“There is immense potential for microalgae. Our field is global.”
Why did you establish Microphyt in the Montpellier Métropole area?Two major factors helped us make the decision to set up here: the climate and the academic environment. The local climate is highly favorable for microalgae production, notably thanks to excellent sun exposure. A rich academic environment is also very important for companies developing innovative businesses. Microphyt has worked, and continues to work to varying degrees, with Montpellier SupAgro, the Montpellier National Higher School of Chemistry, Inra, and the Max Mousseron Biomolecule Institute, all of which are part of University of Montpellier.
What role did Montpellier BIC and its teams play in Microphyt’s success?Montpellier BIC incubated our company in the beginning, from 2007 to 2009. Microphyt was founded by Arnaud Muller Feuga, an expert in microalgae, and Michel Lemar, a specialist in bioprocess industrialization who is also our Quality director today. Incubation at Montpellier BIC made it easier to take our first steps. Assistance was then picked up by other sources, notably with support for innovation provided by Bpifrance and Occitanie regional authorities. We now work with other Montpellier Métropole departments, particularly on innovation and environmental issues.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who want to start a company?I would tell them to focus on carrying through with their desires, while remaining open to listening and adapting. There is a strong local network available to assist people with company creation, which keeps entrepreneurs from having to face it all alone. Various local programs help you get started without risk, and they are very helpful for looking at ideas objectively.
It is also very important to have “resource” people around you. Two members of our Board of Directors, Alain Guillemin and Oliver Clech*, helped with the organization and success of our fund-raising effort in July 2019. They are part of the extended Microphyt team. David Eyer, a business strategy and financial consultant, also worked with me to elaborate our business and funding plans. We convinced a pool of seven investors** and carried out the largest life science operation of its kind in the Montpellier Métropole area. Nonetheless, the point is not just to raise funds. It is necessary when you want to accelerate growth or gain international market share. You need to be aware that it always takes more time than expected. If you are hoping for funding in a year, you should probably plan more on 18 months to two years.
* Note: Alain Guillemin is the former head of Royal Canin, and Olivier Clech is the CEO of Nor-Feed.
**Investors: Sofinnova Partners, Bpifrance, IXO Private Equity, Sofilaro, Supernova Invest, Demeter Partners, and Irdi Soridec Gestion.