stephane allaire winnovation

For this new interview, we met Stéphane Allaire, CEO of Winnovation, in his office based in San Jose. Winnovation is a Silicon Valley-based Bouygues Telecom subsidiary whose purpose is to scout innovations and emerging technologies for Bouygues Group, a diversified $43 Billion conglomerate with presence in media, TV, construction, real estate, road infrastructure, energy and transportation. It was voted by bay area startups as the “Best supportive telco Company” to do business with during the “2012 competition.” In this interview we wanted to see how a big company collaborates with start-ups, what are the top trends and visionary goals of open innovation in Silicon Valley.

  • Prime: Hello Stéphane, can you present to us Winnovation, its history, mission, objectives and accomplishments?

Allaire: Winnovation is a new subsidiary for Bouygues Telecom. We’ve been in the Valley for more than ten years. The main objectives of Winnovation is to identify the start-ups, new technologies and trends in the bay area and to try to engage with these start-ups to push innovation in France. If I could summarize, for Bouygues Telecom, we are one of the best way to innovate in France bringing some new innovations from the US. During the 5 past years, we signed more than fifteen contracts, so we are really supportive. When we find a very innovative startup, we push this company inside Bouygues, and we push it very high. I like to say to start-ups that we are their best commercials insider within Bouygues Group.

  • Prime: From your vantage point in Silicon Valley, what are the big trends you see and what do you wish happened in France?

Allaire:There are different trends in different areas. In television, we have a big trend with “over the top” solutions, with companies such as Netflix or Vudu. People don’t watch TV linearly and are not waiting for a program to air; with the “over the top” solutions, they can watch very nice content without any cable TV or direct TV. On the telecom carrier side, the big trend is the 4G LTE network, which allows people to consume more content. Big data is also a major trend. Another big trend is with the connected car and ‘wearable computing’,

  • Prime: What do you bring to start-ups with whom you collaborate?

Allaire: We bring two things. First, we bring them the view of the carrier. For them, we are a small carrier, so we can discuss with them and they can connect very easily with the top management of the company. They can quickly have a feedback of what we want and what we are looking for. Second, we are their point of entry into Bouygues. Bouygues is about 140 000 people; we will find the good contact and we open doors.

  • Prime: Why do you think that open innovation is one of the best way to innovate for big companies? How does Bouygues implement this approach?

Allaire:Open innovation is one of the best way to innovate because even though we are a big group if we are still small in regard to the size of the ecosystem with companies such as Google, Facebook and all the ecosystem in the Silicon Valley. It is not easy for us to source  innovation unless we talk to other people, share the point of view of the carrier, In a sense, even if we are big, we are too small to influence consumption

  • Prime: Bouygues focuses on long-term growth potential and Smart Cities is a large opportunity; what are Bouygues’ group assets to capitalize on this opportunity?

Allaire: Bouygues Group is a very large and diversified group; many activities relate to Smart Cities: road and building construction, telecommunication and television for content and distribution. We gather all our divisions several times a year to share trends, innovation, best (and) bad practices, and we try to innovate across the board in a collective manner. For example, our real estate and telecom divisions worked together on a project in Issy les Moulinaux, France for the creation of the first ‘intelligent neighborhood’ (IssyGrid®), creating a citywide energy management framework where participated other companies such Alstom, Bouygues, EDF, ERDF, ETDE, Microsoft, Schneider Electric, Steria et Total,

  • Prime: What is your favorite quote?

Allaire: It is in French! “Ne faites pas a autrui ce que vous ne voudriez pas que  l’on vous fasse » meaning “One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated”  ». I think that it is the best way to live. Respect is very important and that is why I like California.

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