Awards for two start-up creators from Sorbonne University

Since May, Sorbonne University has been recruiting student entrepreneurs for the 2016-2017 academic year, to be supported and trained by its Pépite Paris Centre organization. Let’s take a closer look at two students from previous graduating classes who have recently been recognized for their work: Borna Scognamiglio and Emmanuel Thiéry, both winners of the French Tech Ticket competition, held by the State and the City of Paris.

Each of the project leaders was awarded a grant of €12,500, which can be renewed once, plus six months’ free hosting at a Paris-area incubator, also renewable once.

Designed to attract foreign start-up creators to Paris, the French Tech Ticket program, launched in June 2015 by the City of Paris, was an appealing one, and the applications flooded in: more than 700 projects initiated by some 1,400 entrepreneurs from 100 countries!


On March 2, the 23 projects crowned in this very selective competition were officially revealed, and their 50 creators were welcomed to the Elysée Palace. Among them were two student entrepreneurs from Sorbonne University: Borna Scognamiglio and Emmanuel Thiéry.


MeshUp: a smart career-guidance application for high-schoolers and college students


The first candidate is Italian, a PhD student in ancient history from Paris-Sorbonne. In partnership with another Italian specializing in marketing and business plus a Libyan with a PhD in data-mining, Borna Scognamiglio is developing an innovative online service to guide high schoolers and college students in their education and career choices.

Called MeshUp, this application will suggest to them a variety of professions according to their areas of interest and strengths, put them in contact with professionals in the sector who can advise them, and point them toward available training options. “To accomplish this, we will use existing databases, such as professional data-sheets from the national employment center and lists of training courses from the French ministry for education, higher education and research,” explains Scognamiglio,but by using data-mining techniques, MeshUp will be able to select the most relevant information according to the aspirations and profiles of the students. This is very important, since today it is extremely difficult to detect the right information from among the masses of data available.”


Cophenol: an innovative circular-economy project


Emmanuel Thiéry is a French UPMC graduate with a master’s degree in neuroscience and a bachelor’s degree in physics and chemistry. His project, Cophenol, also involves a Brazilian PhD student in economics and a Polish PhD student in biology.

An innovative project that in 2015 was already the winner of a Pépite Springboard Award for student entrepreneurs, Cophenol uses a pyrolysis process to convert organic waste. Initial research for the project involved coffee-bean pulp (coffee farming waste), which is harmful to the environment. The idea is to convert this byproduct into “biochar,” a charcoal used in farming, not only for reviving and deacidifying soil but also as a fertilizer catalyst when blended with other organic components.

“For the moment, we are focusing on the Brazilian market,” explains Thiéry. “This country accounts for one-third of the world’s coffee production, and producers for the most part use expensive imported fertilizers. Biochar would allow them to reduce those costs as well as their impact on the environment.”


Two projects supported by the Pépite Paris Centre and its partners


Borna Scognamiglio and Emmanuel Thiéry owe their achievements in the French Tech Ticket event to their talent and the quality of their projects above all, but these two success stories are also the result of close ties between the Pépite Paris Centre and the Parisian entrepreneurial ecosystem, which detects students with promising start-up ideas and helps them to make their projects a reality.


For example, Scognamiglio was one of the first students to contact the Pépite Paris Centre soon after the structure was set up in the fall of 2014. At the time, the student-entrepreneur diploma from Sorbonne University had not yet been introduced. The Pépite pointed him in the direction of a training course offered by one of its partners, Satt Lutech, a company offering accelerated technology-transfer capabilities.


It then put him in contact with Paris & Co’s “Connecteur Etudiants,” a platform that connects students with project ideas to the entrepreneurial world. “Paris & Co is an economic and innovation development firm in Paris, and the operator of a certain number of calls for projects geared toward start-up founders, to whom we can guide students,” explains Fabien Rault, manager of Connecteur. “This was the case with French Tech Ticket, and we advised Scognamiglio to take part.”


Thiéry, for his part, was pointed toward the Pépite Paris Centre by Agoranov, a partner incubator of the Sorbonne University’s student entrepreneur division. This structure operates a pre-incubation program that Cophenol benefited from, known as Greenhouse. Since Cophenol is a complex project requiring additional support before being able to enter an incubator, Greenhouse passed it on to Sorbonne University, so that the Pépite could take over from Greenhouse.


Since the fall of 2015, Thiéry has received support from the Pépite Paris Centre and has enjoyed the status of student-entrepreneur. Within this context, he is preparing for his student-entrepreneur diploma and is taking part in many practical workshops. “We have classes in the basics of accounting, finance, marketing and sales, as well as entrepreneurial spirit,” he explains. “For someone like me with a scientific background, it’s very important.” He is also participating in an acceleration program that helps entrepreneurs to demonstrate the value of their projects on the market and to secure their first customers.


A step further toward entrepreneurship


Today, thanks to French Tech Ticket, the two Sorbonne University students and their fellow team members are hosted at an incubator in conjunction with their projects – another step in the gestation of their start-ups: La Paillasse, an organization focused on biotechnologies, for Cophenol; and one of Paris & Co’s incubators, Paris Innovation Belleville, aimed in particular at young digital companies, for MeshUp.


How to become a student entrepreneur

Are you a college student or young graduate of Sorbonne University with an idea for a company?

Why not apply to the Pépite Paris Centre training and support organization?

To learn more, click here.



Related to this article


For reference

The MeshUp website

The Cophenol website


To watch

• A video from the Elysée Palace showing the winners of the French Tech Ticket event being received by France’s President

• An extract from this video: MeshUp@Elysée

Read more


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