Technology: Making the Transport and City Connection
Like many successful business founders, Laetitia Gazel Anthoine, CEO of French technology firm Connecthings, has entrepreneurship in her blood. In part two of our interview, she explains why she launched her own firm and how being a woman in a male-dominated sector helped her business thrive.
Connecthings, a technology firm that turns "urban furniture" such as streetlamps and bus stops into wireless beacons providing information such as bus and train timetables to passersby has its sights set on conquering the US market.
Since launching the firm in 2007, founder Laetitia Gazel Anthoine rolled out operations to 60 cities across Europe and is now targeting the Americas.
The company is pushing into Latin America through its Barcelona subsidiary and now includes Brazil's Rio de Janeiro among the cities where its innovative system of Bluetooth and wifi beacons beam out information to mobile phones.
Gazel Anthoine has herself relocated to New York to facilitate moves to extend the company's operations across the continent, which will be backed by $10 million of fresh investment raised last year from investors.
Here the 46-year-old mother-of-four speaks about her entrepreneurial journey and how she manages to juggle work and family.
Do you think that that's just something that you grow up with, you absorb that mentality? Or did they provide specific advice or encouragement?
L.G.A. They didn't give me any advice. My father became a consultant because his career led him there, he was not a fan of entrepreneurship, so my family did not push me to create my own company. What pushed me was that I wanted very much from the beginning of my career, or maybe before, to create a company – the sense that really I don't want people deciding for me.
Do you think it's harder being a female entrepreneur than it would be for your male counterparts?
L.G.A. I don't think so, honestly. There aren't a lot of female entrepreneurs in my industry and that makes me quite unique, which helped in some ways. If you have a good project, whether you're male or female that doesn't make any difference. It's more that women should change their mindsets with regards to the perception that you couldn't have a woman in technical subjects.
As a married mother of four, how do you manage the work/life balance?
L.G.A. I spend the weekend with my family. I try to enjoy my holidays without working during the holiday. In the evening, I go back home quite late, so there's not a lot of time for my family. I think it's okay, I've succeeded in differentiating between the time to work and time to spend with my family. It's not an issue at home.
Do you think entrepreneurship is getting easier in France?
L.G.A. France has made a lot of progress. Compared to when I started Connecthings, there are now a lot more support structures in place like incubators. Also being an entrepreneur is a more popular profession that it was before. We have created a real space to start companies, which is very positive. Compared with the US the French market is smaller and you do not have access to the same VC funds. But creating a start-up in France can be easier when you have a family because education and healthcare are really inexpensive and you also have a good ecosystem or environment to create a company.
BNP Paribas Wealth Management's 2017 Global Entrepreneur Report shows about 70% of entrepreneurs had family members who were entrepreneurs before them. Is your family background similar to that?
L.G.A. My father had his own consultancy company, my grandfather also had another type of company. We have that in the family.