KAMET and the entrepreneurial spirit

With offices in London, Paris and Tel Aviv and backing from the insurance giant AXA, Kamet is a disruptive start-up incubator that takes a unique approach to innovation in healthcare and insurance. INFO speaks with its co-Founders Stéphane Guinet and Michael Niddam

What makes Kamet’s business model unique?

Stéphane Guinet: Kamet is an investment house whose mission is to build companies from the bottom up. We do this through what we call ‘disruptive concepts.’ We don’t try to improve what exists; we try to introduce completely new concepts. Some people refer to us as a ‘start-up studio,’ some people will call it an incubator, and others, a ‘venture builder’.  Ultimately, we are building companies by identifying, shaping and guiding great talent that can take an idea and turn it into a multi-million-dollar enterprise. We are solely funded by one large institution - AXA - but we are also completely independent. While AXA has limited influence on the governance or decision making of our business, they have privileged access to the fundraising round once our companies have achieved market fit and are eligible to raise capital.

Michael Niddam: To emphasise something that Stéphane said, we don’t see ourselves as a VC, we don’t look at ideas for the sake of ideas – we are above all else, entrepreneurs. We are a company of entrepreneurs working to bring businesses to life. That’s the way we are differentiated from others in our space. Both Stéphane, myself and our team are personally engaged in the design and development of our businesses, not only to make connections and to support the process through infrastructure and funding, but in working with entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to reality.

SG: In our personal capacity, we are co-founders of each and every start-up. The relationship that we have with them is a true partnership. And it happens that we also manage Kamet because AXA invested in us, and during this initial phase we are not only shareholders of the companies that we create, but we also have the ability to fund them.

MN:  It means that we only launch businesses that we have faith in at a hundred percent and this is a business model we truly believe in. We believe deeply in empowering others and giving clear incentives. This makes us very different from any other corporate innovation programmes.

How do you identify potential disruption in healthcare and insurance?

SG: As we are funded by AXA, Insuretech and new forms of insurance are obvious for us. We are constantly looking at innovative solutions in the insuretech space, even if they’re not easy ones. I believe disrupting insurance is a real possibility, even if it is an old-fashioned industry. We see healthcare as a sector with a massive opportunity for disruption. It’s probably one of the industries most impacted by what is going on in terms of technology and data. We’ve created a unique competitive advantage by securing privileged access to some of the best medical databases in the world. This has given us a completely new vantage point and a real birds-eye view of everything that is happening in the world of healthcare.

MN: I would add that when we built Kamet, we wanted to have a positive impact on society. It is most definitely a big driving force for us. SG: There is a ‘Tech for Good’ element in what we do. We feel that beyond doing good business, there is real meaning in what we do. I think most of the health companies that we are building now provide real value to society, and I’m very proud of this. 
So, what makes a good entrepreneur?

SG: We believe that while ideas are one percent, execution is ninetynine percent. So, we do not select entrepreneurs for their ideas. We welcome ideas but we select them on the assumption that they will be able to transform an idea into a sustainable and fast-growing business. We tend to partner mostly with what I would call seasoned entrepreneurs, people who have already been exposed in their career to a real entrepreneurial journey. Not exclusively as CEOs, but people who understand what it means to build a company. The type of skills and mindset that one needs to be able to do what we do is very different from what is required to be a good senior executive in a large corporation. Uncertainty and risk should be things that motivate and energise you.

MN: One element that is important to realise is the spirit of innovation in the corporate world and in the entrepreneurial world is massively different. People often say ‘yes it’s different,’ but typically they don’t take measure of how different it is. In a big company, to get an innovation project started you ask for a lot of money to demonstrate that there is a business. Then there is a very long process at the end of which people decide to give you a budget – before you have proven anything in terms of your execution. An entrepreneur has the exact opposite situation. He needs to deliver something in order to have the right to get a small investment. An entrepreneur never implements his business through his budget. Of course, he has a plan and he will spend some money, but the model couldn’t be more different from what happens in a large, established organisation. Entrepreneurs need to be very good at tactical and strategic implementation. They also need to be able to leave doors open while implementing, to react and pivot because they don’t have the automatic ‘right’ to go to the end of their plan. It means that entrepreneurs cannot be stubborn. Because if they are stubborn, they are not going to be able to adapt and they are going to fail. They need to be driven but, at the same time, they need to be coachable, to listen to what people say and to react to it. That’s probably the biggest challenge in finding the right entrepreneurs.
How do entrepreneurs differ in the markets in Paris, London, or Tel Aviv?

MN: I worked for many years in Israel and the one thing that stood out to me was its distinct culture of entrepreneurship. It is unlike any other I have seen in the world.  Israeli negotiators are much more transactional.  They are hard negotiators and what they expect is also very different. Israeli entrepreneurs want business partners. For European entrepreneurs, there are less obvious general rules. The result is that there are many cultural differences we need to adapt to.

SG: We have a team that mixes cultural differences and that makes us stronger.

MN: I am a firm believer that the more diverse the expectations, the more creative the outcome. Our cross-cultural model bodes very well for a creative, interactive process. 

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