Robot Lab challenge looks to reward French startups

Robot Lab challenge looks to reward French startups

Business news |
By Rich Pell

With the Robot Lab Challenge, the incubator puts 400 000€ worth of acceleration money and services in order to encourage and support innovation among startups in the making (or less than two years old and with a turnover not exceeding 500k €) whose technology is aimed at improving people’s daily lives.

“We are in a unique position to help startups in these fields”, explained Alexandre Ichaï, director of the Robot Lab incubator he founded back in 2014. “We are the only incubator to gather a team of financial advisers and marketers together with true engineering experts in robotics and AI”, he boasted.

Indeed, shortly after founding the Robot Lab, Ichaï acquired the C.R.I.I.F (Centre Robotique d’Ile de France) he is now presiding, annexing nearly 30 years of expertise in robotics, to ensure both technical support and a thorough understanding of the issues at stake when designing robotic and IoT applications.

In less than two years since its creation, the incubator has successfully helped 25 startups pass the million euros turnover, some of them raising up to five millions in funding.

Ichaï is a serial entrepreneur, having sold his first startup (a website delivering online stock trading advice) at the age of 18, he followed up with several estate agencies, founded a media acquisition company ReWorld Media (over 400 employees), as well as an investment fund, Network Finances, for internet related and digital media startups. The Robot Lab is another adventure Ichaï is confident will grow into a comfortable portfolio of shares within the next five years.

“We want to focus on quality rather than quantity, and because robotics requires a high level of expertise, the selection and evaluation process is costly. So we typically limit ourselves to one new startup per month but then we aim to raise that startup’s value to around 30 or 40 million euros within 24 months (keeping 7% in shares).

Robot Lab usually receives about a dozen applications every month, but Ichaï hopes the Robot Lab Challenge will bring new projects in sight, at a rather short notice. Next, the Paris-based incubator will expand abroad.

“We plan to open an office in Shanghai by January 2017”, Ichaï said, “to help our French startups secure their manufacturing chain and also give them an early access to the Asian market through joint-ventures or technology licensing”.

Eligible projects will revolve around the four main themes cited above, which span from domestic and industrial robots, to drones, machine learning, video processing, voice recognition, nanotechnologies, wearables, IoT, 3D printing, augmented and virtual reality systems, and other innovative embedded systems and software.

Startups can apply until the 6th of June 2016, documenting their projects at and a selection of the most promising startups will be invited to pitch their projects the 30th of June 2016 in front of a jury composed of experts in robotics, AI, new technologies, strategy and finance.

The Robot Lab pledges to invest 100 000 € into the winning startup, 30 000 € for the second best and 20 000 € for the third on the podium.

The incubator will also complement its offer with Microsoft software tools and Cloud Azure computing platform and services worth 120 000 €, together with personalized support from Robot Lab’s acceleration program team for a whole year.

More information at

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