François Blondel's network (portrait) - Companies

François Blondel’s network (portrait) – Companies

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Do not say “investor” or “business angel” but “entrepreneur”. François Blondel holds to this appellation for the dimension of personal involvement it contains. He is involved not only in “his” companies but also more broadly in the Belgian economic fabric.

Business captains who call themselves “entrepreneurs at heart”, you can come across a lot of them. But very few are those who join the action to the speech in such a striking way as François Blondel. At the end of the last century, he preferred, at the end of the last century, the vagaries of piloting a small company based in Seneffe which had not yet produced any products. on the market. “It was perhaps a considerable risk (he was then the father of four young children, Editor’s note), I was sometimes taken for a fool but I never regretted this decision, he says. J I had in me, pegged to the body, the desire to undertake.”

Business captains who call themselves “entrepreneurs at heart”, you can come across a lot of them. But very few are those who join the action to the speech in such a striking way as François Blondel. At the end of the last century, he preferred, at the end of the last century, the vagaries of piloting a small company based in Seneffe which had not yet produced any products. on the market. “It was perhaps a considerable risk (he was then the father of four young children, Editor’s note), I was sometimes taken for a fool but I never regretted this decision, he says. J I had in me, pegged to the body, the desire to undertake.” After 10 years spent at Petrofina, where he had notably acquired a magnificent experience of several years in Texas, François Blondel therefore submitted his resignation to join what was not yet called a start-up. IBt then employed about ten people and aimed to develop radioactive implants, used in the treatment of prostate cancer. It was Philippe Janssens (Awex expert) who put him in contact with the scientists behind the IBt project. “Without realizing it, he helped me take the big leap,” says François Blondel, who once again collaborated with Philippe Janssens, notably at Celyad (at the time Cardio 3) and Nanocyl. “I knew everything at IBt, continues our interlocutor. R&D, of course, but also, after the launch of the product, the growth of the company, the industrial shift, sales, the creation of subsidiaries, the listing in Scholarship, etc. It was really an exceptional period.” From this adventure, he retains links with personalities such as Jean Stéphenne, Jean-Pierre Delwart (ex-Eurogentec) or Herman Wielfaert (Crea Fund) who were administrators of IBt and are still active in the world of life sciences. The story ended 10 years later with a tumultuous takeover of the company by the German company Eckert & Ziegler. François Blondel could have come out sorry. But the man prefers to look ahead. “This takeover was almost a blessing for me, he concedes. Without it, I would not have lived my third professional life. In the journey of an entrepreneur, there are so many pitfalls that if you’re not deeply enthusiastic and optimistic – which doesn’t mean naive – you don’t stand a chance.” François Blondel’s third professional life could have been that of a consultant and company administrator, anxious to widely share his business experience. It is then found at Bois Sauvage, Recticel and others. “Very quickly, I realize that I was wrong, he says. Adviser does not suit me, I want to be in the action, at the helm and see the results.” This is how he will in some way reproduce the IBt adventure by reinvesting the value created by this company in other entrepreneurial projects in the field of life sciences in Wallonia. When he reviews his various projects, François Blondel does not dwell on scientific innovation, discovery or the product. But on people. “I invest according to my encounters, he insists. A professional life is above all worth by those we meet. This human interaction is discovery, sharing, solidarity. The team is is the key to entrepreneurial success. It takes human chemistry to work. If you have the right team, you will succeed, even with a fairly average product or service. On the other hand, without the right team, even the best products will not work.” The meeting with Jean-Pol Detiffe gave OncoDNA; the one with Carl Mestdagh, Kitozyme, the one with Houtaï Choumane, KiOmed; the one with Cédric Szpirer, Delphi Genetics. The meetings even go beyond the strict framework of health since François Blondel has invested in fire protection (Incendin and Ubiteq) with Saïd Rachidi, a young chemist crossed paths with the Certech research center or more recently in the e-commerce site for products healthy Kazidomi with Emna Everard. “Do not say that I am a business angel, I do not like this angelism too much, specifies François Blondel. I am an entrepreneur. Investing in SMEs requires a strong involvement, on a daily basis or almost.” The story should not end anytime soon since the capital gain generated by the sale of Delphi Genetics to the Catalent group (in February 2021 for 55 million dollars) should be reinvested, thus setting in motion “a virtuous spiral for the economic fabric regional”. The desire to give back to his country and his region is manifest in François Blondel. His entrepreneurial passion, he tries to share it by also getting involved in bodies like YPO (Young President Organization) or “40 under 40”. “I find in these young entrepreneurs the enthusiasm and curiosity that have always inspired me, he says. The place of the entrepreneurial spirit is incomparable with what we knew 20 years ago. Today, developing a start-up is part of the dream of many and it’s a great thing.” In these cenacles, he meets people like Pierre Marcolini, Christophe Gilain (TPF), Paul Haelterman (Carlsberg imports), Dominique Leroy (Deutsche Telekom), François Mairlot (Magetra), José Zurstrassen (M80), Philippe Van Damme (Argifral) , Laurent Levaux (Aviapartner, Sogepa), Julien Compère (FN Herstal) or Eric Everard (Easyfairs). He also advises Hors Norme, the network of (young) entrepreneurs launched by Clémence Braun. It is also involved in more traditional organizations such as the Union wallonne des entreprises, Essencia, Biowin or Awex. Was he ever tempted to go a step further and set foot in the political world? “I have contacts, and sometimes really very good ones, with personalities from all sides, he replies. I use them to send messages, nothing replaces direct contact. But politics is not for me. I have a unifying profile.” We will therefore not have the details of his political contacts, so as not to offend anyone… Reading this journey, we see that François Blondel is clearly not the man of a single project. “There are so many things to do and as I am curious by nature…”, he smiles. It was already this need for diversity which, at university (UCLouvain), had led him to study economics alongside his law studies. From that time, he maintained close ties with André-Xavier Cooreman (member of the AvH management committee) and Patrick van Ypersele (parliamentary collaborator of Les Engagés, ex-cdH), with whom he goes on a hike of several days. Generally in Belgium because, we haven’t told you yet, but François Blondel loves his country. He does not speak of anchoring but downright “of love”. “I have traveled to more than 80 countries, I have backpacked around the world at the end of my studies and if I have to remember one thing, it is the incredible happiness of living in Belgium, concludes- it. You may have to go a long way to realize this, but we truly live in a land of plenty.” And if there were a few more serial entrepreneurs, it would undoubtedly help this country to remain as pleasant to live in.

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