We talked to Eric Mathieu, CEO of Graaly, a mobile application that helps escape games and event agencies create a customized escape games for their customers. This is what he said about it:
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Eric Mathieu: We are doing fine. I have a wife and 2 teens. I created my first company 20 years ago in Paris. Fortunately, we left the city to a smaller town where life is easier, especially during the lockdown.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Graaly.
Eric Mathieu: 3 years ago, I wanted to start a new entrepreneurial adventure. But this time, I wanted to start it in a domain I really love. So I created a game company based on new innovations in this domain: augmented reality, geolocation, image recognition.
How does Graaly innovate?
Eric Mathieu: We are giving everybody the opportunity to create an escape game or treasure hunt based on a mobile application without any technical skills. The games are using the latest technologies (augmented reality, geolocation, image recognition, …) to offer indoor or outdoor immersive games, for example, in companies, in cities, or on skiing slopes.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Eric Mathieu: This has opposite effects. First, many events where our application should have been used have been canceled, so we lost money. But, today, we are more and more contacted by cities that want to offer a digital experience for events that cannot take place due to Covid.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Eric Mathieu: At the beginning, we were afraid we would have to lay off people, but finally, we have hired people during this period to innovate more and to adapt ourselves, especially thanks to government financial help.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Eric Mathieu: Yes, it evolves but in a good way. We replaced many business trips by video conferences and discovered that we can make very good games in places that we have only discovered through videos. Our customers were very nice and helped us a lot to build and set up the games remotely.
Managing people remotely was difficult at the beginning. We spent time on video but only to discuss professional subjects. And I saw that something was going wrong, especially for the young people we hired. We decided to add 30 minutes to our main weekly meeting to discuss private subjects, and things really changed. I think we will keep this in the future.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Eric Mathieu: Yes, this helped us crossing this difficult period and hiring people.
Your final thoughts?
Eric Mathieu: It is not easy, especially for people who have lost loved ones, but we need to take advantage of this kind of period to adapt our way of working and thinking. Human became what he is because he was able to adapt.
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