The corporate path that led to an entrepreneurial approach to saving our most precious resource
Patrice Guillouzic (EMBA 2011) left the relative stability of the corporate world for the exhilaration of a purpose-driven start-up. He describes his journey from intrapreneur to entrepreneur.
After more than a decade spent in diverse and rewarding corporate roles such as Senior Director Europe Middle East Africa (EMEA) for US-based multinational Oracle and vice president for Opower, Patrice Guillouzic was ready for a change.
“I got to the stage where I asked myself if I could I do something more meaningful – something with a positive impact on the planet? Water is an increasingly scarce resource, and it was not being addressed,” he says, recalling his motivation for something new.
Guillouzic joined forces with two business colleagues and founded Advizzo in 2015 in order to provide utilities companies with software tools to help their customers lower their water and energy consumption and their bills while also helping the planet.
By utilizing data analytics, behavioral science and software interfaces, consumers are fed information on how their water consumption compares with that of their neighbors, what uses most at their home and offered tips and tricks on how to conserve more water, track their savings and lower their overall usage.
Advizzo’s service offers utilities companies a way to provide customers with a value-add service and address the concerns of environmentalists and regulators and in randomized clinical trials on its nudge-based software researchers report a decrease in water consumption of 2-3% per year by just changing people’s habits.
“After five years, that is the biggest motivator for me; that is what gets me out of bed in the morning,” says Guillouzic, with some satisfaction.
Having won contracts with major water suppliers in UK, UAE and Australia, and smart city projects planned for Saudi Arabia, Guillouzic’s entrepreneurial journey has been both rewarding and purposeful. However, he is keen to emphasize that it has not been one without challenge and stress.
“The highs are really high and the lows can be really low, and in the beginning much of it simply comes from moving from a well-supported corporate environment to a small-scale situation in which there is not even an IT department to fix your PC when it stops working,” he says wryly. “You need to create a strong core team. One in which you trust your colleagues and I mean a high degree of trust here. How will they react when we have to face the tough times is a question you must ask yourself before you embark on the project.”
One key advantage was having previously worked with his co-founders in corporates and seen them in action before they founded Advizzo together. Another was what Guillouzic refers to as the ‘toolbox of skills’ he gained while at IMD. From finance to human resources, this, he says, enabled him to make clear decisions on the startup. “From the P&L and balance sheet to making hiring decisions, I could do all of it – I am still the HR manager five years on. Of course, it was a learning process but I have all the building blocks and that is the exciting part,” he says.
Guillouzic’s advice to young MBAs with entrepreneurial ambitions is to take time to learn in a corporate environment before rushing to fulfill them. “Take it step by step,” he advises. “Do a few years in a big corporation and learn the ropes. Offer to do a project, on sustainability perhaps, and watch the reaction. You will meet people who think differently and maybe then help you take the next step.”
His own experience speaks for itself and it is the experience that Guillouzic clearly values. The ability to consolidate learning in a supported setting, while forging a network of like-minded people can prove to be the most fruitful resource for those with vision and a purpose-driven business sense.