Thomas Laporte, co-founder of HyLight: a decisive exchange with Berkeley
Published on 2023.03.23
Thomas Laporte, a 2022-graduate of the Grande Ecole Program, co-founded HyLight, a startup acting for the decarbonization of airborne data collection, by replacing helicopters and planes with airships.
What is your academic background ?
I started by studying Law at the Panthéon-Assas University. I was lucky enough to come across entrepreneurs of Legaltechs. When I saw how motivated these people were about their projects, I realized that I wanted to be an entrepreneur myself. I applied to several business schools, and I chose emlyon for its strong entrepreneurial spirit. As I was taking my first year at emlyon, I passed my Master 1 in Corporate Law. In 2021-2022, for my second year at emlyon, I was selected for the program dedicated to entrepreneurship in technology & innovation, in partnership with UC Berkeley and the Schoolab, an international innovation studio.
Why did you choose to go on an exchange at UC Berkeley? What did you learn from that experience?
I wanted to learn more about innovation, launching a project and raising funds. What better place to learn how to launch projects in innovation than UC Berkeley in the Silicon Valley? The program was crystal clear on what it takes to go for and built a project. In every class I took, we had to build a complete project from A to Z. We had to step out of our comfort zones, introduce our projects in front of professionals, and that is what I was drawn to.
I learned so much from these exchanges:
- the cultural differences between the USA and Europe, taking risks, exchanging, the way we had to introduce ourselves and our projects;
- knowing how to launch innovation projects and proceed to fundraising;
- meeting inspiring people, including other students with impressive backgrounds and an outstanding entrepreneurial spirit. They pushed me in going one step further each time, until I built my own start-up, HyLight, supported by SkyDeck, Berkeley's start-up accelerator program.
That is where I met the three engineers who were to become my co-founders, and with whom I shared ambitions and the will to build projects with impact. First it was Théo Hoenen, in the program, then Martin Bocken and Josef Rokusek. I saw in them the qualities I didn't have, and I knew we could mutually push each others to give the best of ourselves.
What does HyLight do ? Why a project with impact ?
HyLight acts for the decarbonization of airborne data collection. Today, there are many airborne data collected. It is a very costly activity which can nevertheless be crucial from an environmental point of view. For instance, we use helicopters and planes to identify methane leaks along 2.2 millions of kilometers of gas pipelines in Europe or for forest protection against fire disasters.
The need to inspect our world is increasingly growing to better understand and protect it. To do that job, we have created and developed a new type of drone-airships inflated with hydrogen, able to fly and collect precision data for hours, with no emission of greenhouse gases. This allows for data collection over large tracks of land, which was impossible up until now. We can now imagine protecting our forests day and night as we are able to notify firefighters of any fire outbreak right from the start.
HyLight is primarily positioned as a control of energy infrastructures such as pipelines, power lines, but are soon to expend to other uses.
I couldn't imagine launching anything but a startup acting for the decarbonization of our activities. Climate change is the biggest challenge we have to face, and we need as many people acting against it as possible. It's one of my ways to act on it and contribute.
t le plus grand défi auquel nous faisons face et nous avons besoin qu'un maximum de personnes agisse. C'est une de mes manières d'agir et de participer.
What do you make of your track at emlyon ?
emlyon genuinely gave me the certainty that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. The “project” mode in which many courses were called on, the bonds forged between people sharing a vision and a goal, all reinforced my determination to want to launch a startup as a team.
Thanks to all the academic and professional experiences of the Grande Ecole Program, I have learned how to manage a project, how to conduct a benchmark, how to identify potential customers and how to convince them.
What would you say to someone interested in entrepreneurship ?
First of all, make sure there is a need, by rapidly confronting your idea with professionals of the market, in order to redesign your project and fine-tune the value proposition based on their feedback. Always go back to customers to have their opinions.
And most importantly: go straight for it ! Make mistakes. Start again. In this interview, I'm talking about HyLight, but there are all the other projects and ideas which did not make it. Behind every entrepreneur who seems to be successful, there is a mountain of failed projects. So start building that mountain!