Tell us about your background - when you were younger, what did you want to do?
A few years ago, I would (humbly) respond "I save lives" to people asking me what I did for a living. Unfortunately, my interlocutors would all end up asking whether I'm a firefighter or a doctor. Well kind of a mix of the two - I work in Fire Safety and I happen to be a "doctor" in science as I have a PhD... So much for a funny introduction!
For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be an engineer, to solve complex problems and develop products that would be used in real life. As a kid I was really keen on electronics and computers and trying to understand them, even from a young age. This fascination with tech never left me and here I am now, developing both hardware and software to be used for maintaining Fire Alarm Systems.
When I started developing tech and working within the Fire Safety industry eight years ago, I noticed that there was something missing - that something being regulatory environment norms: on the equipment, for installation and for maintenance operations. It was quickly made clear to me that once you read and understood these rigid rules, you could understand where innovation was possible and then offer better services to your clients. From here, I explored this opportunity for innovation and went on to start my own company to offer customers a better experience in Fire Safety.
Outside of work, I have always been one to enjoy a physical challenge and I find my motivation stems from hands-on and technical projects. Over the years, these have taken the form of competing in races and triathlons, or even renovating apartments, from laying the concrete to wiring the electric circuitry. This enjoyment and motivation has followed me into my career and with my passion for creating and developing software and hardware. What also motivates me is travelling and exchanging ideas with new people, which working for WeMaintain has allowed me to do. I look forward to the days when we can all do this again soon!
I began my career training as an engineer and continued on to acquire a PhD in Material Science and Engineering. My experience in the trade was learnt at a French manufacturer of fire alarm equipment, where I worked for five years. After spending this time learning and gathering knowledge on the industry, I realised a couple of things:
- Manufacturers that operate Fire Alarm Systems services develop specific tools for their own teams that work on their own specific equipment. Other independent maintenance service companies do not have access to these tools to carry out maintenance on this equipment.
- There is no uniform way to do maintenance on Fire Alarm Systems. It’s almost as if I was to tell you that there is a different written report, produced in a different format, for each of a single client’s different sites.
The bottom line is, maintenance processes within the Fire Safety industry have barely evolved over the past 40 years, having remained extremely manual, time consuming and inconsistent. The client unfortunately has also been kept in the dark about the different verifications that are conducted on their equipment.
I left this French SME with the ambition to create the leading “smart building” company, starting with the industry I knew the best: Fire Safety. With this purpose, I wanted to address the above flaws I had discovered in the maintenance market, and provide a better understanding to clients on their buildings. And so, Shokly was born!
At Shokly I developed two key things to innovate the market:
- A tool to automate maintenance operations and gain reliability:
This consists of an IoT module that connects to a building’s fire control panel, simultaneously communicating with a mobile app that the engineer has on their phone, to test detectors, manual call points and actuators. This process means that instead of engineers travelling back and forth between devices and the fire alarm panel to check that each respective device is functioning properly, the engineer is able to carry out this verification both instantaneously and remotely via his mobile app.
- A fire alarm management solution:
The same IoT device is permanently connected to a building’s fire control panel, acting as a 24-hour supervision solution and gathering activity data in real time. Customers can consult this information at any time from an online dashboard and in the event of a default, the engineer and the customer are immediately notified and intervention can be carried out quickly.
In addition to this, I had also started another company on the side with a good friend of mine. This company complimented Shokly, and offered customers a one-stop-shop for all fire system maintenance equipment, including spare parts, equipment testing, and a knowledge base. The company, DIEL, is still operating today and continuing to grow!
Why did you join WeMaintain?
While mid-way through developing the service aspect of Shokly, an old school friend of mine, Romain Bordier, introduced me to the founders of WeMaintain, Jade, Benoit and Tristan. At the time, Romain was the Head of Operations, and WeMaintain was in its second year of operating.
Straight away I noticed similarities between both Shokly and WeMaintain, but what interested me the most was our similar company visions. A priority for me and Shokly was to focus on the customers needs and increase the level of service, where prior to this, the customer had always received shabby service and was kept in the dark about the performance of their assets. Secondly, to deliver this high quality service, I wanted to empower the engineers in the field with the technology to do so. These were two common values that I saw WeMaintain possessed, so I was already naturally drawn to them.
A second point of intrigue was that both our companies were operating within complementary industries. Having mentioned previously that I created Shokly with the desire to be the leading “smart building” company, where I had tackled one element of broken building operations, WeMaintain were tackling another crucial part with lift and escalator maintenance. The unison of the two companies would bring us both one step closer to evolving to a full building operations service provider, and the idea thrilled me! I began immediately thinking about global expansion and how as one, we could set this in motion.
Tell us about your upcoming challenges?
Currently, as I am writing this blog, WeMaintain has begun servicing several fire alarm systems at a number of different sites, with some ranging from 50-1000 detectors within a building. From an organisational and operational perspective, it means we have already undergone a number of processes in preparation for WeMaintain’s new offering; setting up sales processes, setting up the maintenance protocol and training engineers to deliver the service. Naturally we have some additional challenges ahead of us:
Scaling the service
We have already acquired our first fire safety system maintenance contracts, and already received excellent feedback on our service. The challenge now is to increase the number of sites with lifts and fire safety systems that we manage by the end of the year - however we are equipped to do so. Referring back to WeMaintain’s three core values of the company - unique, grit, care - they perfectly describe the great team that we have. With each employee armed with these three values, we are confident that we can overcome any challenge! In addition to this, our unique value proposition is what makes us stand out in the industry. The ease of different aspects of building maintenance being provided from one place, is a real benefit to our customers and already the results are showing, which only motivates us more!
Deploy in the UK
Having launched the fire alarm system maintenance service in Paris, our next challenge is integrating this into our UK operations. Although my background and knowledge comes from the fire safety industry in France, there is a lot of shared logic with the regulations of the UK so we are confident that we can add value to the market there. Up next on our agenda is training our London engineers and hiring new fire safety experts to add to the existing team. WeMaintain’s launch in London, even in the midst of a pandemic, was incredibly successful, so I have no doubts that this next chapter of the launch will be just as rewarding.
However, as mentioned before, I love a challenge! I can’t wait to oversee the full integration of both businesses, and to overcome these challenges as we expand WeMaintain’s offering to encompass fire alarm system maintenance. With the team, I have no doubt, this will be a fun journey! It’s only up from here.