An interview with Anne Laliron, Business Lab Vice President, Groupe PSA
The Business Lab is an open-innovation platform that cultivates relationships with young companies and tests new concepts in order to create value for Groupe PSA customers. It serves as an important entry point for mobility start-ups.
In Movement: Today the Business Lab is one and a half years old. What were your initial objectives and goals?
Anne Laliron: The Business Lab was launched in early 2017. Our main priorities were, and continue to be, to detect, test and transform opportunities into new businesses for the Group, in the field of mobility. To begin with, we closely monitor the start-up ecosystem. We also look for opportunities among our employees, who are a particularly valuable source of creativity and ideas. For this reason, we have launched an internal incubator. In sum, our approach is founded on two distinct lines of action: the development of an in‑house incubator and a thorough analysis of the start-up ecosystem.
In Movement: How do you identify the start-ups?
Anne Laliron: The start-up ecosystem is extremely diverse and dynamic. In the mobility sector alone, a new company is created every week worldwide. It’s therefore very important for us not to get lost in this sea of new ventures.
To help us “filter” through the start-ups in the flow, we have established several preferred partnerships, beginning with Idinvest Partners, a private equity firm specialised in start‑ups. The company meets as many as 1,000 businesses a year but invests in only about ten. They are familiar with our needs and priorities and propose projects that are relevant to our strategic objectives. The Business Lab also works with Bpifrance Le Hub; Le Village by CA, an accelerator run by Crédit Agricole; Lille-based EuraTechnologies; Business Factory Auto (BFA) in Vigo, Spain; the Brazilian accelerator CUBO; and a host of other competitiveness clusters, incubators and accelerators in France and abroad.
In addition, our facilities in San Francisco and Singapore offer a broad view of start-up ecosystems in the United States, Southeast Asia and, more recently, India.
In Movement: What criteria do you use in choosing a start-up?
Anne Laliron: The first criterion is level of maturity. In order to build a long-term relationship, we favour start-ups that have already completed their first round of funding and are starting to find their market.
The second criterion concerns the founders and the team. In the case of a new venture that has yet to find its footing in the market, an agile team is a guarantee that it will be able to raise the funds needed to pursue its project. The selection criteria are thus maturity, team and, of course, value proposition.
In Movement: Can you give us a few examples of projects that you have supported all the way to the testing phase?
Anne Laliron: Our goal is to carry out full-scale tests with real customers. We’re not interested in conducting lab tests! The KBRW start-up is a good example. The company has developed a software module that enables our suppliers’ inventory management and spare parts ordering systems to connect with each other. Thanks to this partnership, we now have a comprehensive, instantaneous, highly accurate idea of delivery times, regardless of whether the parts are stored at PSA warehouses or elsewhere. Not only are orders filled more quickly, Groupe PSA has reduced by 98% the administrative tasks associated with ordering parts or finding alternative solutions. For our customers and ourselves, the gain in operational efficiency is considerable.
In another area, Groupe PSA will soon open auto maintenance pop-up stores under the Euro Repar Car Service brand in shopping centre car parks. Customers will be able to leave their car for a repair or a tune-up while they shop or go to the cinema. We plan to introduce the concept in the Paris region in autumn this year. Like a start-up testing a minimum viable product, we will see what works and what doesn’t. If the results are successful, we’ll go ahead and market the service.
In the field of mobility, the Peugeot Fast Rent application is also in the experimental phase. Currently available at two locations (Lyon Vénissieux and Gare de l’Est in Paris), Peugeot Fast Rent is a full digital solution, from account creation to 24/7 vehicle access. It is designed to meet customer expectations of immediate rental service at any time of the day, without having to queue. The results have been promising, and we are considering rolling out the solution.
In Movement: How exactly does Groupe PSA support the start-ups?
Anne Laliron: It’s our responsibility to decide fast whether or not we want to work with the business. It’s important to know how to say no quickly to avoid wasting time, causing frustration and raising false hopes, since the company may have other development options to explore. For a start-up, one week lost is like a year for a big company.
Once we’ve found common ground, we can work side by side and implement the service, as we did with KBRW. We help the start-up find a complementary market. And we improve our own efficiency. In our relationship with start-ups, we are always looking for a win-win situation to guarantee a long-term partnership.
In Movement: What have you learned during the Business Lab’s 18-month existence?
Anne Laliron: That chance is also part of the process! In 18 months, we have evaluated 560 start-ups. Half of them met identified needs. The other half were working in fields we hadn’t even entertained. For us, this is an incredible source of enrichment. For example, we’re presently working with a start-up on how to improve our call centres. Although this wasn’t one of the Business Lab’s priorities, the current test phase is proving the effort to be worthwhile.
Mobility is our major focus, but we’ve also identified potential in the area of manufacturing, spare parts management, repairs, distance learning for repairmen, etc. – in other words, in all areas of the company. This has been a nice discovery – the best surprise of all.