Interview with Morane Rey-Huet
The life of Morane Rey-Huet, co-founder of Meersens, a company that markets an intelligent tracking device for pollutants, toxic substances and other allergens in the everyday environment, feels just like something out of the American Dream As a high school student, he went to Portland, Oregon, where he obtained his bachelor's degree. A few years later, he graduated as an engineer from the Institut national polytechnique (INP) in Grenoble, before earning a master's degree from the Colorado Mining School. Computer science, data mining, deep learning and Silicon Valley ? "For me it was rather Boston Valley, Harvard, Yale, MIT!"
In 2000, he began a career as an IT consultant at Pfizer and Belcom in the United States. One of his first bosses noted his entrepreneurial leanings quite early on. Intuition ? maybe... Almost twenty years later, Meersens, the start-up he co-founded in Lyon at the end of 2017 with Louis Stockreisser, Director of Information Services, was awarded an Innovation Award at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January 2019 in the category "Tech for a Better World".
Morane Rey-Huet, Secretary General of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Regional Committee of Foreign Trade Advisors for France, has never really recovered from the "international bbug". After working in Japan for Pfizer, he joined Schneider Electric and found himself in India, where he developed "Industry and automation" projects. Staying in one place for too long is certainly not his cup of tea. "When I get into a comfort zone for too long, I know it's time for me to change." And go somewhere else...
Off to Shanghai, where he became Vice President Marketing of Schneider's Power division in China. The first of his two children was born in 2008, at the time of the Chinese contaminated milk scandal. This was a key event for him. "For the first time I began to appreciate the scale of the risk of exposure to immediate environmental factors and their possible impacts on our health". According to the WHO*, nearly 13 million deaths per year are directly linked to environmental factors. The key idea behind Meersens was merely a seed at this point, and the manager first chose to experience life in an SME (Small to Medium size Enterprise). He joined the family group Aldes, who were looking to grow...Internationally, of course ! It was a challenge successfully met: etxrenal markets were now boosting the company's growth, and its president was a loyal supporter of Meersens.
(*) WHO, "Preventing disease through healthy environments", May 2016.
Morane Rey-Huet's philosophy is similar to that of the hummingbird legend: each of us can do our part to create a sustainable future.
The name of the start-up is, moreover, an animal story.
It is inspired by the English word "meerkat", a small mammal that is always on alert, because Meersens defines itself as "the guardian of your health", but from the perspective of prevention. An alliance of AI, open data and the Internet of Things, the solution includes a free smartphone app, Meersens, a mobile connected case, the MBox, and biosensors, called mSens. It enables the monitoring of pullutants in the surrounding environment and provides guidance to reduce their effects, depending on the profile of the user. Nothing escapes it : air quality, water quality, UV, radiation, noise, pesticides, allergens,, endocrine disruptors...
"Our strength is in blanketing the entire exposome and offering personalized solutions", the entrepreneur underlines. Modular, the MBox can equipped with different biosensors according to need. The scheme is deployed within companies - 80% of the activity is B-to-B, 20% B-to-C - and is of particular interest to cities, whose attractiveness is increasingly linked to the quality of their urban environments.
Will it be the European unicorn of tomorrow ? With more than 300 million possible users of the product, Meersens has great potential, says its president, boosted by the CES Innovation Award, "which certainly helps with visibility".
While its initial target markets are France and the United States, Meersens intends to target China by 2020. "We want to be the EAAS* of the environment and become an aggregator of all types of environmental data", confirms Morane Rey-uet. After a first funding round €300,000 in 2018, a second of €5 million has just been launched for the end of 2019. The main investors will certainly be American and Chinese, says the entrepreneur, who spends a third of funds on R&D. "In te future, biosensors will be integrated into the smartphone case, and the interface with the app will be via vocal command".
(*) Exposome as a service
"We can't succeed on our own, insists Morane Rey-Huet, but with a talented team of four and a benevolent local ecosystem of public and private actors, including Bpifrance1, banks, local authorities, research laboratories, universities and partner companies, everything is possible." All these actors believe in the combined genius of collective effort. In his view, the app is the Waze2 of health, because its effectiveness and development also depend on the user commuity. Rather like an "Early-Warning" system itself...
(1) French public investment bank. (2) Community GPS app for motorists.