First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Sébastien Coulon: In these COVID-19 times, my family and I are doing well despite the situation. My wife & I can still work as usual, and the kids still go to school, so I believe that there are people in more difficult situations than us! No complaints!
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded SpinalCom.
Sébastien Coulon: If the startup was officially founded in 2016, one must go back to the year 2009 to understand how the SpinalCom journey began. Jérémie Bellec first founded Structure Computation to develop a collaborative web solution of dynamic digital twins. Six years of R&D later, a semantic database was fully developed, necessary for managing a digital twin in real-time. He then joined forces with Sébastien Coulon to professionally launch this product on the market of the built environment. “We decided to focus on the built environment industry because the arrival of BIM (Building Information Modeling, that enables you to model a building in 3D and to draw a database from it) was going to make it possible to digitize the built environment, and no one was yet positioned in this market sector”, explains Sébastien Coulon.
In 2016, the SpinalCore BOS (Building Operating System) was all set: the company renames itself SpinalCom and launches its technology on the market. Big French companies like EDF, Vinci or Eiffage, CNP Assurances have since then decided to trust Jérémie Bellec and Sébastien Coulon to improve their buildings’ operation.
How does SpinalCom innovate?
Sébastien Coulon: The company is innovative in the sense that our BOS is the first on the market. The technology is avant-gardist; no other company has managed to make data management technologies and building operations come together before.
Without detailing our product too much, what’s important to understand is that the Building Operating System translates all the data into a common language and makes them all converge into a digital twin database, which really helps build managers extract data or give commands.
The company also innovates by creating partnerships to conquer the market in its entirety. For example, we have partnered with onepoint, a unique player that mixes technology and the human hand to accompany their client’s digital transformation. We are currently closing a large deal in Canada with them.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Sébastien Coulon: In a professional sense, the pandemic is actually a perfect example as to why our technology answers many needs companies have. It has been and still is a huge struggle for companies to figure out what to do with their space, with their employees working from home. Even with a 50/50 policy, a lot of space is being wasted and costs a lot more than it is worth. The world is very difficult to predict at the moment. Nothing is sure. Will everybody be back at work by next summer? No one has the answer to that.
Our technology makes it very easy for facilities managers to decide how to organize their space. The data has all the answers necessary for managers to make informed decisions that they can trust.
In a more personal sense, the pandemic is forcing the SpinalCom team to work from home, which brings its lot of challenges. But for now, the company is coping well and has suffered no substantial impact from it.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Sébastien Coulon: So far, some of the most difficult choices were to slow down some investments while awaiting the signature of important contracts. For example, this happened when we were waiting for CNP Assurances to sign their contract (you’ll find the press release about our contract with CNP Assurances here). It took longer than anticipated because of the pandemic, and we had to deal with that.
One of the main lessons learned throughout this journey was not to panic. Our financial strategy is against the flow; we mostly rely on big contracts (with long life cycles) instead of steady monthly revenues, which, fortunately, for now, ensure that we won’t be impacted in the short-term by any crisis. Consequently, our strategy is based on a combination of both monthly revenues and bigger contracts to face the future with confidence.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Sébastien Coulon: I believe a lot of the pressure stems from the fact that we have a lot of faith in our technology, we know it’s the best in the market; we know that the built environment will never be able to be completely digitized until the smart building operating system becomes the norm.
But we are still a small company, our name isn’t everywhere yet, making business harder. Sometimes we are up against huge names in the industry (lately Accenture, for instance), and we give everything to make our case and prove that our technology is the best deal. This can generate stress.
We deal with it by doing sports, organizing online team events, and informing our team about the deals closed, the great traction we have on the market, and the good financial health of our company. In these times, people need to be reassured about their future.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Sébastien Coulon: We have competitors at the data management level as well as competitors at the BIM for operation level.
We mostly compete with big companies: Microsoft, Google, Accenture, ThoughtWire, etc.
We can also cite WattSense, Vayandata, Willow, YouBIM, HqO, and Metrikus…
We plan to stay in the game by working on our influence as a company and showcasing our solutions’ benefits in every way. Our approach is based on all the segments in which we are stronger than our competitors:
- Value-creation: of all data (static and dynamic)
- Opening: the data collected and contextualized in our digital twin can be analyzed and processed by our own applications, but also by third-party applications.
- Control and security of data: the SpinalCom solutions can be deployed on the client’s servers or even directly in a server hosted in the building.
- Digital scalability: the data management platform offers a scalable architecture that can integrate new data sources all along the building’s life cycle without impacting the existing sources. The APIs allow the development of new applications, analysis systems (including AI), dashboards…
- Industrialization: the software platform makes it possible to industrialize a digitization process of buildings by the implementation of the same solution on different buildings.
- Implementation speed: the implementation of SpinalCom products depends on the use cases to put in place. We offer a progressive approach that will start to give the first results in a matter of days.
Your final thoughts?
Sébastien Coulon: SpinalCom is about to enter the US market. To make this a success, we are looking to partner with US software resellers and integrators. If you are either, please don’t hesitate to contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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