Startup accelerator Blaze is already completing its 3rd edition

© 2022 Changemakers x Blaze Award Ceremony EPFL

© 2022 Changemakers x Blaze Award Ceremony EPFL

The new accelerator for startups created by EPFL students, Blaze, concludes its third cohort in summer 2022, with a total of 25 startup projects to its name. A look back at the creation of the program with input from its entrepreneurs.

Launched in spring 2021 by the Launchpad startup within the Vice-Presidency for Innovation (VPI) at EPFL, the accelerator Blaze works with a group of promising student startup projects every semester with a view to having them incorporated and deployed on the market before the end of the three-month program. “This new support program aims to give our startups the tools they need to enter the market successfully, due in particular to coaching in business and design”, explains Margaux Pagès, manager of the student entrepreneurship program at EPFL. “EPFL also provides a non-dilutive ten thousand franc grant for each project. It is not linked to results and is purely to support the commercial deployment of the future company.”

The accelerator is currently on its third cohort and has supported 25 projects with a 50% incorporation rate. The participating startups have different profiles and recognize the importance of the coaching provided by the VPI team and its contacts: “We were able to benefit from coaching by an investor who helped us identify the main messages when we make a pitch to raise funds”, explains Nathan Sierro, a Masters student and COO of Nanodecoder, a deep tech startup which participated in Blaze in the fall of 2021. Nanodecoder is developing a product to identify counterfeit objects through biological nanopores, which are porous proteins able to detect the passage of certain molecules. “The Vice-Presidency for Innovation team’s network was also extremely useful in getting to know our market”, adds the entrepreneur.

The program attributes its success to its flexibility and the personalization of its offer of coaching to the different startups that commit to the program: “The program comprises a core of workshops held twice per month and personalized coaching based on an evaluation of each startup’s needs at the start of the program”, explains Margaux Pagès. “This flexibility is important to ensure the entrepreneurs’ commitment is compatible with the rhythm of their studies.”

The startups also benefit from the Vice-Presidency for Innovation’s vast network: “The advantage of Blaze is that, whatever our question, the accelerator team always finds someone to provide an answer”, explains Amael Parreaux-Ey, CEO of Resilio, a Blaze startup measuring the environmental impact of its client companies’ digital activities. “It enabled us to easily access support to manage the legal, equity sharing aspects, etc.”

The current Blaze cohort also has Pindex among its members, a startup developing an application to connect local inhabitants with travelers to provide the latter with the best possible recommendations for visits and experiences. Having joined Blaze, the Pindex team completely changed its approach to the problem it wanted to resolve: “Following several meetings with investors, we knew we needed a strategic U-turn to raise funds”, explains Timothée Duran, co-founder of the startup. “Blaze challenged us and provided us with the ideal opportunity to redefine and adapt our business model. We now aim to contact our first potential investors before the end of the program.”

With Blaze, the Vice-Presidency for Innovation says it wants to create a solution enabling rapid project deployment: “Current programs at the university are geared in particular to deep tech startups with a very strong research component requiring years of development. This accelerator mainly targets startups, which generally take less than six months from the idea to incorporation and product launch”, concludes Margaux Pagès.