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Back to News 17/04/2013

Interview of Pierre-Emmanuel Grange, winner of the TR35 MIT France prestigious award

Pierre-Emmanuel Grange, an innovative entrepreneur and EMLYON Business School graduate from 2002 took part in an interview after being awarded with the first French version of the prestigious TR35, a prize awarded by the MIT Technology Review and definite stepping stone to give a new boost to social enterprise. This prize rewards “new, innovative and fascinating work, capable of revolutionizing the world of technology and business in the near future”.

In his interview, Pierre-Emmanuel Grange explains how he developed his company microDON and talks about social entrepreneurship. His company aims to develop tools to help associations raise funds for their causes through special donation cards found in supermarkets and salary donations.

Interview:

  • What is your academic background?

After doing a Bachelor of Science in European Business with Technology at the University of Brighton in England, I earned a Master's degree from EMLYON Business School. Then, I joined a programme for young graduates called IMLP (Information Management Leadership Program) at General Electric. This was a two-year graduate program that enabled me to discover different careers at this international corporation, while receiving additional training in information systems management.

  • How did the microDON concept come about?

Everything started during a 6-month stint in Mexico, in 2004. At the time, my Spanish was very basic, limited to the words “yes”, “beer” and “kiss”. One day, after a supermarket cashier finished scanning my purchases, she asked me a question I didn't understand. So I said “yes”, which seemed like a better answer than "beer" or "kiss". Afterwards, I was surprised when I discovered that my groceries had cost me more because I had just said yes to “el redondeo” (rounding up). Without realizing it, I was making a micro-donation at the supermarket checkout to a local NGO. I immediately adhered to this concept, which I wanted to implement when I got back to France.

  • What have you achieved with microDON?

To date, we have laid the groundwork to implement the first idea of microDON: rounding-up payments at the cash register. This is the big challenge for our start-up, and we are in the process of tackling it. Indeed, we just signed with a major retailer so that this type of donation can be offered in thousands of retail outlets across France. So far, we have collected almost €250,000, through both cash register and payroll donations. About twenty companies, including La Française des Jeux, Linkbynet and Accenture, offer their employees the ability to donate a few euros of their salary to a charity or an NGO.

  • The MIT35 has already awarded prizes to people such as Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) and Sergey Brin (co-founder of Google). So this is a globally recognised distinction that you have received. What is your reaction?

We are keeping both feet firmly on the ground and we accept this prize with humility. We are mainly concerned that there is still a long way to go before philanthropy takes on the importance it should have in France. But mentalities seem to be changing. This prize is proof, since the jury of MIT35 France considered that social innovation deserved to be recognised alongside technological innovation. The awards ceremony also gave me a chance to talk with the Minister of Higher Education and Research, Geneviève Fioraso, and tell her about the crucial role public funding tools, such as Oséo, can have. I hope that the high visibility of the MIT35 prize will enable us to get people talking about our concept on a very large scale, and in particular among human resources managers who want to set up the payroll donation system in their companies, as well as retailers, for rounding-up at the cash register.

  • What is your definition of entrepreneurship, and what are the challenges for social entrepreneurs?

At microDON, we believe that the terms “entrepreneurship” and “social” go together well. This is why we are working with the “Social Entrepreneurship Movement" (Mouves) to develop this concept promoting economic efficiency for the greater good. Our main challenge, like most entrepreneurs who operate in sectors such as ours, is, of course, fundraising. It's our daily task. We must also try to succeed in a legal and administrative context that is rather cumbersome and sometimes baffling, when what we really need is simplicity, to develop concepts that promote social entrepreneurship.

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