is open to 18-30 year-olds), confirms that over the last ten years or so, "young people have become interested in issues of impact, care and sharing, and commitment has taken over".

Digital is no longer an issue, it's so integrated. Still a schoolgirl, Lena Crolot, now 22, realises the absurdity of the till receipts issued to customers. "I saw a lady getting a 50 cm long receipt for a small key ring. I said to myself that we had to find a solution to this mess. She kept the idea in mind, and then spoke to Ruben Raymond Kahloun, aged 24, when they were in their third year at New York University. "We soon were joined by David El Malih (26), a childhood friend of Ruben's, who had just graduated from Centrale Supélec. We then joined various incubators such as La Ruche and Station F, which greatly helped us to launch Billiv, a green and 100% digital ticket", says Lena.

Billiv was set up in 2020 and raised its first round of funding two years later (€1.3 million) from the impact investment fund Astérion, and now employs 13 people. "We now have more than 400 customers in mainland France, Réunion, Guadeloupe, and Switzerland," says its director. Joseph Choueifaty, 25, started out in a completely different field, finance, when he realised that French people's savings had accumulated during the health crisis and, above all, that they were poorly invested. "Numerous reports by Reclaim Finance and Carbon4 Finance showed that savings were still massively invested in fossil fuels and that finance had not taken the measure of the climate emergency", he says.

He decided to create Goodvest in September 2021. 18 months later, Goodvest, the life insurance distributed by the eponymous fintech, a company with a mission, can boast of having collected €25 million and having 3,000 customers. And that's just for starters. "400 customers join us every month, and our teams - around 20 people - are doing a fantastic job," says the CEO.

Fulfilling a dream

A developer from the age of 14, Quentin Rozados, CEO of Sinao (SaaS accounting software for very small businesses) and Forgez (product studio), already sees himself as a serial entrepreneur rather than the head of an SME. "I like being the driving force behind the project, what really amuses me is creating a machine and getting it up and running. I'm much less interested in the pure management side than the creation, which is why I try not to be the company's key man", he admits.

As a whole, young people are "very focused on creativity and much less on business management and negotiation", says Laurence Tassone, head of the Observatoire de la création d'entreprise at Bpifrance Création. While the question of income is not the main motivation for 18-30 year-olds to become business owners, it does represent the main difficulty. "Young entrepreneurs are primarily interested in fulfilling a dream (29%), facing new challenges (19%), or being their own boss (19%). Increasing income or capital, which is the second most important motivation for entrepreneurs of all ages, is only in fifth place (18%) among young people, ex æquo with the desire to change profession", notes Laurence Tassone, based on figures from IEF 2021 (1).

Paradoxically enough, she continues, "while the appeal of income is no longer the main motivation, financial insecurity is becoming the greatest fear". The next biggest obstacle is the risk of failure (very present in the minds of those intending to set up their own business, at 28%), but this has been replaced by the fear of a certain lack of credibility on the part of project leaders (19%) and of too much responsibility on the part of bosses (16%).

At 20 years of age, Jules Simiand-Brocherie plays down the risks. "I'm starting to make a living from my business", says the man who stopped studying because he couldn't reconcile his two lifestyles. "We're mentally freer than people in their thirties to give time to the project", he asserts.

When it comes to construction, young people are also more open-minded. "I have four mentors who help me on a regular basis; they give me feedback on every situation I'm about to face, they teach me how to organise myself, I systematically consult them before reacting to a problem, and finally they direct me to the right partners", adds the head of ExtraStudent.

Plenty of support

In France, the ecosystem is in place to support young people in their entrepreneurial endeavours, which partly explains their enthusiasm. The battle to raise awareness of business creation seems to have been won. "We are mobilising the Cap Créa collective, which brings together 26 support networks that are partners of Bpifrance. With a nationwide presence and almost 3,000 offices in mainland France and the French overseas territories, these networks have raised awareness among 476,000 people in 2022, including 190,000 young people", explains Marie-Adeline Peix, Executive Director in charge of Bpifrance Création. In the first half of 2022, more than 37,000 entrepreneurs were supported through awareness-raising, pre- and post-creation support, financing, acceleration and takeover initiatives.

