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Vulkam: from start-up to industrialization… a true French success story

Vulkam: from start-up to industrialization… a true French success story

The Vulkam company, specializing in the development and manufacturing of innovative materials, has gone from a successful start-up in just a few years to the opening of a factory planned for 2025. Sébastien Gravier, founding President, gives us the keys to this change. successful scale. Through a thoughtful growth strategy and challenges to overcome, the Vulkam company offers us practical and inspiring insights.

Sébastien Gravier, initially a materials researcher, worked on innovative metals with exceptional properties, which quickly aroused the interest of manufacturers, particularly in space and watchmaking. Moving from research to entrepreneurship, the team filed patents and acquired business management skills. In 2017, Vulkam, made up of four people, won the I-lab competition and joined the Entreprendre Isère network, thus obtaining equity and banking support. Between 2017 and 2019, the company consolidated its commercial proposition, built relationships with its customers and demonstrated the viability of its innovations, leading to a first fundraising in 2020 for a pre-industrial pilot. In 2023, with around twenty employees, Vulkam raised 34 million euros, thus accelerating its industrialization and strengthening its management through strategic recruitment.

What was the main challenge Vulkam had to overcome in moving from start-up to industrialization, and how did you overcome it?

The main challenge was to obtain the trust of the entire industrial, commercial and financial environment. We had to carry out this triptych starting from an image of a start-up that is certainly innovative, but with all the fantasies generated by the start-up which are not necessarily aligned with what we imagine of the industry.

So, we sought to gain the trust of our future customers so that they would believe in us. We have therefore tried to best respond to the needs of the market by listening precisely to their requests and responding to them perfectly.

It was also necessary to gain the confidence of investors, banks and the support of BpiFrance.

Another point on which we have worked a lot, obtaining and maintaining the trust of our employees. There is a real HR subject when we move from start-up to industrial scale-up: we move the lines, we change the organization... So that things are well accepted, we have created a climate of trust, this one is linked to dialogue and transparency. We say things to each other around the table, we face everyday problems together, we move forward in a reliable and serene environment.

Finally, with our clients who are familiar with industrial reality, it was easier to make them admit that everything is never as simple as we imagine. So, again, we communicate as transparently as possible.

What are the competitive advantages of the amorphous metals developed by Vulkam and how do you think they will transform the manufacturing industry?

The advantages of our Vulkalloys® are on two levels. First of all, in terms of the property of the material and then in the advantages generated by our manufacturing processes.

Very clearly, when we talk about the usage properties of our materials, we can say that they are two to three times more resistant than what has existed until now. So they require two to three times less material to resist the same forces. This makes it possible to miniaturize and lighten all mechanical structures or applications. This has a medium-term impact because it makes systems more functional and also limits environmental impacts: Fewer metal resources used, smaller and more durable parts, optimized process.

Our first markets are those of watchmaking, medical and space. For example, for watchmaking we manufacture parts that are more durable both for the exterior (strap, bezel, middle part) but also in the internal mechanisms (gears, axes). In the medical field, it is miniaturization which takes on all its importance here. We participate in instrumentation intended for micro-invasive surgery or dental implantology with the aim of limiting the impact on the patient as much as possible.

Another advantage of Vulkam is everything that the customer does not see. For example, we have developed manufacturing processes linked to our materials which allow us to save materials by reducing the use of primary resources by five. When we know the geopolitical issues linked to metal resources, this is a non-negligible parameter. Finally, our thermo-molding manufacturing uses a unique process that we have developed ourselves which has the advantage of being perfectly suited to mass production.

What advice would you give to start-ups looking to move towards industrialization?

My answer might seem surprising to you, but you have to have “your head in the stars while keeping your feet on the ground”. These are two essential elements to successfully ramp up industrial production.

Concretely, you need a very significant ambition which allows both to seek out sources of financing and to take the difficult steps. This long-term vision must make partners dream and mobilize our teams.

But “keeping your feet on the ground” remains very important… The path to industrialization is often strewn with pitfalls; It is therefore essential to control your cash flow and never lose sight that the objective of an industry is to be profitable as quickly as possible. Once that is managed, behind it is just innovative product development.

So demonstrating the technical and economic reliability of our project while keeping our heads in the stars for the objectives... is the assurance of a serene, confident and ambitious future.

Le 25 juin 2024 par Gl events

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