Call for sustainable innovation !

Article translated from the original one written by Sylvie Gamet and published on Forbes France on 12/09/2018.

Whether we are citizens, employees, entrepreneurs or politicians, daily, two speeches seem to clash on communication channels. On the one hand, you find the innovation supporters urging you to innovate. On the other hand, people who want to impulse more civic responsibility are declaiming “Let’s be more responsible!”, showing the last scandals chasing the former ones, as witnesses of our inexorable end. Waltz of modern times turning in endless circles without never allowing to glimpse the outro.

Although the association of innovation and responsibility does not seem at first sight contradictory, it appears that the preachers of one or other side have often incompatible objectives …

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Future of companies: Engage in real networking to move forward

Companies are increasingly aware that it becomes difficult to innovate and remain competitive by persisting to work alone on strategic developments without external interactions. Some have therefore engaged in open innovation processes by strengthening partnerships with various external organisations, with varying degrees of success depending on the approach maturity and sincerity.

Like superheroes, it is more effective (not necessarily easy, of course) to join forces against a threat than to hope to face it alone! Don’t you think?

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“Paradise Papers” : are intangible assets guilty? 7 ways to control them.

After the “Panama Papers”, the “Paradise Papers” case highlights the well-functioning practices of tax evasion and tax optimization. These practices are regularly based on intangible assets (patents, trademarks…) management strategies. This article proposes best pratices to manage those assets and become more transparent about them.

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Tomorrow innovation will be based on empathy

innovation empathie

Translated from the article originally published in Forbes France on 08/21/2017

Many experts compete for the podium of the best qualities to develop in order to innovate better. In a pocket handkerchief you will find for example, innocence and boldness, the ability to detect opportunities and needs and to respond to them the best you can.

Thinking about it, a single quality seems to be the foundation of innovation and many other social or societal developments. And yet, you will see, it is not the most shared quality! Yes, we are talking about empathy.

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Start-up: 15 tips you can learn from Macron’s breakthrough

You surely know Emmanuel Macron, the newly elected President of France (little country in western Europe where people are grumpy, love wine and pastries). Well, whatever you think about the man or his government program, you can at least concede that he made history by accessing the power as an outsider while he was totally unknown from French people 3 years ago. Almost nobody would have bet on him and his party “En marche !” (on the move) 12 months ago.

His success is partly due to the application of tips issued from the start-up world. It worked so far. Thus these tips are validated. As an entrepreneur, you could certainly use some of them to work on your own success!

There must be something to learn from that! And there is.

What are the 15 tips you could use to achieve (almost) the same?

1.Know your subject and master it

Emmanuel Macron was never elected till May 7th, 2017 but he experienced politics as a technocrat, an assistant general secretary and a minister. He turned into politics in 2006. So he was in the place, at a high level, and could see what worked and what did not.

2. Ambition : sky is the limit.

To become President, you have first to want it, to believe you can achieve it (one day), and eventually to act towards this goal.

3. Self confidence and determination are necessary to support such an ambition.

You better know what you want and what you don’t to progress as you feel it and not as other people think you should. Emmanuel Macron surely heard a lot of demotivating words : “you’re too young!” “You have never been elected before” “It cannot work” “Nobody did it before. How the hell could you do better than your predecessors?”. Obviously, those did not stop him.

4. Be supported by relatives.

This one is really important. At the very beginning, Emmanuel macron was supported by his wife, his family, his friends. Maybe they were merely those who told him: “you can do it! So do it ! Don’t wait and go!”

5. Get relevant advices and support from experienced people.

Indeed, to achieve a goal so high, you need to get talents around you, a motivated team, and experts in fields you don’t master. When macron created “En marche!”, he ensures to get that.

6. Validate needs from people and enroll them.

At first, “En marche!” proceeded to a national survey to validate the feelings, the needs of people and “En marche!” team animated several workshop in the country to find out and propose acceptable solutions, no matter if these solutions are labeled right or left wing government party. By doing this, people were progressively aware of “En marche!” actions and ambitions. The first party members and militants were enrolled.

