Back from the French Tech Tour, the CEO speaks up

Olivier Bourrouilh: “A Venture Capitalist told me ‘If your product does what you say it does, your competitors will shake in their boots…’ and I can tell you, it does that, and even more”.

Hello Olivier, thank you for taking a few moments to answer our questions after this thrilling week. As the platform’s creator, you presented ROK Solution on the American market. Tell us a bit about the Silicon Valley.

Olivier Bourrouilh: It was pretty cool. Traffic jams look like what we see in Paris during a weekend of May. Weather is not too hot, yet sunny, all the major companies are there… settled into small towns (Cisco town, Ebay town…). It’s huge, but there’s still room for more.

In our previous posts, we had presented the schedule for this week, organized by Ubifrance. Let’s go back to the first chapter of this adventure: preparation, which took place over 4 days.

It had been a long time since I’d felt so “powerless”: presenting a solution like ROK, with all the possibilities it offers, in less than 5 minutes… I didn’t think I could get ready in time for the conference. They say it’s normal. In the US, children learn to “pitch” things out when they’re 5… Would you have felt any better? Well, three days later, here I was, pitching in front of 300 American IT industry leaders (you know those who’ve known how to do this since they’ve been 5…) at Gen Internet 2. In 4 minutes, they had understood what ROK was about. Many thanks to our sensational coach Erica Lee, we did it!

All this preparation was necessary to present the product under the best conditions to all the greatest IT companies in the Silicon Valley. How did that go? Who did you get to meet? What was their reaction to the product?

With my B to B product, I landed a lot less meetings than some of my “conference-mates”, who had presented more demonstrative, broader, consumer-oriented solutions. It’s not easy to talk about organization, optimization, risks and processes after a Velsalis pitch (they were excellent). They have most of their presentations done by models. This much is a good start to get you going. That being said, I was able to get three main messages across to the audience during my presentation:

  • Our product and our vision is exactly what companies are waiting for, even though some doubt it can work. A Venture Capitalist told me “if your product says what you say it does, competitors will shake in their boots…”. I was also approached by one of the global leaders in this type of solutions, whom I saw more as a competitor than potential partner before. I know company leaders are on the move, but they’re not quite there yet.
  • Everyone loved our tech (I’m talking about the architecture, code and HMI): people know we have really good engineers in France, and particularly at ROK Solution: thanks to the team!
  • The US are a real opportunity. The scale of potential deals and partnerships was incomparable to what we have in Europe.

I had great talks with companies like Nokia, Microsoft, LG, British Telecom, Cisco, Inter-American Development Bank, AT&T and SAP, for example. Follow-ups will tell whether this can lead to actual contracts. What surprised me most is the actual genuine curiosity and interest these huge Silicon Valley companies showed. The professional network culture is not just about giving friendly pushes or pats on the back. It’s a real business MO, with its own codes and rules, with ROI as the main objective.

Other than excellent business perspective, can you tell us what you remember from the French Tech Tour, at a more personal level?

Learning how to nail pre-selling in 4 minutes… it’s huge. I almost made a deal yesterday, at the restaurant, without slides or anything to actually show. We’re not wired like the Americans, and we have a lot to learn from them. From a tech point of view, the French are a force to be reckoned with. When we catch up to the Americans in terms of marketing and business approach, we can send the US a takeover bid.

Any advice for companies wishing to attend this summit next year?

It’s all very relative and it depends on everyone’s “alphabetization level” so to speak. As far as I’m concerned, I know the financial and legal specificities of this country very well. What interested me most was their business approach. For others, it was investors, or the way they work intellectually… My advice would be to “get ready” before going, even though you might think you’re a hot shot back home.

To conclude, I have read that many French Tech Tour attendees think that, in order to make it on the American market, you have to be physically implanted in the Silicon Valley, and outsource or create subsidiaries in other countries. Do you agree?

It is required. The presence of a local (or industrial) investor in your capital is a competitive advantage you’d do well to consider (granted, we’re not in China yet, with their partnership exigencies, but it’s comparable)… It’s not crazy to dream of the US Government giving us a call, Cameron-style!

Thank you Olivier for taking the time to answer our questions. This seminar was a truly great opportunity, and only time will tell, but it seems safe to assume that great things will happen in the future for ROK!

Thank you for reading and tune in soon for more!

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