Startup Banlieue: a weekend springboard for good ideas

And take 2! Startup Banlieue was back during the weekend of 12 to 14 October 2018. It’s goal again this year? Help as many young – and aspiring – entrepreneurs as possible from the suburbs with their project. Meet Nathalie Brugeas, VP Insights & Business Innovation Opportunities at Orange, who took part in the adventure as a mentor.

You were a mentor at the Startup Banlieue weekend event. How did you come across this idea?

Nathalie Brugeas: Orange supports the event and offered me the chance to be a mentor. I immediately agreed: I wouldn’t have missed it for the world! Firstly, because I firmly believe in entrepreneurship. I’m also a member of the “Génération #Startuppeuse” club that supports young talent. Secondly, because this kind of event is not only very effective for start-uppers but is enriching for everyone.

You took part in the event as an Orange employee?

N. B.: I represented Orange because it was very important for the Group to be present. Orange, with its heritage and international presence, understands that diversity is a real strength. Bringing together people from different backgrounds adds value and generates a dynamic internal culture. As such, supporting young people from the suburbs, who have great ideas, but less access to the world of entrepreneurship, is obvious!

I was also there on my own terms because I share the same values and objectives as Startup Banlieue. This type of initiative should be supported. Any good idea should be valued, regardless of the person’s background or initial skill, in the hope that it can be turned into real business success. Success stories aren’t only made in the USA!

What did you think you could offer these young participants?

N. B.: Since joining the Group in 2002, I have held various positions with one thing in common: transforming these professions. Over the years, I’ve contributed to everything from rethinking customer relationships, to creating the first community of online testers, and setting up an explocentre, all before getting into intrapreneurship by supporting the launch of the Orange Gardens campus.
I then spent six months in the United States to perfect my coaching skills and help support French start-ups.
Since coming back, I head up a strategic marketing team, which means always looking to have a “head start” in the market. This career path and experience has naturally led me to encourage and guide entrepreneurial initiatives, and find ways to “unblock” an idea. That’s what I thought I could offer the teams this weekend.

And how was the weekend?

N. B.: On Friday, the day before the mentors arrived, the 19 project leads presented their idea to the young participants. Teams of 4 or 5 young people chose which one to join. They had to progress their project on Saturday and present it to the jury on Sunday. I was impressed that our participants came from all walks of life, very representative of our society.
The projects had different degrees of maturity. I adapted to people’s expectations by helping some teams refine their concept while giving others the chance to work on their presentation skills. Everyone needed a bit of reassurance. I left on Saturday night at 10.30pm while the young teams kept working into the early hours…

How do you feel the weekend went?

N.B.: Everyone made spectacular progress. Their ideas matured, and they did too! They had more confidence and presence. I was able to help 12 groups by learning about each project to help them evolve it without changing it. It would have been impossible to judge… I’m so pleased I wasn’t in the jury! But no matter who took home the prize, for me, everyone was a winner. The weekend was so rewarding for me too. I left my contact details with some of the teams, and hope to hear from them!
I’d also like to emphasise the quality and contribution of Startup Banlieue too. The volunteers were great.

What advice did you give these young people who had an idea or a project?

N. B.: These young people must have confidence in themselves and others: I’ve always found a lot of goodwill around all business projects. They have to get started and find the right support to get help. They mustn’t be afraid to fail because the entrepreneurial spirit is by nature positive. Even if the project doesn’t go anywhere it still hasn’t failed, because the process will have been valuable and formative. They should never put themselves in the position of not daring to try. I told them to go for it!

Startup Banlieue: the event and the organisation

November 2017. Startup Banlieue (opens in a new window) was created by a team of volunteers. The ambitious event takes place over three days and aims to promote the projects of young people living in the suburbs.

“Making a project a reality requires a trigger point: some kind of boost or meeting. This is what Startup Banlieue wants to create, by bringing together young project leaders and mentors who are themselves entrepreneurs or from the business world and who can share their know-how, experience and network…” explains Kawtar Hazel, Startup Banlieue co-founder.


Its success is such that the team became an organisation so they could keep their initiative going.

In 2018, the 15 volunteers continued the good work by organising a second weekend event. 100 young people were invited, including 20 who already had a specific project. Working in teams, they developed their ideas during three days of intense activity, surrounded by professionals from marketing, business development, innovation etc. Each team then worked to progress the project idea, create a prototype and refine the business model. After fifty hours of collaborative work in a friendly atmosphere, each group presented the project at the Stade de France in front of a jury made up of professionals, investors and potential partners. Highlights: prizes for the winners… and a rich and informative weekend for everyone!

Among the 20 projects presented in 2017, 3 have joined an incubator, one has become a company and signed its first contracts… We invest a lot of time and energy on top of our professional life, but the rewards are fantastic.

Kawtar Hazel