Meet the Board Series - Romain Marmot, board member of French Tech Boston

Romain is the Founding CEO of Voluntis and is a board member of French Tech Boston. He took a few minutes to tell us more about his story.

Please meet Romain Marmot!

In a few words, can you tell us who is Romain Marmot ?

I’m an entrepreneur – this is what I’ve done for the last 20 years, first from Paris, France then in Boston. I’ve created Voluntis, a company specialized in digital therapeutics – a new category of software products that provide support to chronic disease patients related to their treatment. I’m a dog lover and a diehard rugby fan which leaves me just enough time to support the Pats, Sox, Bruins and Celts.

How did your story with French Tech Boston start ?

Over my entrepreneur years, I’ve received quite a lot of support from various members of the business community. I wanted to give it back especially to people that could benefit from my experience starting a company in Europe and then in the US. That is why a few years ago I joined the local chapter of the French Foreign Trade Advisors (often referred to as “Les CCE” in French) – a nonprofit organization where French executives are volunteering their time to do exactly that. Then, in early 2018, I had the opportunity to initiate the French Tech Boston project and convince local partners (the Consulate, Business France, FACCNE and my own CCE organization) to support the project. We were just missing a new leader for this initiative – along came Emmanuel, our current president, who accepted the challenge!

Can you tell us more about your role at French Tech Boston ?

As a board member of FTB, my main focus is on orchestrating our healthtech track which regroups companies from the biotech, medtech and digital health industries. We are glad to have been selected as the US hub for healthtech within the la French Tech movement, and are working on strengthening this booming ecosystem across the country.

Why did you decide to expand Voluntis in Boston ? / There are so many tech hubs in the US, why did you choose Boston? 

When you’re in the life sciences industry, it’s a no-brainer: the US market is your biggest opportunity and Boston is the #1 hub. Its ecosystem in our domain is unmatched: companies, academia, health systems, investors, etc. Additionally, digital health was identified as a key component of Massachusetts’ economic development plan signed by Governor Baker in 2015. Beyond these advantages, quality of life and proximity to Europe have been key factors in our decision.

" In the life sciences industry [...] Boston is the #1 hub. "

Can you tell us  more about the French Foreign Trade Advisors ?

Absolutely. We are a group of ca. 45 French C-level executives in New England appointed by the French Government to help French companies grow their activity here. We are all volunteers coming from various business backgrounds and with - on average - 10 years’ experience doing business in the US. We also have other missions such as helping young leaders develop their career abroad and promote France’s attractiveness as a business destination. And of course, we are proud founding partners of French Tech Boston.

Tell us about support from other French institutions: FACCNE, French Consulate, Business France? Any recommendations?

Working with these organizations have been critical to the success of French Tech Boston. They all fulfill important missions to support the local business ecosystem. As an entrepreneur myself, I know it’s sometimes confusing to deal with multiple groups. But I know by experience that each brings a complementary contribution and that different startups have different needs and will find help from different partners. In Boston, we all work together to make sure that companies and entrepreneurs can find the right support – and French Tech Boston plays an important role in triaging these needs as well.

Do you have any recommendations for French entrepreneurs and for starting a business in Boston? 

It’s all about the team. VCs can potentially invest in an average business concept led by a great team, never the opposite. The good news is that here you will find all the talents you need. However, be prepared to pay big money for these talents, make sure you are well funded. Another recommendation I always make to foreign entrepreneurs I meet here: relocate one of the cofounders. You need someone here who understand your business perfectly, will experience firsthand the market feedback and have authority to ask for the necessary adjustments to the product, strategy, messaging, etc.

What would you have liked to know before arriving or at your arrival that you missed? 

It’s sometimes hard for a European entrepreneur to understand how diverse the US are. We have a tendency to look at it as one integrated market and underestimate local variations such as state regulations. Something else that people often underestimate are the cultural differences with Europe: it’s obviously a fantastic opportunity for our company. But years after relocating here, I’m still paying extra attention to making sure our teams are not overlooking these differences.

" Cultural differences with Europe: it’s a fantastic opportunity for our company "

What do you love with Boston/ US market ?

Boston is such a vibrant business ecosystem – I’m amazed by the number and the quality of new businesses that are setting shop here. It’s a real pleasure to be part of this community and work with such talented individuals. Having winning teams in all four major pro sports is also a big plus!

Thank you very much Romain, we wish you a successful and happy new year!

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