Roughly half of the world’s population is female, but you’d never know it from the tech industry. Only 25 percent of all IT jobs are held by women; a number that dwindles to 10 percent once inside the C-Suite. Still, there are bright spots within those bleak statistics. Investment in female tech founders recently hit an all-time high in the United States, and the media often highlights women-led tech companies. To add to the conversation, we’re putting a few of the HEC Paris MBA’s own success stories into the limelight. Presenting three MBA alumnae who are at the helm of innovative tech startups.
Summer Lindman, MBA ’16
President and CEO, Talkable
Talkable is a leading SaaS growth-marketing platform that helps businesses grow through the evangelism of loyal customers. Since its creation in 2010, more than 250 businesses have come to rely on Talkable for their refer-a-friend and loyalty programs. The platform enables customers to share discounts and special offers with their friends and family via email, SMS and other social channels.
Working behind the scenes of this referral revolution is Summer Lindman, MBA ’16. Prior to the HEC Paris MBA, Summer worked for four years boosting the sales efforts of Leading Hotels of the World, where she developed strategic relationships with brand customers including Nike, Microsoft and Google. Shortly after earning her MBA degree, she joined Talkable as its Customer Success Manager. In 2018, thanks to her success at scaling Customer Success from three employees to a 26-member team, she was named Talkable’s President and CEO. Today, she has transformed the company into a customer-centric organization, leading ten heads of departments for the growth-marketing platform, and delivering $7.5 million in annual recurring revenue. Talkable currently has 80 employees, and the company drove $265 million in sales for their clients in 2020.
Cécile Villette, MBA ’16
CEO and Co-founder, Altaroad
While most automotive startups seem driven to become the next Tesla, Altaroad has chosen a different route. Instead of trying to change what – or how – we drive, this widely acclaimed deeptech startup is working to make highway infrastructure smarter.
Now in use at several industrial worksites near Paris, Altaroad employs custom algorithms and sensors placed in and on roadways to record vehicles’ weights. This data helps ensure that the trucks entering and leaving the construction zone are within load limits, decreasing their potential of damaging bridges and other highway infrastructure. The startup’s sensors also aim to monitor road degradation, so repairs can be planned before potholes form.
Altaroad is one of the rare automotive ventures founded by women. Its CEO is the HEC Paris MBA’s own Cécile Villette, MBA ’16. Cécile met Bérengère Lebental and Rihab Jerbi during the MBA program’s Entrepreneurship Specialization. As part of the specialization’s three-month-long project, Cécile worked with the scientists to study the feasibility of bringing their patented IoT (Internet of Things) sensors to market. Encouraged by the findings, the trio co-founded Altaroad in 2017.
Since then, Altaroad has been on the fast track to success, raising €4.4 million to date. Challenges magazine named it one of 100 startups in which to invest in 2019. The venture received the Automobile Club of France’s Pioneer Prize. It also earned green deal funding from the European Innovation Council for helping to reduce the number of under-filled trucks hauling materials away from construction and demolition sites.
Nelly Chatue-Diop, MBA ’07
Co-Founder and CEO, EJARA
Shortly after her 2007 graduation from the HEC Paris MBA, Nelly Chatue-Diop was impacting the purchasing power of millions of people across Europe. As a pricing specialist for a restaurant consulting agency and later Darty and the Casino group, she used her vast analytical talents to set the price for everything from McDonalds’ Big Mac menus to the lemons sold in your local Franprix grocery store.
“I was the first hire in Franprix’s pricing department,” she explains. “I stayed there for almost four years, building a 14-person team. I reported directly to the CEO, weighing in on everything from the company’s supply chain to the data analysis for its CRM.”
When blockchain emerged in 2016, Nelly immediately recognized its potential. The technology provides the backbone for her latest venture: EJARA. The startup’s investment and savings platform allows users to invest in a diversified portfolio – especially cryptoassets – through an application on their mobile phones.
EJARA was initially launched in francophone Africa, under Nelly’s vision for democratizing investment on the continent. “The middle class in Africa is growing – it was 20 percent of the population in 2018 and will double in the next 5 years– and they should be able to make their wealth work for them and diversify their investments using more than the systems currently in place in their countries of residence.”
EJARA currently has 7 employees and 1,200 current users. In March 2021, it officially became the first and only crypto application for French Africa available for both Android and IOS. It also recently announced a new partnership with Moonpay, allowing it to provide services to Europe, the US, and Canada. For her work, Nelly has been named a Global Top 100 Data Visionary and earned a place on the Global Data Power Women List 2020.
Related stories: Read about a recent panel discussion, held for International Women’s Day 2021, which featured three HEC Paris MBA alumnae working at tech companies