Words by Nathalie Peyrichout & Marie Barvínková
“I was excited,” he says about the time he joined Creative Dock at the end of 2019 to lead the launch of the French office and business. Having worked in Société Générale for more than a decade, where his latest position was Head of Innovation, he was already well-versed in the field. “I knew a lot about innovation and was convinced that execution was now at the crux of the problem.”
Although certainly open to an innovative approach, Société Générale is one of the three oldest banks in France with a 150-year history. The Creative Dock model is naturally quite different. “I found that intriguing,” Pierre-Nicolas explains. “The way of thinking, developing, and pushing ideas. It has a very European feel and there’s a lot of diversity. We are transforming European talent into European jobs, which is also what I like to tell our French partners. And having a very diverse group of professionals creates opportunities, especially when you’re looking for fresh ideas or an expert in one area or another.” They might already be in the house.
Becoming visible, reassuring and memorable
The biggest challenge for Creative Dock France, he believes, is to introduce the idea of a Czech-born international “startup studio” to French decision makers who tend to be quite traditional. “To sell,” he puts it simply.
“It’s still new, so a big part of our job is educating people on what we do and how they will benefit from hiring us instead of doing the same kind of work internally or with their existing big names or local suppliers.” It requires some time and investments to be necessarily perceived as local while leveraging the whole capabilities of Creative Dock, he believes.
Joining two innovation focused ecosystems — the established Finance Innovation hub and the fresh-off-the-boat Insurtech France — should help reinforce Creative Dock’s visibility and overall position in the country. “Our goal is to develop a position on the French market that is so stable that even if there’s competition, we will be the ones who instantly pop up in the minds of potential clients.”
Digitalization: it’s now or never
There’s no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the rules of the game, but what does it mean for Creative Dock and its partners? “It’s impossible to generalize, but all in all, it has surely accelerated the need for digitalization. But also for trustful and solid partners in each market in which we operate” notes Pierre-Nicolas Patouillard.
Companies that were already considering going digital started to look into it much earlier than planned. In some cases, it did not work out due to a lack of financial resources. Others are actually thriving. But the reality of the pandemic has even affected some of the digital strategies that had already been in the works, he argues. “It has sped up their development; they had to launch earlier.”
There’s no scaling without researching Creative Dock France is planning a launch of their own — with none other than Société Générale. Mutumutu, the innovative, fully online insurance service, which has already proven successful in Czechia, will enter the French market in a matter of months.
The key to scaling? “Good research,” believes Pierre-Nicolas. “You need to look into the competition, look into possible target groups and identify their pain points. You need to gain a deep understanding of the subject in the particular local regulatory and competitive environment.” Rather a demanding to-do list, but it’s certainly not meant to discourage. Au contraire! “The French market is a key market. In terms of size, for sure, but also in terms of maturity. It is a source of inspiration for projects and a source of talents for the whole Creative Dock network.”