7. Money.

Well OK, for such an ambition you need some funds right? Considering Macron’s background and serious effectuation, banks and crowdfunders enable “En marche!” to get the needed fuel to run.

8. Proposing something new and needed or product / market fit.

Based on the survey, “En marche!” built its project and validated specific points with experts. In France, when you listen to people and propose answers that are argued and not clearly labeled right or left wing, it already feels new. But Macron’s image is also a vector of novelty : he is young, he is quite new. It changes a lot from other politicians French people are used to and that cannot be credible when they talk about change.

9. Market Positioning.

Not being labeled right or left was a first move. But there is already centrists in France, but they are still viewed as moderate right wing people. As Macron comes from the left wing, it was quite different. Moreover, Macron had the intuition that there will be a vacant place to take. And it turns he was right about it.

10. Communication.

When you are too new to be good, you have to communicate a lot to make your project clear and to be understood by people. “En marche!” did an important PR job to ensure that. Meetings were full most of the time. However some people were unsure and frustrated because they felt that the project was not really consistent. Macron has to convince twice more than others, maybe because of his outsider status.

11. Luck.

Here comes a big part of luck! Macron’s destiny would have been totally different if no vacant place were to be taken! All the stars aligned during the right wing and socialist primaries.

People chose to condemn the current and past political choices and to do so they got rid of old politicians : Nicolas Sarkozy, Alain Juppé, Manuel Valls…If Alain Juppé, who is more moderate than François Fillon, had been chosen, it would have changed a lot of things for “En marche!”. Then Fillon appeared to be far less honest than he pretended. Most of French people are tired of this kind of scandals and he paid it. He did not made the first round. François Bayrou, a centrist politician who made a big encouraging score in 2007, was afraid to know the same fate as Sarkozy, Juppé…Then he chose to ally “En marche!”. These events enable the stars to align and free the centrist place, for Macron to take.

12. Optimism.

Macron succeeded in communicating his optimism. Macron was one of the candidates, if not the only, who talked mostly about solutions, who was confident in France and Europe, who was easily smiling, kidding. And whether you like the man or not, it felt good to see that there was at least a man who believes he can do something new, to see someone that has no legal affair in progress. Thus he was free to speak about his project and it was easier for most people to imagine they can try to trust him. Maybe it is due to his age, Macron was the most able to communicate his faith in the future and he stayed strong on his position.

13. Be a fighter but stay calm and lucid.

Most people were sceptical about the ability for Macron to stand up against Marine Le Pen or other famous politicians. The final debate he handled, coping with Le Pen, enable to ensure his capability to fight and defend his views. He demonstrated that he mastered far better most of the subjects than his rival. Watching the backstage of his campaign, I was also struck by his Zen-like calm when he received an egg on his head or when Medias were keen to report shortly some sentences to create polemics. I remember him smiling and say something like “It proves that people are really tense”. He gives the impression that he cannot be deeply touched by those matters. He keeps his calm and takes actions.

14. Leadership. To achieve the success of “En marche!”, Macron has to be a leader to conduct his team in the way he wants and to keep heading no matter what. He asked his team to be honest with him and not try to protect him from the reality. He seems to listen to them but he was also able to assert himself and take clear decisions.

15. Keep heading. Macrons could have decided to change part of his project to adapt to a wider part of French people and get the support of the other unlucky candidates, but he decided not to. He kept his project unchanged, confident in his position.

All these tips can easily be adapted to your venture. However the most interesting part is to come. Will “En marche!” succeed to get a majority in the French National Assembly? Is Macron’s attitude scalable to new and unknown representatives? The answer will come up in a month…Wait and see.

In case of success, another challenge will be to deal with bashing from still grumpy people. No matter what, you will never be able to content everyone. So keep heading and try to do something about the future. If you cannot master it being President (of you company), when will you be able to?

Good news, you have a great advantage on Macron! You can take your chance by founding new companies if you fail this one !

PS : there must be typos… feel free to tell me so that I can correct them 😉

Start-up : About to file a patent? Who is its owner?

