“We have increased in both rigour and credibility.”

Last January, startup Axibio won the top prize in the call for projects launched by GRDF in partnership with Maddykeynote. The outcome: fifteen productive days of support by a strategy consultancy. Its co-founder and CEO, Pierre-André Galy, tells us about this experience.

Could you please start by introducing Axibio?

We supply connected equipment for the collection of food biowaste from both kitchen and plate. This equipment is designed either for catering professionals or for communities. In the latter case, this consists mainly of containers to collect waste from households, a bit like the familiar ones for glass or textiles. These are voluntary collection points equipped with scales and access control via magnetic card. They are used to measure each user’s contributions and to implement an incentivising policy. This provides a way to involve people, to explain the approach as an energy transition initiative rather than a law, and to reward those who are going in the right direction.

The advantage of our proposal, which is unique to ours, is the fact of measuring by weight rather than volume. This solution results in better sorting quality, and communities can make real savings on their collections. It’s a virtuous circle.

What stage of development was Axibio at when you responded to the GRDF-Maddykeynote call for projects?

We were already at a fairly advanced stage of development; we had obtained a first contract with an association of municipalities in Brittany, which is currently in the deployment stage, as well as contacts with a few other communities.

How did you decide to participate in this call for projects?

We had already been meeting people from GRDF for a while, and we knew about their deep involvement in methanisation. We felt that they could be a very useful partner in educating the public by making the connection between waste and the energy produced. Explaining methanisation is important to GRDF, because methane gas tends to be thought of as a fossil fuel. It is also important for collection, because people with this awareness will sort more intelligently, which also optimises other collections and therefore also recycling.

The call for projects was first brought to our attention by Maddyness, and then also by a person we had spoken to at GRDF.

We were interested in submitting a proposal for several reasons: developing our mutual interests with GRDF; continuing to position Axibio in the energy sector, which we are doing in a broad manner; raising our profile by ‘catching’ an additional label, which is important for a startup; and strengthening our links with other candidates with whom we were able to discover common interests. We came to consider some of them as partners rather than competitors.

So, you submitted a proposal…

We made our submission last November. We took our time to work on the proposal, because it was very demanding. Then we were told that we had been chosen to go and pitch our project in late January. We were invited to Maddykeynote to do this.

Our project was therefore displayed on the GRDF stand during the show. This brought us good visibility that we wouldn’t have had if not for this prize, because we hadn’t planned to participate in this event. We are a small company and we can’t afford to go everywhere, so it was a really good opportunity. It gave us some recognition, added to our reputation, and even brought in a few contacts.

But the benefits of this call for projects didn’t stop there. You also received some support, funded by GRDF. How did that happen?

Yes indeed, we received two weeks of support from Enea, a strategy consultancy. That was extremely intense and fruitful.

We have been advancing and positioning ourselves for a few years now; we have had several partnerships one after another, participated in fundraising, found our first customers, etc. With Enea, we took things to the next level, because we were able to reflect on the existing situation, and it is extremely valuable to put your heads together, take the time, and seek an outside perspective.

We worked via interviews and exchanges of documents. And the deliverable provided us with tangible elements concerning positioning, pricing, and points to feed into our sales approach.

We saved time and, above all, boosted our rigour. We now have a more solid narrative, and this adds to our credibility amongst the players we deal with. We haven’t pivoted, but we have managed to adjust and refine our approach.

So, despite the support you have received in the past, you still found it useful?

You always need additional discussion, because the further you progress, the more new problems you face. When creating a startup, it would be wrong to think you will be able to solve every problem yourself, because you are moving through the fog, and along the way you discover things that are either invalidated or confirmed, a constantly-changing context, new competitors, etc.

My dream would be to receive this type of support four times a year, and a startup needs it even more than a big company. So, I would say that we needed it, but it was a luxury that we would not have been able to afford.

Did this call for projects also strengthen your relationship with GRDF?

It gives us the opportunity to work with them in new regions. We have made good progress with the regional delegate from Poitou-Charentes, with whom we are discussing mutual interests, and he has introduced us to a potential customer. We are also making progress in Centre-Val-de-Loire, where another project involving methanisation is pending confirmation. We feel that both sides share the same desire to get things moving.

So, to conclude, has this prize encouraged you to participate in other calls for projects?

Yes; for example, we have responded to another call for projects from ADEME. But the idea is to proceed with caution, because this must not replace our commercial activity and lead to a false belief that it’s a sufficient approach on its own. We should do them, but we must choose wisely.

This one was really good and productive, because it was exactly what we needed to support our commercial plan. We immediately sensed that it was right for us, because we are the link between the waste bin and energy production, and it’s in our interest for the whole sector to work together.