Technology: Connecting the communities
Thinking big has been one of the ideological backbones underpinning the rapid growth of digital entrepreneur Laetitia Gazel Anthoine’s company Connecthings. Less than 10 years after its launch, the firm now has operations in more than 30 cities worldwide
Laetitia Gazel Anthoine founded technology firm Connecthings in 2007 aiming to merge the physical and digital worlds.
Today, the company, which turns urban infrastructure such as public lighting into contactless Bluetooth and Wifi beacons sending information such as public transportation updates direct to mobile phones, operates in more than 60 cities across Europe and South America.
The company's success has driven a rapid expansion, and last year, it raised some $10 million from investors to fuel its growth in the North American market.
With plans for further fundraising in 2017 plus a push into Asia in 2018, Gazel Anthoine explains her entrepreneurial philosophy and shares her advice for budding business builders.
Was it a big risk to go alone with this venture and what have been your biggest challenges?
L.G.A. I didn't see it as a risk. The most difficult thing is launching on a new continent - starting in North America and South America is a big challenge, particularly in North America. It's a totally different market. It's also difficult and time consuming to raise funds. Another challenge is to manage the company's growth in terms of company organisation. When you grow fast, you have to put a powerful organisation in place.
Do you have plans to take the company public? What about future expansion?
L.G.A. In 2017, we will do another fundraising round to accelerate our deployment in North America. Next year, we will focus mainly on the Americas. Europe is a continuing process of expansion. Asia will probably be later, 2018.
Could you see yourself starting another business within the next five years?
L.G.A. I have some volunteering activity with the Women Initiative Foundation where I spend time, but for me it would be impossible to manage two companies in parallel. Connecthings is more than a full time job. After Connecthings I would certainly start another business.
Who were your mentors and how did they help?
L.G.A. I spent one year with a mentor through Women Mentoring Business Initiative. He was a vice president at Orange. He's not an entrepreneur, but someone who has big responsibilities at Orange, so it was very good to have his skills to help me to organise fundraising, the team, our international expansion. We spent one hour per month together for a year, and he helped me to grow the business faster. It was very helpful.
What is the most important piece of advice you would give to wannabe entrepreneurs?
L.G.A. The key thing is see big. Big, big, big. When you see small, you make small things. When you see big, you make big things. Seeing big helps you to solve small problems. If you see small, the small problems become big. I think seeing big, being determined and going where you want to go are the key things. Even if people tell you, ‘I don't understand. It's risky. And so on. You should not listen too much to people. See big and far. Be determined.
Was Connecthings the first business you started?
L.G.A. Connecthings is my first company with this type of project where we sell a product, not consultancy work.