In 2019, Startup Columbia and Alliance, a joint programme between Sciences Po, Ecole Polytechnique, Columbia University and Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, organized the very first Blockchain Innovation Challenge, a competition aiming to reward ventures that link blockchain innovation and social impact. The Sciences Po Centre for Entrepreneurship (FR) selected the startup Meditect to represent Sciences Po, which took home the grand prize. We interviewed co-founder Romain Renard, who is pursuing his Master’s in Finance and Strategy at the School of Management & Innovation.
How did you come up with the idea for Meditect?
At Sciences Po, I developed an interest in public health issues. In 2015, I participated in a humanitarian mission that led me to the Mauritanian border, where I noticed critical issues regarding the lack of health infrastructures and limited access to quality medicine.
My business partner, Arnaud Pourredon, studied medicine, pharmacy, and public health at the University of Bordeaux where he pursued various humanitarian missions, one of which took place in Nepal. Whilst there, he was in charge of the distribution of medicine after the 2015 earthquakes. It was disturbingly clear that counterfeit medicines were booming worldwide and ruined millions of lives every year. Therefore, Arnaud and I started thinking about ways to fight against the proliferation of fake medicine. In 2018, we realized there was a great need from both the pharmaceutical industry and the patients, and we decided to officially create our startup.
What were some of the main challenges you faced when you progressed from the idea to the development stage of your startup?
The first challenge was a personal one. I wanted to successfully run two serious activities at once. I was studying at Sciences Po and, in parallel, started developing Meditect. It was pretty scary and required a lot of organization, but looking back, it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
The biggest challenge was to find the right people to support us: a good team, lawyers, advisors, accountants, etc. We also had to raise money, which required a lot of time because business angels don’t just bring money, they bring knowledge, experience, and advice, and so it's important to find the right ones.
Last but not least, we wanted to convince important pharmaceutical producers to work with us. This takes time because the project is quite complex and involves many actors (producers, pharmacists, health authorities, etc.), but we’ve successfully managed to reach our goals and follow our roadmap.
In what way(s) did your studies at Sciences Po help you set up your startup?
I will be graduating in June 2019 with a Master’s degree in Finance and Strategy. This degree has given me the right skills and taught me how to structure a company from a financial perspective. All the more, my internships and work placements in different financial companies have strengthened my ability to manage a company and its team.
Also, Sciences Po has been an opportunity for me to meet incredible people, both students and professors, with unexpected backgrounds that happened to be of great help for Meditect. Some of them are even part of the team! For example, my friend Victor, also a Master's student in Finance & Strategy, contributed to Meditect by directing three short movies in Ivory Coast. Verlaine, from the Master's in International Management & Sustainability, decided to join Meditect for her end-of-studies internship and that means a lot to us. You only find those skills and people at Sciences Po.
Most of all, the years I have spent at Sciences Po in Paris contributed to me developing a passion for entrepreneurship, with a strong desire to combine venture creation with social impact.
Can you tell us a bit about the Blockchain Innovation Challenge and how the competition went?
The Blockchain Innovation Challenge is a competition organized by Alliance, a program between Sciences Po, Columbia University, École Polytechnique, and Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. The idea is to reward ventures that use blockchain technology to create innovative solutions. Each institution had to select one finalist team to represent them. We first went through a selection process at the Sciences Po Centre for Entrepreneurship (FR) during which we pitched our project in order to be chosen as finalist. Then we flew to New York, to Columbia University’s campus, to present Meditect in front of a jury of specialists.Winning this prize has felt like real recognition for all the work we have done so far, and a confirmation that we are going in the right direction with our solution.
Winning the Alliance 2019 Blockchain Innovation prize is a great success; what are the next steps for Meditect?
The next step for Meditect is to bring our solution to the market. We are thrilled to announce that we have just signed a contract with a first major client. We are now launching our solution in Ivory Coast, allowing pharmacists and patients to check the authenticity of their medicine thanks to our free app.
In the near future, our objective is to partner with more pharmaceutical companies to secure their medicine distribution and expand to other Sub-Saharan countries such as Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali.
Our team is also expanding, so feel free to pass on the word and contact us!
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