My year at the Studio by Skyld
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My year at the Studio by Skyld

Immerse yourself in the story of a year of entrepreneurial exploration in ISS program, through alumni testimonies. Whether they created an innovative business at the end or not, everyone experienced an engaged, enriching and personal year. Listen to them and discover through the videos and interviews, their challenges, highlights and major learnings; without forgetting the power of the meetings that make the history of startups.

Marie Paindavoine: “The biggest challenge is moving from a Powerpoint to a business”

Skyld : parcours de Marie Paindavoine

During her thesis, Marie Paindavoine was never encouraged to take up the challenge of entrepreneurship. She was quickly confronted with the startup ecosystem, its jargon and its codes to master. With the help of Inria Startup Studio, she nevertheless managed to meet the challenge of changing posture by creating Skyld, a startup which secures embedded AI systems. Explanations.

Securing algorithms on embedded systems

Protect the artificial intelligence algorithms most exposed to attacks and reverse engineering attempts, namely those installed on embedded systems such as smartphones, smart objects, cameras, drones, etc. while ensuring that encryption does not prevent the programs from running correctly. This is the whole point of the offer from Skyld, a startup hosted within Inria’s Startup Studio, which designs a development kit for manufacturers wanting to protect the results of their R&D.

“I joined Inria’s startup studio from June 2022 to May 2023. This daily support from which I benefited on the Rennes site, as well as the boards organized every fortnight, allows me to gain height and ask the right questions to structure a project which, at the start, continues to evolve. It’s a good way to not get lost.”

Journey of a researcher

“I was able to collaborate with Inria researchers on the subjects of cyberdefense and artificial intelligence, which both allows technical progress and helps build credibility,” explains Marie Paindavoine. If Skyld today benefits from the experience of its creator, she was however far from destined for a career as an entrepreneur, without wanting to confine herself to purely academic work.

After a Cifre thesis (Industrial training agreements through research), carried out at Orange and at the University of Lyon on homomorphic encryption and defended in 2017, she worked successively on behalf of Renault then Famoco, a startup specializing in telephony, always on subjects of cybersecurity and data encryption. She took advantage of confinement to reflect on the subject of securing AI, a theme that would lead her to create Skyld.

From cryptography doctor to entrepreneur

Skyld : parcours de Marie Paindavoine
© Inria / BLCORP

The challenges of transition

But although she already has some business experience, the new CEO admits that it has not always been easy to put on the costume of an entrepreneur. However, Marie now masters the vocabulary specific to her new status: “Having studied applied mathematics, I was more encouraged to publish my research work than to create a business. During my first professional experiences, I did not really have the market vision of the companies for which I worked. I had to meet entrepreneurs for the idea to take shape. But I let this project mature for several months, returning to a salaried position for greater security.”

Inria startup studio will then offer them the support and means necessary to set up an activity: “The challenge for new entrepreneurs is to structure their business, their product and the way in which they will be able to monetize it, particularly when they have a very technical or scientific. There is a tendency to want to make the most beautiful technology possible. Such incubation structures allow entrepreneurs to learn that it is easier to develop technology that you have already sold, rather than selling technology that you have always wanted to develop!

It takes a certain amount of time and numerous discussions to understand the needs of your prospects and how to approach them without having too high a customer acquisition cost. In other words, the biggest challenge is going from a powerpoint to a business. Thanks to the Studio, I was able to recruit an engineer who worked on prototyping while I explored the market, but also trained me in management, cash management and company resources…”

Skyld’s expansion

Today, Marie Paindavoine has come a long way since the doubts she felt when formalizing her business plan a year ago: “I was asked to create a roadmap for three or five years, I almost had the impression of use a crystal ball to make my predictions. The boards were very beneficial in this regard, as was the financial assistance provided by ISS.”

Help that offers time and more peace of mind to the entrepreneur: “It’s essential to know that you will be able to develop in good conditions, especially when you have children. This is one of the big obstacles to female entrepreneurship,” indicates the CEO, who thanks to the support of ISS, was able to build a solid application to join the SkyDeck accelerator at the University of Berkeley in the United States. -United States, whose selection is particularly strict, since less than 2% of applications are accepted.

Thanks to this first fundraising, Skyld will continue its development, in particular by recruiting doctors in AI and cybersecurity. Marie Paindavoine’s objective is to set up a research laboratory capable of monitoring the rapid evolution of the machine learning market, identifying flaws and possible attacks and putting suitable solutions into production. As for the potential market, it is immense: “Our system protects the algorithm, regardless of its use cases,” indicates the entrepreneur.

Check out Marie’s video now!

Did you miss it? Read the article by Brij Srivastava, co-founder of Nijta and Thibault Lenard, co-founder and CEO of Operys.

Publication date: 15/03/2024

Tags: Entrepreneur Founder Researcher Startup

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