Emmanuelle Gras changed her life in one weekend. By 2017, she was starting to get bored of her consulting work at Deloitte. This engineer wanted a change of scenery. One idea was in his mind: to create interactive and fantastic stories to awaken children’s creativity, responding to the problem of screens.
Dipongo is now a start-up of a dozen people, offering a personalized educational story app for 4-8 year olds. Downloaded over 80,000 times, it has 5,000 subscribers and its derivative products are distributed by Cultura.
54 hours to test and structure your idea
For starters, Emmanuelle Gras needed a little help… A decisive 54-hour weekend convinced the entrepreneur. “I didn’t know the principle of start-up weekends. With a colleague at Deloitte, we decided to give it a try, simple as that,” she says. With dozens of other project leaders, Emmanuelle Gras and her colleague are performing at Startup Weekend for Impact in Bordeaux.
“It all happens very fast: it starts on Friday night with a one-minute bid. The project leaders who most convinced people move on to the next stage, and it is like that throughout the weekend until a jury of experts nominates the winner”, summarizes the founder of Dipongo. During the introductory pitch, there is no question of going into too much technical detail. “You need to stay accessible and communicate your values,” insists Dipongo’s founder.
Emmanuelle Gras already has a very precise idea, but others can present themselves with a more vague concept. “The important thing is to approach a problem that speaks to as many people as possible and explain how we can find a solution to it. In my case, coming from a sister of four and having had frequent contact with children when I was animating summer camps, I saw the behavior of the youngest change in front of screens, she explains. I wanted to suggest a way to awaken them, to feed their creativity, adapting to this phenomenon. »
Full of trust and support
About ten projects go through the Cut and are selected for the following stages: forming a team thanks to which, in record time, all the essential elements for launching a start-up are developed. Namely a market study, a first Minimum Viable Product (MVP) or even an economic model. The weekend ends on Sunday night with a three-minute presentation of the project to an audience of experts.
Emmanuelle Gras and her team won first prize this weekend of startups. But not only. The businesswoman also found a lot of confidence there for the rest of her project and 10 hours of support from an accelerator. “Not to mention the whole network we’ve created – mentors, lawyers, etc. -in just two days,” she points out.
The other strong point of an event like this is the combination of different skills that focus on an idea with the aim of turning it into an entrepreneurial project. The startup weekend is open to anyone who, if they don’t want to present a concept, can join the team of their choice and help a project leader develop their idea. And the profiles are very diverse.
A multi-professional team
Emmanuelle Gras found herself surrounded by a graphic designer, a professor, a business student, a former Chanel employee and even a soldier. “I didn’t know anything about entrepreneurship, and having these versatile people with me helped me a lot. If I didn’t have them by my side, everything would have been different,” she says. The feeling went so well with some people that Emmanuelle Gras suggested they continue the adventure together. “But they had other plans. »
Finally, it is with graphic designer Marion Péret, known thanks to a common acquaintance, that the entrepreneur will join forces a few months later to launch Dipongo. The other turning point of this start-up was its participation in Vivatech 2018 where the Dipongo app was noticed by SNCF, Ibis Accor hotels and museums. Then three business angels provide 300,000 euros to accelerate the development. By the end of 2023, Dipongo is targeting 20,000 subscribers.