J. de Castries & N. Gallot – AFINITI

Jerôme de Castries (right) and Nicolas Gallot came together to establish the French subsidiary of the global artificial intelligence solutions company Afiniti in 2016.

BACKGROUND
Afiniti was founded in 2006 by Zia Chishti and provides applied artificial intelligence solutions for companies. Afiniti uses AI technology to pair up customers and employees based on predicted interpersonal behavior. Their algorithms analyze client and third-party information to identify patterns of successful and unsuccessful behavioral interactions. The AI solutions company also uses a pay-for-performance business model and is compensated according to the incremental revenues and cost savings it generates for its clients. Jerome de Castries and Nicolas Gallot founded the French subsidiary of Afiniti in 2016.
What led you to become an entrepreneur?
Jerome de Castries: My encounter with the Pakistani-American serial entrepreneur Zia Chishti was what got me into entrepreneurship. When I met him in 2016, he came across as an absolutely visionary. I was quickly drawn to his idea of using artificial intelligence to enhance human interactions. He offered me the opportunity to create and manage the French subsidiary of Afiniti and I took up the challenge.
Nicolas Gallot:  After graduating from HEC in 2012, I started my career at Morgan Stanley. Jerome was my intern at Morgan Stanley at that time. When I heard about Afiniti and the potential of applied artificial intelligence, I was quickly convinced. Furthermore, I found Afiniti’s pay-for-performance business model to be a very rational value proposition. So when Jerome asked me to join him in launching Afiniti in France, I said yes.
How has your entrepreneurial journey been since then?
JC: Two years ago when we were starting out, people weren’t really interested in what we were saying. Using AI to improve human relations seemed like a farfetched idea to most of them. Now, more and more people are interested in what artificial intelligence has to offer. We often hear that artificial intelligence will destroy human jobs; we are proving the opposite is true. So it has definitely become a lot easier to sell our idea.
How has HEC contributed to your success? Are you still in touch with HEC alumni?
JC: HEC gave me the desire to find purpose in innovation and to use it to improve our lives. I also met a lot of inspiring people at HEC and I learn every day from the HEC network. I am also still in touch with the former dean of HEC, Bernard Ramanantsoa, who definitely shaped my ideas and helped me ask the question: what purpose do I want to give my job?
NC: I met a lot of wonderful people through HEC, including Jerome. I am still in touch with my friends from HEC. I continue to attend HEC alumni events and we only recently had a HEC gathering.
“I don’t think it is necessary to start a company from scratch to be an entrepreneur. I think everybody can be an entrepreneur in the work they do.” – Nicolas Gallot
What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs?
NG: I don’t think it is necessary to start a company from scratch to be an entrepreneur. I think everybody can be an entrepreneur in the work they do.
JC: A great team is much more important than a great idea. No big entrepreneurial success is possible without a great team.
 
Key figures
  • 1 billion people paired a year
  • 114 installations completed
  • 4-6%: the average revenue gain for clients in 2014-15
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