Interview: MonacoTech Director Lionel Galfré

MonacoTech has just brought on board its latest round of start-ups, five groups of entrepreneurs who will use the Monaco brand and the incubator’s expertise to develop, market and monetise their concepts.
It brings the total number of start-ups taken under the wing of Monaco to 20. Within just three years, the first 15 have generated an estimated value of over €100 million and raised more than €15 million in funding.
Lionel Galfré has headed the team at MonacoTech since January this year and says he is passionate about developing values for start-ups and for Monaco.
“Everyone we meet is convinced that their idea is the best in the world,” Lionel Galfré tells Monaco Life. “And we have to make them understand that this idea is only good if there is someone who wants to buy the product.”
It has become increasingly clear, particularly over the past years, how crucial entrepreneurship is in addressing the economic, social and environmental challenges of today. Business incubators are seen as an important support tool for those entrepreneurs.
“We help people with innovative concepts and ideas to create something that is economically viable,” says Lionel Galfré. “More so, we want this innovation to create value, and in value, we have two things: social value – it has to be useful for an entire society; and economic value – it has to create jobs and income for the Principality.”
There were 38 start-ups who put themselves forward during the latest application round. The three-step process began by studying the dossiers and reducing it to 20. Then, video meetings were arranged, from which 12 start-ups were selected and invited to pitch their concepts, in person, to a jury of entrepreneurs based locally and outside of the Principality. They have just 10 minutes to sell their idea to the jury, and 10 minutes to answer questions.
“We have a strong selection process – this is the first means to avoid bad results,” says Lionel.

Photo: MonacoTech by Philippe Fitte

For the lucky few who are selected, MonacoTech offers a shared premises in Monaco for extremely low rent, where start-ups can begin to develop without having to formally establish a company. There is an ecosystem where entrepreneurs can exchange experiences and ideas, and there are professionals to help them seek out funding, build staff, create an accounting system, develop marketing and a trademark … everything that is required to create a viable business.
Outside of the incubator, start-ups can benefit from Monaco’s strong geo-eco-socio system; the Principality is at the centre of Europe and easily accessible via the Nice Côte d’Azur international airport; the government has strong links with all the economic players in the Principality; start-ups can capitalise on the Monaco ‘brand’; and residents here are, for the most part, successful entrepreneurs who have a large network throughout the world.
“Start-ups can benefit from the image of Monaco, the network, the local resources, and the force of a strong State and a strong local network based on entrepreneurs,” says Lionel.
And unlike many start-up investors, MonacoTech will not take a “10%” cut, because “the interest we have is the interest of Monaco – to create jobs and value.”
Photo: MonacoTech by Philippe Fitte

According to research by Social Innovation Monitor (SIM), business incubators began to spring up in Europe in the 1980s, but they really kicked off in 2010. There are now 274 incubators in the UK, and 284 in France.
The Principality has just one and it was only created in 2017 by the Monaco government, together with Monaco Telecom and its owner Xavier Niel.
“I think the absolute necessity was not there before,” says Lionel. “We have a very strong industrial sector, but as all European countries, this sector is decreasing and the government recognises the need to create new jobs, and new value, so this is why the incubator was created.”
There are a number of success stories to have already come out of MonacoTech, among them are Knap, a ‘Smart cart’ shopping app, and Orbital Solutions, creators of Monaco’s first nanosatellite that was just launched into space. These two start-ups have since left MonacoTech.
YouStock, Coraliotech, Surgisafe and O’Sol are also among those doing well, as is Laneva, which recently launched its first, luxury, fully electric boat.
So, what is Lionel Galfré’s advice to entrepreneurs? “You have to believe in your project, but you have to accept that you don’t know everything. Surround yourself with people that can help develop it. If your idea is at the service of an entire community, if you can solve a problem and be useful, then even better.”
Top photo: MonacoTech Director Lionel Galfré by Monaco Life