The 2013/02/25 at 08:07
While the French government has recently announced nil growth in France for 2012, Denis Jacquet’s ambition is to boost start-ups thanks to his “Accélérateur de Croissance” (Growth Accelerator). This serial entrepreneur, notably at the head of one of France’s top e-learning companies, Edufactory, decided, three years ago, to set up the association Parrainer la Croissance (literally, “Sponsoring Growth”) with a few friends, after noticing that French companies were too small.
Today, the association counts 2,450 members and has become a reference name as a tool for networking, development, the financing of start-ups, incubation and political lobbying.
Riding on the same wave, Denis Jacquet decided to tackle two problems preoccupying him. Indeed, he is disgusted by the way seniors are cast aside by businesses, as well as the difficulties confronting young entrepreneurs setting up their businesses.
From these disturbing observations, he decided to deal with the two problems with a dual solution.
“I saw a ‘pre-retirement generation’ growing,” he explains. “In other words, a generation to whom the message is ‘you’re fifty years old, there’s nothing interesting about you, you’re too expensive, we’re going to replace you with young people who are cheaper and quicker’. This attitude strips businesses of experience and savoir-faire.”
The situation gains greater significance at a time when statistics show seniors out of work. Denis Jacquet insists: “In the past, these people were kind enough to die quickly after 60 years so everything was fine. Now they can live until 95 years. So someone who is 50 is considered as being at the halfway point of his life and old – someone who has to go –, while overseas, seniors in Western countries are considered a precious resource, almost more precious than gold or mineral deposits.”
Another aspect of the problem are the difficulties that young people encounter getting launched in entrepreneurial projects. “When you create your company at 25 years old and you don’t have experience, it’s clear that your chances of success are very slim.”
Denis Jacquet therefore imagined a place where the experience of seniors could meet the expectations of young entrepreneurs. This was how the Accélérateur de Croissance was born. The objective of this model is to set up, all over France, physical structures where young start-ups can meet up with seniors.
The first such centre, at Paris-Pont de Sèvres, has 700 m2 in office space. Start-ups selected following an application process will be physically hosted at the Accélérateur. “They will make it their office,” Denis Jacquet. “The advantage is that they will find, in the same space, whether in an open space or otherwise, a Human Resources Manager, an Administrative and Financial Manager, a Sales Manager, a Marketing Manager, Logistics, Accounting, Legal services, in short, all skills that a group with 100,000 persons can afford to have, and that will work free, every day, with them, in the same physical space.”
The volunteer seniors come from two horizons. Some are young retirees who have no desire to switch off from the business world and wish to allow others to take advantage of their experience. Others are still working in large groups. “We went to see all the big companies, telling them to give us seniors and a cheque… I’m exaggerating – we asked them a lot more nicely than that!” jokes Denis Jacquet. “We asked them to help us to set up this initiative and big groups were kind enough to detect seniors for us to select and to give us money to start up the project.” The seniors selected are seconded by the company to the Accélérateur for a limited period.
The start-up selection stage began recently. Around twenty of them will soon make their entrance into the accelerator, with big ambitions and low rents. “We’re lucky that Allianz, the owner of the premises, is offering us very advantageous rates,” specifies Denis Jacquet. It therefore costs from 500 to 2,500 euros per month, depending on the company, to benefit from the premises, the seniors, a training programme and a central purchasing service.
“We have two objectives,” concludes Denis Jacquet. “Showing that a company is a place where generations can meet, and giving it the positive image of a place that constructs rather than destroys.”
A wonderful initiative demonstrating that the skills held be creative young people can lead to growth.