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X-Up, call for applications class #14

The Ecole Polytechnique's X-Up incubation program for deeptech early stage startups launch its call for applications from September 20 to November 15, 2021. Roberta Camera, in charge of the X-Up incubation program, talked to Dixit.

visuel de l'appel à candidatures pour la 14e promotion de l'incubateur X-Up

What is X-Up?

Roberta Camera - X-Up is Ecole Polytechnique's incubation program for deeptech startups in the early stages. We want to help startups coming from the research world (or using an existing technology and adapting it to their solution). We do not only help projects coming from X labs but also from other labs, in France and abroad, to bring their product to the market. In general, these are groups of researchers who have already developed a technology and want to bring it to market.

The incubator gives the opportunity to be in a unique entrepreneurial environment that allows to exchange with other startups, to be close to X laboratories and X students. They can work on startup projects thanks to the PSC (Projet Scientifique Collectif) program, where startups can propose their project to students and collaborate with them. It's an intensive program but also very personalized given the size of the classes, which allows us to meet the specific needs of each student. We can say that it is a boutique incubator, on a human scale, which brings a very personalized approach to the needs of each startup.

It's also a unique place to exchange ideas with specialized expertise in prototyping thanks to the presence of the X-Fab, a prototyping space of more than 1000m².

The presence of the incubator and the Ecole Polytechnique in the Institut Polytechnique de Paris is a great advantage as it allows access to experts from all schools.

L'équipe du Drahi-X Novation Center

Who can apply to X-Up ? What should be the level of development of the startups ?

RC - People who have the technological skills to develop their technology can apply. As far as the level of development is concerned, we want to have a technology that works, that has been tested in a laboratory and that is not just an idea.

On the TRL (Technology Readiness Level) scale, the project must be at level 3. That is, the project must have analytical or experimental evidence of the main functions and/or characteristics of the concept, after the basic technological research.

In addition, the technological innovation must be shown to meet a real market need. Even if the technology is not yet developed, the project leaders must have the technical skills to develop it. The team must be composed of at least two people and have a very open and listening approach.

How is the selection made and on which criteria?

RC - The selection is structured in 3 steps. First, on the basis of the application: startups must fill out a file and post it on boost, which is our platform for the calls for applications, which will open from September 20 to November 15 for the #14 class.

Afterwards, the projects selected on the basis of their application pitch to an internal committee at Ecole Polytechnique, which chooses which projects will be invited to participate in the sandbox.

During the third stage of the sandbox, the startups are invited to X for two weeks in order to get to know the teams, the technological project, the value proposition, the whole business part and challenge them. At the end of the two weeks, an external committee made up of investors, internal members of the Ecole Polytechnique, and major groups will decide which startups will go through the full incubation period. This third stage aims to understand if the teams are ready to go to market and see if it is possible to work with them.

How long does the program last and what does it consist of?

RC - The program lasts six months, consisting of two weeks of pre-incubation and five and a half months of incubation. We help the startups on different aspects. As these are early stage startups, they are in the early stages of their business creation, so we help them with all the basics: 360° business creation, accounting, legal. We also help them with their financing strategy, thanks to the experts in the incubation program who create a financing roadmap to understand all the stages of financing in France.

We prepare them for their first round of financing, which comes at the end of the program following the Demo Day. This is an investor event where startups present their projects, which leads to discussions with investors. An expert in communication helps them to prepare for this pitch.

We also help them on the prototyping and product part. We take advantage of our team's experience in prototyping but especially of our 1000m² Fab lab, which allows them to develop and work on a prototype. They can then create pre-industrial series.

- Could you give me some examples of X-Up workshops?

RC - We have many workshops. The program is structured in different pillars: one of them is the intensive training where all startups have to attend workshops on the basis of entrepreneurship. We run workshops from Monday to Wednesday, every week for six months.

Here are some of the key workshops in our program:

- How to protect your inventions?

- How to define your MVP (Minimum Valuable Product)?

- From prototyping to industrialization

- How to work with large groups?

- How to define your price?

Each month of the incubation is dedicated to a theme: product vision and prototyping, business model and sales, business plan and team, fundraising and communication, internationalization and scale-up.

We also have exchanges with international incubators, such as Skydeck, the incubator of the University of Berkeley, with which we have a partnership. In the future, we will be able to send startups from X-Up to the United States to attend the Skydeck program.

How is the link made with investors during the program?

RC - Investors interested in investing in early stage deeptech startups are invited to the Demo Day. We talk to investors as the incubation progresses without presenting the startups. We want the startups to be focused on their product development. 3 training pitches are made during the incubation period with friendly investors from the Ecole Polytechnique of our network, who meet the startups to challenge them. They give their feedback and the startups prepare for the Demo Day as they go along. This allows them to understand the mentality, the investment criteria and they can better target their pitch and make it evolve.

The Demo Day brings together projects from X-Up (up to 9 startups) but also projects from our entrepreneurial community (former X-Up or X-Tech), projects from Polytechnic students who wish to be presented.

Moreover, the creation of the Polytechnique Ventures Fund, dedicated to startups from the X ecosystem, including startups from X-Up, is a major advantage.