Filing a patent is often recommended to protect an invention. Generally it induces an investment of around 4 to 5 k € the first year. Without dwelling on the steps of patent filing, it turns out that a crucial issue is sometimes treated too lightly:

Who should be the owner of the patent?

The start-up? The inventors ? The main project leader?

If the inventors are not employees of the newly created company (or even not yet created), it is highly recommended to assign the rights property to the individuals. Then grant a license to the company that will exploit it. Also consider writing a co-ownership agreement if there are multiple owners!

In this case, it is preferable that the individuals pay the filing fees. It is often a heavy expense on a personal level, but it can provide a very interesting flexibility.

Note that if the inventors are employed by the company and the patent is part of the company’s purpose (in short, they have been paid for the work that led to the patent), it is the company that naturally owns the rights.

Why would it be better to privilege individuals’ ownership as much as possible?

 

There are 2 major reasons:

  1. If the company goes down, the patent remains valid because it is not officially an asset, owned by the company.
  2. When looking for financing, raising funds or welcoming new partners, this patent may be transferred to the capital of the company, enabling its holder (s) to:
    • Not being (too) diluted,
    • Access to higher financial support, which are sometimes indexed to the company’s capital.

Thus the patent must then be valued and its value accredited by an auditor. Without a patent, or without palpable intellectual property, it is really more difficult to proceed as described.

Patent filing is certainly a means of protecting its product or process, but it is also a crucial and strategic investment that will:

  • Prior to the capital contribution, reward the owners with any royalties agreed in the license granted to the company (this is neither a salary nor a dividend)
  • potentially grant operating licenses (on other sectors, other potential markets that are not part of the startup development strategy), 
  • After the transfer of rights, increase its capital, and thus …
    • access more easily to financial support
    • credibilize the position of the company regarding new competitors and the market.

 

This question arises again a year after the initial filing, when you have to think of extending the protection of the patent worldwide. The logic is the same. If the conditions are met, you can assign the rights ownership to individuals and update the license agreement in force between them and the company. Then you will be free to proceed to the capital contribution once your patent is in force in other countries and once you are certain that your startup will be able to exploit it.

Do not hesitate to take advice on these aspects, which, depending on your situation, must be treated with great caution, from a strategic, accounting, tax and legal points of view.

Freedom to operate in the real world

freedom to operate

Where exactly is the limit between freedom to operate and prohibited activity?
Identify troublesome patents and operational faults. Assessing the actual risks you have to deal with.

Freedom to operate (or FTO) is the ability to perform a particular commercial activity (e.g. commercialize a product, provide a service, perform a manufacturing process or use a product) without “infringing” 3rd party’s valid IP rights.

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Filing a patent for cunning or broke people

…or how to pretend to have an IP (Industrial or Intellectual Property) strategy, especially when you do not have the means…

This is an unusual title for an article that answers some frequently asked questions, and highlighting patents’ unconventional practices. Be careful, unorthodox, naughty tricks are presented below…
I apologize in advance to the IP advisors, whom I am going to give cold sweats!

Most of the time, my speech is going in the favorable direction of patenting, where it is possible and relevant to the business development strategy. Indeed, the patent has undeniable advantages since you can get a monopoly on your invention. In terms of valuation or innovation dissemination, patent is the Grail.

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What is your soft or app worth?

software developer

“The greatest of all gifts is the power to estimate things at their true worth.”
translated from François de La Roche Foucauld, French writer of moralistic maxims
(1613-1680)

As you may know, softwares and applications are intangible assets and thus, they can contribute to a company (often start-up) capital or they can (must!) be estimated when negotiating with investors. Or simply, you have to transfer an asset to another company and want to integrate it in your books.

These intellectual property rights differ from others as music, videos, trademarks or patents. They are subject to maintenance and constant improvement, infringements are more difficult to detect, but they still have to deal with market and ROI issues. Therefore it is quite difficult to come to a consistent value, which has to be realistic and as far as possible, indiscutable.

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