A digital Christmas tale
When on a winter evening I got off the speed train from Paris, I discovered a quiet small town of the east of France called Epinal, I walked the cold empty streets in search of my hotel. The glittering Christmas tree was bravely trying to cheer me up. I felt more adventurous than when landing in the chaos of Mumbai. I had serious doubts that I was going to meet a gem of the FrenchTech in this part of the world. The next morning after the comforting cafe-croissants (more efficient than the Christmas tree in my case) I was on my way to meet Eric and Cyril respectively CEO and CTO of XILOPIX at their company headquarter “La Maison Romaine," eager to view the latest version of their product, a tactile and visual search engine integrating with any e-commerce platform.
Xilopix cannot be called a start-up any longer. It was founded in 2008 by its visionary CEO Eric Mathieu and inspired by its talented CTO, Cyril. It is a story of grit, resilience and yes miracles. In 2011, after 3 years of existence, Xilopix had developed active partnerships with various university and public research labs, yet due to their ambitious project they were running out of cash. They had to resolve three urgent crisis to survive:
-find cost savings
It turned out that Epinal, famous for the mass production of color images in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, needed to boost their local digital economy. They reached out to the Paris based founders. Eric and Cyril clearly could not picture (no pun intended) a digital hub in this part of the world. Yet, the city understood their challenges and offered Xilopix to rent the historical building of “La Maison Romaine” for a moderate price. More than one century ago, a rich widow had decided to build an exact copy of a Pompeii villa that the city inherited. Further more to attract and retain the brains, the city supported new employees, students, families to find the proper lodgings, schools and other facilities needed. The company would achieve its cost saving target (6 time less operating expenses than in the Paris area) and manage to attract key talents. Xilopix had found its Santa. The (Business) Angels pulled their weight in and additional capital was injected. In 2012 the start-up had moved and stayed afloat.
Four years later the “Maison Romaine” hosts 35 employees, 8 of which PhDs or training PhDs. They include 9 nationalities speaking 11 languages and supporting 4 different alphabets to develop the thesaurus of the search engine (Arab, cyrillic, Chinese, Roman). 40% of the employees are women. Last but not least the last beta version was in full swing with promising business opportunities forming but this is another story.
Happy holidays to all my readers !