Obratori, one-stop shopping for startups: incubation services, and funding

by Nicolas Bry

Amaury Godron is General Manager of OBRATORI, L’OCCITANE Innovation Lab, and Managing Partner of LOG Investment, L’OCCITANE Venture Fund.

There are some Startups Studios on the market, but OBRATORI differs from them as being a Corporate Startups Studio (more similar to Kamet by Axa): it was created by L’OCCITANE Group to let external startups soar out of its incubation. OBRATORI offers incubation and investment to early-stage projects that it sources continuously in wellbeing, cosmetics, retail, packaging, and sustainable development industries.

With the help of Julie Géret Head of Communication & Events at OBRATORI, they explain how this startups factory works.

1) Hi Amaury, could you tell us how the original idea of a Startup Studio popped-up at L’OCCITANE Group?

The idea has been insufflated by Reinold Geiger, L’OCCITANE Group Chairman & CEO, and his willing to always carry further the values of entrepreneurship and team spirit. As he once said, he would have much appreciated the help of others, during his early entrepreneurship career.

2) What is the value proposition of OBRATORI to early-stage ventures? As an incubator, what services do you offer, and as a fund, what seed investment are you familiar with?

As an incubator, we offer fully equipped labs ( L2 Cell Lab, and MIT Fab Lab), co-working space, dedicated mentorship, and the support of OBRATORI expert’s team, corporates and partners, inspiring peers, and a community of successful and diverse founders.

As an investing partner, we’d like to keep minority stakes, never more than 25% of the startup value, but rather an average around 10%. The idea is to become long term’ partners, and not to create a subsidiary of the L’OCCITANE Group, startups have no obligation to work with the L’OCCITANE Group.

It is essential to us, to provide financial support to create a lasting link, and support for startuppers, so we chose to offer a global approach, and a tailored support for each of them.

    What is the specific advantage of your localization at CISAM Marseille?

CISAM stands for ” Cité de l’ Innovation et des Savoirs Aix- M arseille. The CISAM is born out of the skills and ambitions of the largest French- speaking university in the world, the largest metropolis in France, and two multinationals: CMA CGM and L’OCCITANE Group. With a shared desire to develop scientific culture and innovation in order to benefit economic growth, and as a genuine platform for innovation, the CISAM is a place for emulation, and creation, distinguished by an offer, and a shared approach to startups, companies, researchers, students. It brings together all the resources needed to stimulate innovative approaches and streamline the process, in a single location.

It is a real promise of dynamism and fruitful exchanges for the startups!

We have a different approach from other incubators, we chose not to have programs or applications’ sessions. Our goal is that entrepreneurs move to our OBRATORI offices in Marseille for 23 months approx. and learn how to turn their idea into tangible solutions/ products, that will impact people’s live globally. It takes quality time to identify and find the good moment to partner, therefore innovative projects integrate OBRATORI as they go.

3) Are you targeting early-stage ventures that come with a technological project and a team, or are you more in the process of elaborating internally the ideas, and then looking for entrepreneurs to staff them, like a traditional Startup Studio?

We identified in Marseille area more than 18 laboratories and potential synergies with Aix-Marseille University’s ecosystem, allowing us finding innovative technologies and ideas. We support entrepreneurs to reinforce their staff or create from scratch a leading team.

4) How many projects are you currently handling (is 15 the target?), and can you share a few examples (solar filter encapsulation?)?

Since our launch in October 2018, we have welcomed 5 startups all in different fields. From solar filter encapsulation, to alga-based food supplement for the latest, going by telemedicine solutions to fight against medical desertification or tailor-made essential oil compositions.

We haven’t set a precized target of the projects’ number to support. We have a capacity of 108 workstations, which represents around 20 early stage startups. Startups stay at OBRATORI’s for 23 month on-site co-working time, and a long-term support. As you can see, we’ve yet made the choice to emphasize quality rather than quantity.

5) Why is it natural to link Corporate Venture with Corporate Incubation / Startups Studios? What are the synergies?

Venture capital funds provide a vital help to startups’ development, which by definition is complementary to that of incubators. That’s where is the good and fruitful synergy between Corporate Venture with Corporate incubation can possibly guarantee a vital, and fertile economic environment, in which entrepreneurial ideas can grow easily and with a trouble- free availability of financial, material and immaterial help at each and every development stage, hence ensuring a maximization of startups’ value creation.

6) What capacity of investment do you have? What is the ROI expected? Is it purely financial, or shall OBRATORI contribute in some way to L’OCCITANE’s innovation?

We invest up to 25% of the startup value, our ROI would obviously be financial, like a virtuous circle it’ll allow us to reinvest in other nuggets, but the L’OCCITANE Group would as well be in leveraging our startups in its ecosystem.

We have just started our operations, and we are wisely building our portfolio. And it is already a lot of a challenge, don’t you think?

Image credits: OBRATORI, L’OCCITANE Innovation Lab, and LOG Investment, L’OCCITANE Venture Fund

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Nicolas Bry is Orange Startups Studio COO. He entices Orange employees into becoming intrapreneurs, bringing their idea to life within Orange business. International executive, he sets-up innovation devices for new business. International speaker, writer with RapidInnovation.fr, guest lecturer at the Google Academy mini-MBA, visiting innovation professor at Telecom ParisTech, MediaSchool & EM Lyon, freelance consultant for the EC. Follow him at @nicobry.


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