Cap Créa's objective is to double the number of new businesses supported over the next five years that are sustainable, generate added value, have an impact and create jobs. This includes a project to be launched in the Priority Urban Neighbourhoods (Quartiers prioritaires de la politique de la ville - QPV), because while almost a fifth of young people in France have a business plan, the proportion rises to a quarter among young people living in QPVs.

"My interest in the circular economy and my intellectual curiosity encouraged me" Yacine Kabeche, CEO of Circul'Egg

In 2023, Yacine Kabeche, a 28-year-old graduate engineer from AgroParisTech, who has launched an eggshell recovery business, intends to go to industrial scale by opening his first site near Rennes. The process, which will be patented in 2021, involves decontaminating, crushing and separating the outer shell from the inner membrane, in order to produce shell powder rich in calcium carbonate and membrane powder (a source of protein and containing several substances such as collagen, hyaluronic acid, etc.). His strategy: "To open the production site and market our products to the 130 customers who are waiting for us", he confides.

There are three main outlets: animal feed, cosmetics and nutraceuticals. Around 40,000 tonnes of eggshells are thrown away every year, and Circul'Egg sees this as a real resource. Yacine Kabeche also wants to control the environmental impact of the business. "We are planning to install compact modules at the outlet of the egg breakers so that the process can be set up as close as possible to its source and avoid transport," he explains.

Two rounds of funding (€2 million in pure equity, €5 million in total) are financing the necessary investment and recruitment. Has Yacine taken on the role of company director? "Today, yes, because it's an exciting adventure, I'm starting to manage managers, to delegate, but initially I didn't necessarily want to be an entrepreneur, I was more of a scientist, but then the opportunity presented itself", he replies. The idea was born, somewhat naively, at a start-up weekend that Yacine attended when he was still a student. The business took shape later. "My interest in the circular economy and my intellectual curiosity encouraged me".

Testimonials from entrepreneurs under 30

Quentin Rozados, 26, serial entrepreneur

Quentin Rozados founded Forgerz in response to a specific request from a customer of his first start-up, Sinao (SaaS accounting software for small businesses), which employs 6 people. This purely self-taught 26-year-old was immersed in the world of gaming and web development from an early age, and turned this passion into entrepreneurial energy. Together with Julien Dussauge, he founded Forgerz in 2022, a product studio that is currently expanding rapidly (6 employees).

At 28, William Simonin powers the Vivoka voice assistant

Like Iron Man's Tony Stark and his virtual assistant Jarvis, William Simonin dreamt of creating his own AI-based voice assistant... 7 years later, he has succeeded in equipping small educational robots (the Miko model for children), virtual reality goggles and other devices. Eiffage, Thalès and Suez have put their trust in his company, which employs 35 people and is recruiting 13 new talents.

Ophélie Vanbremeersch, 23, gives a second life to glasses

Lunettes Zac's mission is to recondition glasses. Ophélie, CEO, set up the company when she was a student. To date, Zac has 8 employees, opened a sales outlet in Lille, forged partnerships with 25 opticians, and has just negotiated agreements with the Écouter Voir chain (750 shops). Zac expects to achieve sales of €120,000 in 2022 and to be a huge success in 2023.

Matthias Croset, 25, sets up hygiene product kiosks

Matthias Croset, CEO of MyNifty, winner of the Pépite Île-de-France 2022 award, is developing connected mini-dispensers for hygiene products (deodorants, lip sticks, menstrual protection, etc.). These refrigerated kiosks consume little and contain sustainable products. Founded in 2022, My Nifty (4 employees) has already deployed its solution with 4 customers, including Station F, and is aiming to have 40 kiosks installed by the end of 2023.

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