Interview : Fouzia Fares and David Mérieau

It's a truly all-encompassing dynamic that is taking root and developing within Excelia

An entrepreneurial culture within the School


 "XL Entrepreneur, Impact Innovation" is one of the key elements of DEX, the experiential learning department, which aims to put experience at the heart of student development. A committee led by David Mérieau, Entrepreneurship Coordinator, assisted by Fouzia Fares, reviews and selects the projects that will benefit from individual support.
Fouzia Fares et David Mérieau
  Fouzia Fares and David Mérieau


XL Entrepreneur, what is it exactly?

"XL Entrepreneur, Impact Innovation", innovation with impact, is a personalised support service for Excelians from all programmes, Schools and campuses.  We offer a wide range of tools, mechanisms, workshops, events, networking opportunities, resources and, above all, time to all project leaders and business owners, as well as all those who want to become entrepreneurs without necessarily having a specific idea. Since the beginning of the academic year, we have taken part in a "Skills Challenge" and Hackathons in partnership with local business stakeholders, and yesterday saw the start of XL Entrepreneur Week, which is taking place 100% online until 19th November. The aim is to create healthy competition and inspiration amongst students, graduates and businesses.


Talking of time, how do you manage to divide yours between pedagogical responsibility for the new MSc specialisation in Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation and your role as Entrepreneurship Coordinator?

As a former regional incubator director covering five French departments, I have been supporting entrepreneurs for over 25 years. I now devote 3 days to running XL Entrepreneur and 2 days to the pedagogical part of this new Master of Science specialisation. Starting with 28 students for the first intake (13 on the Classic Track, 15 on the Work-study Track), this interdisciplinary and practical MSc specialisation, which is open to all entrepreneurs, prepares them with the professional certifications, expected by companies, for the jobs of company manager and project manager, two similar types of job. There is a real need, a real demand.


How do you select the projects which XL Entrepreneur supports?

The student candidates fill in project sheets which are reviewed by a committee. We select young people who are passionate and keen, who have an innovative project and who have an entrepreneurial attitude. The selection criteria involve looking at past results (academic, sporting, association involvement, etc.) and the project itself, which we assess for overall coherence, the relevance of the elements submitted, its level and innovative nature. Once we are convinced by a project, it's the students who create it, and we are there to support them every step of the way.


Nearly 200 people are being supported across the three campuses. What is the added value of XL Entrepreneur?

XL Entrepreneur emanates from a commitment by Excelia, a group dynamic, and the ambition to provide solutions and practical help to these young people who are eager to get involved, including by setting up their own company to promote values that may not yet exist in the current business environment. We are supported by the Excelia Foundation, one of whose philanthropic focusses is "responsible entrepreneurship", and we collaborate with the Alumni association, whose graduates are delighted to participate "at home". And we are very proud of the fact that these Alumni also speak at ESCP and HEC! The XL Entrepreneur track is interspersed with events, company visits, and rallies which encourage networking. The aim is to make our learners ambitious and realistic, and to prevent them from failing at certain stages. We succeed because we choose the right people at the right time.


You help promote innovation. How do you yourself innovate?

By believing that entrepreneurship is child's play for adults! For example, we're looking at the building of an innovative project management simulator, and we use a virtual reality headset for team building. We want to go further, but I won't reveal everything here as it will probably be the subject of a future article!


More about XL Entrepreneur