Olivier Duchenne: A serial entrepreneur and developer
Six years after his PhD at Inria Paris, Olivier Duchenne has already founded two start-ups with his wife in Korea: Solidware and Adriel. The young business owner is never short on ideas, always testing their viability by comparing them with needs on the ground.
Olivier is a specialist in algorithms for machine learning, a type of artificial intelligence related to automated learning. He is now an experienced entrepreneur. His earliest ambitions to set up a company date back to his years as a student. Those ambitions have remained with him ever since, even if the researcher believes that his career has been fairly conventional.
I think that every programmer ends up wanting to build something themselves, he comments. When you develop a program and it starts to run by itself, it feels like you've made a machine come alive. It’s kind of the same thing with a company. Once launched, it almost starts to run itself and maintain itself through the staff that have been recruited.
Solidware for banks and insurance companies
Living in Seoul with his wife Sophie Soowon Eom and his two young children, this young scientist took training at the ENS and then at Inria. He completed his thesis in the Willow project team, which specializes in the area of visual recognition. His favourite subject, the detection of categories of objects in images, led to a long-term exploration of machine learning. "With this learning method, the recognition algorithm is not based on rules defined by the programmer but on the examples fed into it that enable it to gradually perform better," he explains.
His first leap into entrepreneurship happened in Korea in 2014, two years after the viva voce of his thesis in Paris. At the time he was working for a computer vision company. While meeting some colleagues of his wife, then employed by Axa Direct Korea, the basic idea came to him: develop machine learning algorithms for the insurance sector. "The aim of Solidware was to design a model that could learn historical data to try to predict how much a customer looking for a loan or an insurance policy was likely to be worth to a bank or insurance company, or how much they would cost. Our models made it possible for hundreds of thousands of extra people to obtain a loan or an insurance policy as well as for client companies to substantially increase their profits." Success was not long in coming, and with it came a takeover by Dayli Financial Group, a Korean fintech company, in March 2015.
Adriel for marketing automation
Two and a half years later, Olivier definitively handed over the reins of Solidware (29 employees) and went back on the hunt, toying with several projects in robotics, law and marketing. Having met numerous entrepreneurs with excellent projects who were struggling to build a reputation or find customers, he turned his attention to marketing and set up Adriel with his wife in early 2018.
This new start-up was incubated by Facebook, and has already raised nearly $6.5 million, notably from Korean groups Samsung Electronics and LINE/Naver. It is also an official Google partner.
Adriel has developed an automated marketing platform for SMEs. The idea behind it? Utilise machine learning algorithms to continually optimise online marketing campaigns launched on behalf of SMEs.
How? Users enter certain information about their products onto the website and then submit an image for their advertising campaign. After that, Adriel does the rest! The newbie communicates its clients' adverts to target platforms and audiences. It then monitors the impact of these campaigns and suggests ways of optimising them to its customers based on the results obtained.
Initial signs are encouraging. Six months after launching the service, Adriel (20 employees) has already launched and optimised campaigns for thousands of companies from 21 different countries, with sales volume growing by 30% monthly.