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Interview: François Vulser, head of the La Canopée competition

Ampoule avec une feuille à l'intérieur

The Canopée competition is a very important national competition for the wood industry and innovation within this industry. We asked some questions to François Vulser, responsible for the competition.

Can you introduce yourself? What is your background?

Hello, my name is François Vulser and I am the manager of La Canopée competition. I studied entrepreneurship at Neoma Business School and discovered the forestry and wood industry by chance.

After a failed attempt to develop a mobile application for travelers, for which we had not succeeded in convincing potential investors, I wanted to meet the world of investors to better understand their expectations by doing an internship at France Angels (National Federation of Business Angels). That’s where I met Forinvest Business Angels, a network of investors in the forestry and wood industry. I was immediately intrigued by the sector of activity and was able to join them later to develop their network.

What brought you to work with the La Canopée competition?

After two years at Forinvest, where I was able to interact with many innovative projects, I decided to launch the La Canopée competition. Indeed, I was able to attend a large number of elevator pitch competitions during my internship at France Angels and I found that this type of competition was missing in the forestry and wood industry. Afterwards, I was lucky enough to have a lot of internal and external support to develop this idea.

What role does it play in the wood industry and in the field of eco-construction?

I think that it contributes to bring a positive image to the sector and in fine to democratize the use. The competition has also allowed us to make many connections and one of the projects has already received an investment from Forinvest Business Angels. However, we must remain humble, it is a first edition and there are areas for improvement.

What difficulties do you encounter on a daily basis in the exercise of your mission?

It was a sporty start because the objective of the competition was also to carry out a collective project. It was not always easy to convince with words alone, so we had to move forward in a blur before the launch.

Then there was the stress of the call for applications. The first month we had only about 20 applications, while a month later the call was closed. So there is the fear of being wrong and not having enough projects for the competition.

I also had to learn new skills for organizing elevator pitch sessions in the four cities we went to. There are all the aspects related to the event and the organization: the reservation of the rooms, the recording, the cocktail, the online registrations, the timing… And then there is also the management of the animation of the events where I was a speaker.

Finally today, I would like to launch a second edition but we are going through an important crisis, so it is more complicated to find financial partners, which I understand perfectly but I remain convinced that our competition can contribute to the development of the sector in our society.

What successes can you look forward to?

Our competition now has more than seventy partners and we are proud to have received more than one hundred and forty applications. The projects that we were able to listen to were all of high quality. The feedback is very positive or constructive. So it’s really nice to go back and think that a year ago this contest was just a Powerpoint presentation.

How can you describe the evolution of the projects that have received an award?

Knowing that the final had to be postponed because of the confinement, I do not have the necessary hindsight to speak about evolution. I also think that the situation is complicated for a lot of projects.

Do you think that in terms of innovation, wood is a material of the future? Why?

I have just spent my last year with convinced project leaders, who give one hundred percent and who work on a wide variety of subjects. It gives you confidence in the future to see all this energy and all these ideas. Then I would say yes of course!

And then my position in the competition allowed me to discover a great number of innovations but also to realize that innovation is not necessarily where we expect it, that it is present at all levels, whether it is among manufacturers, startups, students or researchers. There is therefore a strong desire on the part of all players to develop the use of the material.

To answer the “Why”, I invite all those who will read this exchange, to follow us on the networks to know the exact date of the final and to come! You will attend the presentation of thirteen projects that innovate in all sectors of the forestry-wood industry and I am sure that this will answer the why.

A big thank you to François Vulser for this interview!

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