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Interview of Charlotte Ledoux, CEO at Vallai

Written by:

Estée Cogneau

Reading duration:5 min

2022-10-24

1. Can you tell us about your background?

"I have a scientific background in a general engineering school, INSA Lyon, which I completed with a specialized Master's degree at Centrale Paris in Industrial Project and Supply Chain Management. The master's degree enabled me to broaden my horizons and to focus more on the business world, strategy, innovation and accounting, which I had not been exposed to as much at INSA.

Then, I followed a very consulting path, the typical path of a curious person, who doesn't want to choose a sector of activity, who is not very determined in her choices, and who allows to touch everything. I stayed in consulting for about 8 years: first around supply chain management, then I specialized in data and AI, with a strong understanding of data strategies. I have accompanied profiles such as CDOs and DPOs in their reflections on privacy and data governance. And I also carried out use cases - stock optimisation, fraud detection for example - as a data project manager with data scientist and data engineer profiles, etc."

2. What made you want to create your startup?

"It was at Quantmetry, especially when I met Fouad, who made me want to continue our collaboration. We got along very well at work. We have very complementary profiles. I was on the more business and strategic aspects and he on the more technical and design aspects. It made me want to continue this collaboration, to go further together and to embark on the adventure of creating a startup. Moreover, we had seen that our clients' data projects were quite difficult to carry out within the organisation.

This made us want to do something but not just a platform, we wanted more than that. We wanted to have a broader vision that was a bit beyond us, as today in data, we are somewhat subdued, we only have American or Chinese solutions, etc. Why can't we become a player who can offer something on a European scale to enable companies to carry out data projects in a sovereign, more responsible way with a more European ethic that is different from what we can find in the United States and China? I think that this is the vision that we had in common quite early on and that we wanted to make a reality.”

3. What is your role at Vallai?

"I have the rather special role of CEO. Beyond the official title, it's a role that can give the impression of carrying the world on your shoulders. But it's also, and above all, a highly versatile role that requires you to have an eye for finance, strategy and sales considerations, as well as for how this is translated into the product. Although for this part I rely on my dear associates, it requires me to be global, to be versatile.

I must adapt very quickly from one problem to another, from one week to another. We ask ourselves completely different questions and we also must anticipate a lot. Anticipate what's going to happen in three months' time and how to make sure it goes well before everyone has thought about what's going to happen tomorrow.”

4. How do you see Vallai in 5 years? And in 10 years?

"In 5 years, I think we will have raised money, hopefully Seed and Series A rounds. We should have a good client portfolio and a sales machine that works. From a revenue generation point of view, of course, but also from the point of view of being able to recruit a certain number of people to form small teams that can work together on our various projects. So, logically, we will also have had major recruitment issues. In my opinion, in 10 years' time, I should be moving between offices in the four corners of the world if all goes well."

Estée: So you have plans to expand internationally and not just in Europe?

Charlotte: "Yes, yes."

5. As a woman in tech, would you have some words to share with us?

"I think there are a lot of clichés about how hard it's going to be, that you have to prove yourself three times more than a man. There are things that may be a bit true, in the sense that I've already done meetings and I realize that when I said something, I had the impression that nobody heard what I was saying, but when Fouad expressed it, even though we said almost the same thing, it was immediately understood. So yes, I've had that kind of surprise that we're not heard in the same way, that's for sure.

I think that there is this work, but that it is not inherent to tech, this problem can be found in all sectors of activity. In tech for me, you must find the right people who will support you, who will have understood that it is not a question of gender that allows you to understand the relevance of what is happening in this field. I think the female style must be different.

There is no need to copy what men do in terms of management or sales methodologies, etc. I think that on the contrary we have everything we need to invent new ways of doing things and managing with a more feminine style. We will be better off with more diversity. And I would like to take this opportunity to say that I am very committed to promoting women in technology. I've been co-organising the Paris Data Ladies meetup for several years now and I'm constantly looking for women to speak and present technical subjects, data, AI, etc."

6. Can you talk about the sustainability aspect of Vallai and the platform?

"What we include in our values and our vision is that sustainability encompasses several factors: environmental aspects, obviously, but also societal and economic aspects. I think that this global vision makes us make very strong choices, such as Scaleway as a cloud provider, because they have a commitment to the ecological impact of their data centers. They are extremely transparent about the emissions they emit and make sure to reduce them as much as possible. We also make very clear choices in terms of society, as we mentioned earlier: we ensure strong diversity in our recruitment.

On the more environmental aspect, the platform is intended to pool calculations, to pool efforts between several organisations to avoid "data waste" where each person makes the same calculations in their own corner. We end up making the same efforts to collect the data, calculate it, etc., three or four times, whereas if we did it only once in common between teams/partners, we would have real savings in terms of CO2.”

7. Any last words?

"Follow us on LinkedIn and subscribe to the Newletter (laughs)!"