We interviewed Amaël Cohades, the CEO and co-founder of CompPair as one of the award winners from Tech Tour’s programmes in 2021.
Q: Introduce yourself and tell us more about your current position as CEO of the company?
AC: After my engineering studies in Materials Science, I pursued with a PhD in the field of self-healing composites. This PhD was the birth of CompPair, and I decided to take on the CEO role to convey my passion for this technology and its high potential to anyone that would be linked to this fabulous venture. It’s hard to describe the CEO role as it touches so many aspects of the company, but overall my goal is to ensure that all aspects run smoothly, that everyone (both internals and externals) can grow fast with CompPair and that the composites industry can enjoy the benefits of our products as soon as possible. My additional background in management and entrepreneurship as well as my experience as consultant for JEC group enable to complement well my skills to run my CEO role in the best conditions.
Q:What keeps you up at night?
AC: Driven by bringing full circularity to the composites industry, ensuring that my team is in the best conditions to perform is what keeps me up at night.
Q: Tell us about your product? What problem is it solving and what makes your solution unique?
AC: Answering problems of durability and sustainability, CompPair drastically reduces maintenance costs, improves recycling of composite parts while keeping standard specifications. CompPair products, HealTechTM being the first in the portfolio, are preimpregnated textiles integrating a novel chemistry to produce healable and sustainable composites, extending their lifetime, and improving circularity. Our solution is fully industrialized, and we currently have implementations in the sports and marine sectors. In the long term, we will expand the product portfolio to hit the entire industry, including space, wind energy and the automotive industry. Indeed, we already have some collaborations in place that will lead to some exciting breakthrough in the near future.
Q: How did you start your journey and where are you now on the road to achieve your ambition?
AC: Our journey started following my PhD thesis, and building the first real parts with this technology, an aerospace part and a surfboard, in the basements of Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne. We then industrialized thechnologically the manufacturing of our semi-products with the technology and with some first commercial traction, we were ready for a seed fundraising in 2021. Our ambition is to capture the maximum value of this technology on the market and to compete with major semi-product providers in a market potential of 90 $bn. We currently have one product family in the portfolio, and working with over 20 partners on first implementation pilots. But our road does not stop here. We are continuing to acquire strong implementation partners to grow our sales, and are working to bring product families n°2-3-4 this year to reinforce our business model. Although the first part production series will be available most probably for sports, we are working with partners in the field of wind and space where benefits of our products are also huge, but where the time to reach the market is much longer. To achieve the ambitions and continue our road towards full circularity in the composites industry, we are looking for our next fundraising this year.
Q: Can you share a story of a client using your product/service and what influence it had to them?
AC: Due to their lightweight nature, Gunboat’s cladding panels regularly get dented during production as well as during the lifetime of the boat. Each dent takes up to 2 days to be repaired, requiring valuable resources, and immobilizing the yacht. Primary tests performed at La Grande-Motte show that dents on HealTechTM panels can be repaired in 2 minutes without impacting the paintwork. Now, Gunboat and CompPair are partnering to test HealTechTM panels in real situation on Gunboat’s 6805 (launching in March 2022).
Q: What is your company’s biggest achievement to date?
AC: Our seed round because this consolidated many things and reinforced our company’s goals: market traction, technology industrialization, and most importantly a wonderful team sharing the same vision to achieve our ambition.
Q: What was the tipping point that made you a doer and impacted your vision?
AC: Back in 2018, a strong industrial actor that made me realize that my labscale technology will be a game changer for this industry, both economically and ecologically. And that’s where my values could match a strong company venture vision.
Q: How do you see your company making a difference in the future?
AC: The high-tech industrial field is willing to change their best practices for a more sustainable future, nevertheless, they are most of the time not accepting compromises. With CompPair we are bringing this opportunity, and by extending our product portfolio, this key particularity can hit globally the industry and structural applications we are using globally on a dailly basis.
Q: How is the current situation impacting your business? What is your company’s immediate response to the situation? What are the alternatives (products, services) you are now thinking on?
AC: Building a company and a team during the COVID pandemic has been a real challenge, but we managed to have a strong cohesion, and this is for me a wonderful achievement. In our field, trade fairs are contributing to a major part of new deals; therefore, we had to find innovative methods to catch customers both inbound and outbound. With our increased market credibility with these actors, we are now looking forward to a “normal” situation again. One specific element of the pandemic that made our strategy evolve is the sustainability aspects and targets our customers did put in place. This element made us hire a sustainability manager that is now fully dedicated to quantify the impact of changing customer materials to CompPair products.
Q: How did Tech Tour help you on your journey? What is most the most useful part of our programmes for you?
AC: Tech Tour enabled us to meet new investment leads, but also refine our story telling, and our presentation material. Specifically, the pitch to investors was the most useful for us.