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Agorize Asia: The missing link between large companies and innovators

An interview with Mathieu Toulemonde, Managing Director at Agorize Asia

Agorize is an online platform that organizes innovation challenges. Founded in Europe in 2011, the company helps to create bridges between large corporations and innovators across the world. Agorize believes that creating new synergies can lead to sustainable innovation. They have worked with more than 150 companies, including Google, Uber, and L’Oréal, to accelerate their innovation process and help them find the best talent.

We chatted to Mathieu Toulemonde, Managing Director of Agorize Asia, to understand more about Agorize’s aim in Asia.

Open Innovation Challenges

Businesses need to be open to co-creation and agility in order to maintain their market position. Agorize considers itself to be the missing link between corporates and innovators (students, startups, developers and employees), with a pool of 5 million innovative individuals and startups. ”Participating in an open innovation challenge is a win-win process for both innovators and large companies,” says Mathieu.

Agorize is also connected to more than 17,000 universities and schools worldwide, acting as the bridge between young graduates and big corporates. “Companies consider the innovation challenge to be a great opportunity to spot great talent,” Mathieu explains. “Instead of going through time consuming screenings and interview sessions, talent who participate in the innovation challenge can actually show large companies their skills. Leading companies also get access to a great pool of innovators and can select the best ones.” For example, Agorize organizes an annual challenge for Microsoft in France and the best teams have the opportunity to present their idea to the Microsoft Head of Marketing. From this challenge, up to five innovators are selected to join the company.

Agorize has also connected more than 300,000 startups globally with corporates. “The startup ecosystem is booming,” says Mathieu. “Large companies have to collaborate with the fast-paced startups to accelerate their innovation process.” Agorize believes that there are global business opportunities for local startups in Hong Kong. Through Agorize’s online startup competitions, Asian startups can be spotted, accelerate their expansion and get funding.

Agorize also connects large corporates with developers by hosting online hackathons. With 100 to 300 teams participating in each challenge, the best teams are invited to pitch their projects to the board of directors and CEOs from large companies. One of the latest hackathons organized by Agorize is called Hack4Europe, with more than 40 companies, including Uber, HP and Paypal, sponsoring the event and giving out their own data to participants to create groundbreaking applications, the challenge brought together 500 entrepreneurs and talent.

Mathieu pinpoints that an innovation challenge is also a great platform for making new connections. He stresses the importance to find team members with different skills and background. “It’s not all about the challenge when you are forming a team, it is also essential to think about how you can leverage on the connections that you made in the future. There are a lot of startups looking for a CTO, and end up meeting their ideal candidate during a challenge. We even had innovators meeting their significant other during a challenge!”

W Hub Startup Stories: Interviewing Mathieu Toulemonde, Managing Director of Agorize Asia

Hong Kong: Agorize's headquarters in Asia

Agorize Asia decided to base its headquarters in Hong Kong as the booming startup ecosystem caught their attention. “Hong Kong is one of the fastest growing ecosystems in the world, and we see a lot of opportunities in connecting talent in Asia with local companies,” says Mathieu. “We are also working with American and European companies that have branches in Hong Kong, and these companies have interests in connecting with the local pool of Asian talent. We are connected to more than 1 million innovators across Asia, and aim help to accelerate the growth of the local startup ecosystem by building strong relationships with key players in the startup scene like Nest, W Hub, and Cyberport.”

Agorize currently has offices in San Francisco, Paris, Stuttgart and Hong Kong, with 54 employees globally. Mathieu says they are still searching for team members for Agorize Asia, and wants to recruit local talent. “We believe that locals know best about their startup ecosystem and the local culture, they know how to connect with key players in the region better than we do.” Mathieu says they are looking for Jack of all trades, coupled with profound knowledge on innovation and the tech ecosystem.

From big corporate to selling peanuts to joining a startup: Mathieu’s Journey

Mathieu started his professional career in Unilever, but decided to leave and join a small company in France selling peanuts after six months. He found his passion in the startup world. “I like the experience of doing things from scratch, starting a project myself and leading it from the beginning to the end,” Mathieu says. “I was spotted by Agorize because I was involved in a lot of Startup Weekend events. I have worked at Agorize for four years now, and it is a nice fit for me. It is a startup that scales fast, we started as a small team, and we are constantly growing to take on new challenges!”

Mathieu says the open innovation challenge in Chengdu is the most memorable challenge for him. “It was the first challenge we organized in China, it was my first time visiting the country and getting immersed in the Chinese culture! This was one of the reasons why I wanted to come back to China and to set up a subsidiary of our company,” Mathieu says.

W Hub Startup Stories: interview with Mathieu Toulemonde, Managing Director of Agorize Asia

#StartupStruggles

Today is hard, tomorrow will be worse, but the day after tomorrow will be sunshine. - Jack Ma

“This is the perfect description of our startup journey,” says Mathieu. His advice to entrepreneurs is to never give up and always strive for a better tomorrow. “It is always difficult to be recognized from the start, so young entrepreneurs should get involved in their local startup ecosystem, attend various startup events and dedicate time and energy to build connections within the startup scene.”

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