“I think that innovative companies will flourish in health and sports-tech”
With a PhD in Peptide Chemistry-Biology, Karine Puget founded GENEPEP in 2003. The company specializes in products and services for peptide chemistry. Profitable since 2007, GENEPEP generated revenue of about 1.2 M€ in 2017. Based in Saint Jean de Védas, just west of Montpellier, her eight-person team works on synthesizing and optimizing peptides with many virtues. The company’s clients are generally academic laboratories (such as CNRS, Inserm, and Institut Pasteur), biotech firms, and pharmaceutical companies. Peptides play a role in regulating cancer, osteoporosis, and infectious diseases, as well as memory, sleep, and more.
Why did you choose Montpellier?
Like many people, I came to Montpellier to study at the Faculty of Science. I completed my PhD at the Faculty of Pharmacy and was taken by the charm of this city. I stayed in Montpellier and founded GENEPEP in 2003, notably for the ecosystem dedicated to assisting startups, as well as for the quality of the scientific environment and local authorities’ desire to invest in transforming knowledge and expertise into startup company creation. Montpellier is equipped with support structures for creating and growing high-quality innovative companies. Nonetheless, it is important to remember that the University of Montpellier is listed in the Nature Innovation Index global ranking, and that Montpellier BIC was recognized as the world’s #2 incubator in 2018.
What was the main contribution for your success provided by Montpellier BIC and its teams?
The assistance provided by Montpellier BIC was instrumental for us at different times in GENEPEP’s existence. In the beginning, they provided us with training on how to manage a company. The process truly follows a path and requires completely rethinking things to go from being a scientist to being a company director. Our time with BIC also gave me an opportunity to meet other people who, like me, had plans to create a company. I have kept both friendly and professional relationships with those people. I found the BIC staff in charge of working with companies to be highly competent, very involved, and passionate about their work. In particular, they provide precious support and advice both regarding our application files for public funding and with our efforts to raise funds. GENEPEP was also a dual-laureate of the French Ministry of Research’s i-Lab competition. Stakeholders such as Montpellier BIC and Banque Populaire du Sud played a crucial role in the company’s progression, as they stood by our side when we were having a hard time a little more than ten years ago. Together, we found solutions that enabled the company not only to survive, but to continue to grow.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who want to start a company?
The first thing I would recommend, of course, would be to start by contacting one of the local assistance organizations, such as Pepite-LR, Montpellier BIC, Ad’Occ, SATT, and others. They work in networks and know how to find the best contacts according to your project and its stage of development. I also recommend that young entrepreneurs bring together a team of people with well-defined roles and objectives, and to face the market at soon as possible in order to adapt the offering as needed, and to anticipate future needs. There is no reason to be afraid of failure, as you learn a lot, especially how to get back up and try again! Lastly, it is important to not keep all your questions and projects to yourself. Basically, entrepreneurship calls for a delicate balance of listening, thinking, making decisions, taking action, adapting, and holding on.
How do you envision the innovative company of tomorrow in Montpellier?
I would bet on health, such as medical devices, diagnostics tools, biomaterials, and e-health, for the reasons I mentioned above: the quality of research, and the wealth and diversity of startups in Montpellier. Another opportunity for companies that could develop in Montpellier is sports-tech, in its broadest sense with new applications, new connected tools, e-sports, and more. That is another ecosystem with strong potential, involving high-level sports, related technological needs, universities and cutting-edge research, dedicated funding, etc. Last year, Montpellier was the European handball champion and finalist in the French rugby championship. Not to mention e-sports services supporting local sporting events. The first sports-tech company to be listed on the stock exchange is from Montpellier – Vogo, making their entry in late 2018. The first private instrument for funding sports-tech is also in Montpellier: Agileo, in which I participate, bringing together company directors and athletes to fund and support innovative company development mainly in the sports sector. Agileo has invested 1.8 M€ in four companies since it was created in late 2017.