Incubateur HEC Paris 2020 Rewind ⏪

Remember when rewinds were cool?

What happened this year?


The COVID crisis happened 💥



The Incubateur HEC Paris has existed since 2007, and we have changed a lot since that time. Hell, we have changed a lot every year for the past five years!
However, we had kept a few blind spots, and thus were completely unprepared for the unexpected, and overnight, the following happened:

  • Our events went from generating 100k€ per year to 0.

  • We cancelled our Spring 2020 batch.

  • None of our incubation meetings and Office Hours were designed to take place remotely.

  • We decided to freeze the rent for all our incubees, killing our revenue for the lockdown duration.


That was quite an overnight shock, but we quickly decided to take lessons from our favourite Chief Scout:



 And we had a busy few months to turn things around!


So, what did we do last year? 🔨


We boosted our attraction 🧲


Not going to lie, the first half of 2020 was challenging, and we spent some time putting out fires until we woke up and managed to start building the Incubateur we were dreaming about:

  • During the first semester, we only managed to launch 2 incubation programs bringing 13 new incubated startups.

  • During the second semester, we diversified and launched 6 incubation programs bringing 35 new incubated startups.


That’s also when we realized that we needed to talk more, not about ourselves, but about our incubees and their achievements:

  • We launched our Substack this summer (obviously…), to share the news and achievements from our communities, on which we managed to keep a 50-60% open rate and a 20-30% click rate since the start.

  • We created our Dynamic Press Kit, where anyone from our ecosystem can explore our startups, their industries, their achievements, their fundraisings, and more…


We built up our resources 🏗️


The Incubateur team has always been quite focused on the fundamentals, i.e. supporting startups.
But then we started changing, our range of actions expanded, and we started enhancing our team to tackle our new challenges:

  • In 2019, the Incubateur was a core team of 4 people.

  • In 2020, a combined 11 people (including our hard-working interns) have been working for the Incubateur.


As any startup (since we indeed are one), we have always started by doing things that don’t scale. This year, we finally started putting greater effort into industrializing, and we are now getting close to the point where our tool stack and our automations are getting close to where we want to be:

  • Using Airtable to manage our community and their interactions.

  • Using AcceleratorApp to manage the application process and collaborative evaluations.

  • Using Notion to manage our communication, our processes, and sharing knowledge.


We went international 🌐


After focusing mainly on the French ecosystem for many years, this year was one of exploration of new partnerships all around the world:

And this year will see the birth of new partnerships currently in progress!


We went online 💻


After focusing for years on our space and our offline communities (since being a mentor usually meant spending the entire afternoon on our couch and having lunch with us), we are now seeing the potential of moving online:

One of the unexpected benefits of duplicating our assets online is that you actually take stock and realize how many resources you do own!


We picked our first verticals 🎯


For years, we have believed in the power of being a generalist incubator, and that startups benefit from being in touch with companies from other industries from which to get inspiration and cautionary tales.
And we still believe that! But it so happens that startups of a feather flock together and do create informal industry clubs when left to their own devices.

So we capitalized on that, and launched:

How will we expand those seeds into actual verticals? Wait and see…


All in all, we had one of our biggest years so far 🔥


By the middle of the year, we were honestly quite apprehensive about what our track record would look like by the end of the year, but in hindsight, this second semester turned out to be more than okay.
Here are a few figures for the nerds among you:

  • We supported 105 startups this year

    • Women's representation is always a difficult challenge to meet in the tech world, but 30 of those companies were completely or partially women-led.

    • Although we never set ourselves to reaching quotas for impact projects, we broke the 50% mark this year, with 59 of our incubated startups being for or with impact.


Our Startups had one of their biggest years as well 💰


We have seen the trouble of many companies throughout the year, and we were expecting many of them to struggle

  • While we admit this is not the best measure of the success of a company, fundraisings are still achievements to be celebrated and promises of bigger things to come.
    This year, 19 of our startups have raised significant funds, for a combined 141,2M€, topping our record of 2019.
    Congratulations to Luko, Medadom,10 Vins, Spacefill, Shipup, My Job Glasses, GarantMe, BigBlue, Data Soluce, La Bouche Rouge, Okarito, Tronee, Urban Canopee, Seaver, Tiwc.Pics, Mercateam, Escape, VelyVelo, and Ekestrian!

  • We do our best to avoid it, but death is always part of the incubation job. Even though each one of those was a blow, we are happy the number is that low.
    Only 5 of our incubees stopped their business this year.

  • To finish on a rarer note, 1 of our companies managed to exit this year.
    You can read the story of Ubbyk to discover how it happened.


Our Community was more active than ever 🤝


Last but not least, if we were able to turn things around this year, it was not by working alone, but thanks to our community of experts and partners.

  • This is not a figure we used to track, but as we said, we finally started tacking stock of everything that we were taking for granted and to appreciate it in a new way.
    Our 356 experts delivered 1852 one-on-one sessions this year, that’s more than the allocation of a full-time 40h/week contract.
    Our experts truly are our last hidden team member!

  • Our partner schools and firms still gave the opportunity to students and professionals to discover the startup ecosystem.
    Many thanks to Beezen, Alphonse, Rocket School, The Humind School, E-Artsup, and of course HEC Paris.



What can we say except thank you all for being part of our family, and get ready for a busier 2021! 🚀