FoodTech Mentor Spotlight: Patrick Lesueur

FoodTech Mentor Spotlight: Patrick Lesueur

07-Sep-2018 by Ozge Ulke

The Startupbootcamp Mentor Spotlight is a series of interviews profiling inspiring stories from our extended network of mentors at Startupbootcamp FoodTech Rome. Today, the spotlight is focused on our mentor Patrick Lesueur, from France.

Patrick is an international multi-dimensional R&D professional in the food industry. He is agile, driven and has a broad range of experiences across functions and geographies. He is excellent at making different partners’ interests converge and bringing out team members energies and creativity. He is passionate about products, packaging, consumers, sustainability and the marketplace. His goal is to make a technology and a team to meet a marketplace need.

He has 23 years of experience at Unilever in Operations and R&D – the last 5 in Open Innovation and currently he acts as the Group R&D director of Bonduelle. Bonduelle is a French-based multinational specialized in vegetables and plant-based foods with a revenue of about €2.8bn geographically spread (45% EU, 45% Americas, 10% Russia) and split between technologies and shelves (chilled ready-cut 44%, cans 34%, frozen 22%).

Q: What brings you to Startupbootcamp FoodTech and how could you be value-added for selected teams?

I know Startupbootcamp as one of the 1st international incubators in the food area. I’m interested in meeting talented entrepreneurs and crafting and polishing new business opportunities or technologies.

Q: As an expert in innovation in the foodtech industry, how is your personal checklist in evaluating startups like? Which items do you value the most?

#1 is the team: what is their vision as entrepreneurs, what talents do they have and are they aware of the capabilities they don’t have yet?

#2 is the disruptive nature of what they bring: what is the nature of the disruption? Is it really disruptive?

These 2 are qualifiers or “hygiene factors”, the next ones are more the items to win and in the case of a startup some of them can be improved through mentoring, incubation,…

#3 is the marketability: what is the consumer or market need, is the market ready, can they monetize it?

#4 is the technology or crux of the idea: how developed is it? What is missing to make a market-ready product?

#5 is the competitive edge: how easy is it to copy? Are they barriers to entry?

Q: Which mistakes do you see the most common, leading startups to fail?

  • Lack of focus: there are so many things that need to be done to be successful and it so complex that one gets lost. This is killing for a small company. It’s very important to be aware of that and to phase the development of the company or technology and have a great steering team to help the entrepreneur do that in the right way.
  • Not listen: typically the entrepreneur needs to have a vision for his company and to NOT listen to all the push-backs he will get for the traditional incumbents. So be dumb on one side but also listen very well to the real customer on the other hand. Ask yourself, what have you learned not who have you convinced today or what have you raised
  • Not raising enough: typically the plan that the entrepreneur has dreamt up will not materialize as swiftly as thought, so plan for this when raising funds. Many startups fail because they haven’t raised enough and have not reached the milestone that would justify another round. And when you raise funds, think of your “exit”, who would you like on board now and who would you not like or would you like later.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the innovation process in Bonduelle and how you interact with startups?

Bonduelle is a multinational and a family company organized in a typical BU organization. Next to this, we have created the “Prospective & Development” team where we have a small team exploring new opportunities. We do this in a nimble and lean way, either by having some projects internally led by intrapreneurs but more importantly by collaborating with startups. This collaboration can go from mentoring to investing. Our family structure allows to have a fast decision-process and to be flexible. The sweet spot for me is to know the startups at an early stage, a stage where co-creation can happen. The Bonduelle mission is to bring well-living through plant-based foods so we’re interested in anything that is plant-based or helps the consumption of plant-based foods that are tasty, healthy and more sustainable.

Q: Any Final words of wisdom? Is there any golden tip you would like to give to CEOs of young startups?

Act small but think BIG. As a CEO, you’ll need to brew the coffee and meet the bankers for a few millions at the same time. And you need to do both well. So in a turbulent life like yours where operational issues will typically pile up on your desk, do not forget the big thing and have some relaxing times where you can take some distance from the buoyant operations to think about your dreams.