Kluster CFCIM is an incubation program designed to help young startups innovate and grow. Clément Faugeras, program manager at Kluster CFCIM, shares with us the details and aspirations of the program.
ELR12: Tell us about the KLUSTER CFCIM program.
Clément Faugeras : KLUSTER CFCIM is a socially responsible program created by the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Morocco (CFCIM) in 2017, with the goal of providing young entrepreneurs with a platform to learn, connect and grow. The program lasts for 18 months and is completely free; the only catch is that it’s highly competitive. A number of startups are selected every year based on specific criteria. They must have a mini-prototype, be innovative and have a clear vision of where their company is headed and how they expect it to evolve in the upcoming one or two years.
The goal is to help them structure their business models, build solid strategies and find investors in order to realize that same vision. In addition to the numerous mentors and experts, KLUSTER CFCIM provides startups with the possibility to have offices in Casablanca. They also benefit from important visibility and great networking opportunities thanks to the CFCIM ecosystem. Furthermore, the incubator aims to facilitate access to financing via its partnership with Tamwilcom that contributes in startup funding through grants. Another important thing is that we offer daily support to the young entrepreneurs, which is a crucial aspect especially in this time of crisis.
What is CFCIM Business Angels Club?
CF : CFCIM Business Angels Club is an initiative that began at the same time as KLUSTER. The idea is to mobilize a CFCIM community which has an interest in startups and innovation, and is ready to invest small amounts of money (around 100 or 200 thousand dirhams) in early-stage startups. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been any investment so far despite our best efforts. We organized several pitch events and trainings for startups to improve their business plans and pitch decks. But it seems like investors are very demanding and don’t want to make risky investments. They need to understand that new projects need a boost at their start in order to thrive. Investors must give more to help young entrepreneurs succeed. Not only give more money, but bring more to the table like their network, their experience and new opportunities.
For now, we will keep organizing events and helping them cultivate this mindset little by little. And we are hopeful that one day a KLUSTER startup will find investors in our club!
Can you tell us more about yourself as well as the KLUSTER team?
CF : We are a rather small team in comparison to other programs. I’ll introduce myself first. 26 years old from Toulouse, France. I obtained my master’s degree in management from ESSEC Business School. After the 6-month internship I spent at KLUSTER, they offered me a job as a program manager. It was this great opportunity that made me decide to stay in Morocco. For several years, I was the only program and HR manager of KLUSTER. Now I have a colleague who manages an adjacent KLUSTER CFCIM program (Primo entrepreneurs) aimed at classic businesses rather than startups.
What are the achievements of KLUSTER CFCIM since the inception of the program?
In terms of figures, we helped a total of 30 startups; 20 of them are still part of the program and the other 10 are active to this day nonetheless. Thanks to KLUSTER, 2.3 million dirhams were given to startups as grants through the Tamwilcom partnership. Far be it from us to appropiate the success of the startups we incubate, but quite a few of them are success stories today. For example CuiMer which makes sustainable high-end leather goods made from exotic fish leather, we’ve accompanied them for 3 years until they recently raised funds. We helped Agenz too, a startup in real estate that was able to raise 5 million dirhams. Not to mention that we help several startups with their first purchase orders which is a critical aspect of their development.
I’m also glad to have as part of our community startups in Agadir, Safi, Marrakech… although we are a program based in Casablanca. It counts as an achievement for us because it brings out the diversity that characterizes entrepreneurship in Morocco. We were able to federate a real community around KLUSTER with partners like BMCI, Cosumar, Tectra and Roland Berger. This is a huge asset for us. In addition to all the opportunities they provide for our startups, our business model as a program relies on keeping the program free. And this is only possible thanks to these partnerships and grants.
How did you operate during Covid?
We operated online for 3 months when our offices closed due to the lockdown. We had just selected 4 new startups in March 2020, so we started their incubation in the heat of the crisis. Mentorship, trainings, help with grant applications… We did everything online. But as I said earlier, the moral support we provided our young entrepreneurs was a key factor in helping them get through the crisis. So the program wasn’t so different during the lockdown, but our daily support was way more important.
What are your plans and aspirations for 2022?
KLUSTER is a rather young program, we’ve only been operating for 4 years. We are currently planning to start a call for applications in order to receive a new batch of startups. However, our main objective is to capitalize everything we were able to build so far. I.e. the relationship with our partners, the mentorship of our startups, the alliance with Tamwilcom which is very important for grants (and maybe loans in 2022)… But we are also working on building new partnerships in fields that aren’t covered by our current partners. The plan is to make our community bigger and more diverse. This includes welcoming new mentors and experts in our team and organizing more events to boost networking. I believe we have a solid base, we just need to consolidate it to elevate this program even higher.
Any last advice for Moroccan entrepreneurs?
According to my own experience, entrepreneurs that are bold and open-minded are more likely to succeed. Don’t be afraid to talk about your projects, to share your failures and the challenges you’re facing. It’s also extremely important to meet new entrepreneurs. So don’t hesitate to grow your network by contacting people on LinkedIn for example. If there is one thing I will keep in mind if I launch my own startup, it’s that an entrepreneur alone will not succeed. And if you have a project, you need to test it rapidly to get feedback and insights from early adopters or potential clients. Entrepreneurs that are on the lonelier and more reserved side usually have a harder time developing their projects. There will always be a huge gap between their product and their market.
That’s why our KLUSTER offices are located in downtown Casablanca, in the headquarters of CFCIM. We get visitors everyday, we organize events, meetings, lunches… in order to create this spirit of sharing and networking.