#ConnectHers: Beatrice Korsakissok, entrepreneur's testimony
How would you describe Syntony?We created Syntony three years ago. I say “we” because there were two of us, my husband Joël and I. The R&D for this activity began long before. Back then, Joël was managing a business he created that was a subsidiary of an SME in Paris. As we lived in Toulouse at the time, most of this IT consultancy’s main clients were from the aerospace industry. When Joël asked me to join him in a new business spin off, I immediately accepted. We had the chance to help bring completely unique products to the world, and it would have been a shame to pass that up. Although I was working at Airbus at the time, I had worked in various positions in several sectors over 10 years, giving me a good foundation for our new venture. My experience continues to grow to this day.
At Syntony, I'm Senior Vice President and among other duties, CFO, Human Ressources Director. I also manage marketing and some sales. I am very versatile—like any entrepreneur. We started with five people—Joël, me, and three engineers. Today, there are 28 us, and we’re bringing on four more by the end of the month.
Why “Syntony”?Syntony means harmony. It’s the moment in sound when there’s resonance, and it signifies when an orchestral conductor brings everything together. This symbolizes our technology very well. GPS data uses seven synced satellites to pinpoint a precise location. Syntony also corresponds to the type of atmosphere we want in our company. We want to maintain good working relationships and a very open and harmonious environment among our team. The quality of relationships ensures the quality of our products.
We only work in B2B, and we have two types of products, on which we base derivatives:
- Our receptors make it possible to geolocate any means of transport (launchers, aircrafts, train, etc.).
- Our simulators are used for test benches. Before launching a satellite, engineers need to test them on the ground for GPS signal reception 24/7 for one to two months. All features are tested so that only those satellites that meet standards see lift-off.
Just created in 2015, Syntony is still quite new. What stage are you at today?
We attract large companies, which is why we are in a very upward phase. The simulators have had several developments. Among them is Subwave, which generates more than 70% of our revenue. Subwave is a simulator used when something is covered or in a tunnel, where GPS signals usually drop. It’s used to recreate a GPS signal as it would be received from the exterior, so the GPS chips in smartphones and TETRA coordinates continue to geolocate. This project, of course, has real consequences concerning security constraints in subways. The first client to trust us with their transit was Stockholm metro, which came to us fours years ago. They are very satisfied and have positioned themselves to expand Subwave to “Subwave +”, allowing better accuracy of information. In all, we have grown very quickly because we need to be very responsive to the needs of our expanding customer base.
As an entrepreneur, what’s one struggle you didn’t expect?
It wasn’t that difficult being a woman. If I had to summarize the past three years as a female entrepreneur, I think I’ve only twice had to kindly correct someone who told me “but you are a woman”. On the contrary, I’m lucky being a woman! I am fortunate enough to lead this company, together with men and women, because we have very different yet very complementary visions.
For me, it’s a great strength. Yes, I am a woman. I think with my “woman’s” heart, and I never ask myself the question, “How would a man think?” I think that would be a big mistake. This isn’t what people would expect of me. It would be counterproductive.So, for me, the biggest challenge is being inventive every day. I think we take 10 to 15 decisions each day, and each time we are happy with the results. Then, we start again the next morning while staying the course, always making the right choices if possible.
IT WASN’T THAT DIFFICULT BEING A WOMAN! I THINK WITH MY “WOMAN’S” HEART, AND I NEVER ASK MYSELF THE QUESTION, “HOW WOULD A MAN THINK?” IT WOULD BE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE
“ Remain who you really are. This is what has helped me the most over the past three years. Authenticity is the quality of trust for our employees, as well as our customers and partners. It's the best passport to success, knowing and yet embracing each other’s qualities and faults. ”
Co-Creator of Syntony
What role has BNP Paribas played in your entrepreneurial career and in the development of Syntony?
A major part of this beautiful story in all that has happened has been meeting with BNP Paribas over lunch in Toulouse last October.
A part of our success is due to the good advice of diverse and varied partners, and BNP Paribas speakers, who anticipate solutions to obstacles and deliver incredible proposals. The quality of this support contributes greatly to my serenity as an entrepreneur.
During that time, one of the guests, Martine Liautaud, conveyed female entrepreneurship in very a nice way, including its challenges, its difficulties and the human value it brings.
It really made me want to be part of the WBMI program (Women Business Mentoring Initiative). In April, I tried my luck and contacted her, and she was very interested in our story. Today, I’m tutored by two people (one from the US and another from France) and they both help me enormously in my daily decision-making, thanks to their experience and the time they grant me during their busy schedules in the business world. Their mentoring really has a propelling and significant effect. A part of our success is due to the good advice of diverse and varied partners, and BNP Paribas speakers, who anticipate solutions to obstacles and deliver incredible proposals. The quality of this support contributes greatly to my serenity as an entrepreneur.
What are your current challenges?
Our real challenge today is to win over the North American market. We already have several loyal customers but we really want to establish ourselves and create a real network. Our challenge this year is to see our technology in the New York subway. We have been in talks for a year and a half but it’s a huge contract, making the decision-making process that much longer. Also, current development demands a lot of work. I’m traveling two weeks a month on average, with no sign of change soon. We will go to the US again in April for a few weeks since we’ve been selected by the Impact program of Business France.
And what do you see as the next challenge for female entrepreneurship?
No longer being concerned with the reaction of others and being more confident in our strength. What worries me is seeing women my age still holding on to astonishingly sexist rhetoric toward incoming young women.
There is no handicap in being a woman today. The real challenge is to finally appreciate who we are. There doesn’t need to be a difference in the business world, but what are feminine qualities and why are they interesting for a company? Young women need to realize that we have plenty of opportunities in entrepreneurship and that there really is no difference. From then on, we can stop “fighting” and underestimating ourselves in job interviews, for example. Stop thinking about yourself as just a girl and instead think of what you want to be. As soon as women just say, “I want to be that!” we will have won a great step forward.
The real challenge is to finally appreciate who we are. Stop thinking about yourself as just a girl and instead think of what you want to be. When women say, “I want to be that!” we will have won a great step forward
Could you share an anecdote with us?
During trade shows, we are always looking for talent. Many students come to visit our booth and I always try to put them at ease so that they are willing to talk to me and leave me their résumés to vet and recruit them. One applicant, instead of shaking my hand, gave me a high five! I thought it was great. I felt I was still able to be so close to people, and that made me happy.
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