« Innovation is 10% theory and 90% benchmarking against the reality of a market. »
After a thesis on robot control software systems, Pascale Vicat-Blanc became a lecturer at Centrale-Lyon engineering school, then a research director at Inria. The recognition in the university setting wasn’t enough... so the founder of Lyatiss packed her bags in 2010 and headed for Silicon Valley to create her company and revolutionize the Cloud.
The Cloud, a vector of socioeconomic change
I quickly realized that researchers would never have the necessary data to explore the possibilities of scale and truly understand the revolution that the Cloud is ushering in. For 60 years, it has been transforming human beings, social relations, the economy—locally and on other levels. The Cloud, providing nearly free and unlimited access to computational power, is transforming our lives and societies even more profoundly! I wanted to play an active role in this change. We had the research results to meet the new challenges that the Cloud poses for communication networks. So, in 2010, I made the leap after many years in academia. I have three teenaged children; it wasn’t an easy decision... but in the space of a weekend, my mind was made up. The choice was clear, almost necessary.
It’s what I call real life, made up of real problems presented by real customers.
I prepared my business plan, realizing that what I was saying was clear and straightforward in the United States, but not really in France. As a result, I could not escape going to the U.S., where the Cloud was being adopted. The Cloud opens up new possibilities, but as many complexities and unknowns. Using old practices in a new world doesn’t necessarily work. We focus on companies that have already taken the leap toward infrastructure on demand. The role of Lyatiss is to reduce the complexity and indeterminism of the Cloud. The work is really about creating demand and convincing people your product is superior. When you're a researcher with a technological solution, you also have to work with specialists in customer relations. You discover a very human world, much less abstract than what you do in a laboratory. It’s what I call real life, made up of real problems presented by real customers who also have an economic equation to solve in a short time.
Passing on my experience has become a necessity.
Entrepreneurship between France and the United States
I’m still very linked to Inria, which is now venturing into Silicon Valley. What is critical, and what I was missing, was the experience of other people. Passing on my experience has become a necessity. To be an entrepreneur is both normal—human relations are fundamental—and totally crazy: you’re not in a framework, you have to fly the plane, accept responsibilities and enormous risks, all while remaining perfectly calm and confident in the future. Things can get so tumultuous for entrepreneurs that you have to hold on to your confidence, openness, curiosity, clarity and keep both feet on the ground at all times. And, of course, it takes lots of work and energy, and a solid family, too. An entrepreneur is never all alone, she’s out in front, but with an entourage and a team who believes in her and support her on a daily basis.