• Entrepreneurship

Intrapreneur profile: Marie Dahl, circular economy intrapreneur

Mathilde Cristiani
Mathilde Cristiani
Copywriter & storyteller

Since September 2014, the People’s Lab has been encouraging employees with an innovative idea to develop it into a product or service which can be incorporated into the Group’s activities. It provides a way for people to play an active role in the company’s future, and create new ways of working from within. This is the first of a series launched by BNP Paribas to profile these entrepreneurial employees.

The first employee to be featured is Marie Dahl. This young woman, who is part of BNP Paribas Leasing Solutions, wanted to develop a project based on the idea of a circular economy, and joined the second People’s Lab class in 2016. It was here, as part of this intrapreneur accelerator, that her project to create a marketplace in which companies could rent or sell their unused rolling stock started to take shape. It was also where it came to fruition: her platform, Kintessia, will be launched in January 2018. Read on for a profile of an intrapreneur who is guided by her quiet strength and unswerving self-control.

What is a key trait of an intrapreneur?

Welcoming new opportunities and fully embracing them. And that is exactly what this young woman, whose career path has changed radically in less than one year, has done. “I have faith that everything will be okay in the end. I always tell myself that I've got nothing to lose by trying something out,” she tells us. 

This philosophy appears to have influenced her entire career. Born in the Alsace region of France and an avid lover of both maths and sport, Marie started her career with a gap year during which she undertook internships in sports marketing, including with a professional basketball club. From there, the next steps seem like they should have been quite straightforward. Not so. “When I started to look for my first job I did get an offer through for this type of work, but I felt like I wanted to go and find out more about other areas”.

I have faith that everything will be okay in the end. I always tell myself that I've got nothing to lose by trying something out. 

The change in direction was rather drastic: Marie joined BNP Paribas Group in 2006 as part of the Leasing Solutions sales team. From 2010 to 2012, she was even a branch manager. “I wanted to learn more about B2B commercial relationships, which really interest me. I love all the interaction with different people”. 

She moved onwards and upwards in 2014, becoming a product manager in the marketing department of the ELS business unit (Equipment Logistic Solutions), which finances rolling stock. She describes her career there as very fulfilling. “I have been able to get creative in every role I’ve had, and satisfy my need to be outward-facing. If I had felt like I was having a tough time of it, I would maybe have started this venture earlier”.

Welcoming new opportunities and fully embracing them.
“ I get the feeling that what I’m doing now could be seen as a test piece for something that will be copied in the years to come ”

Marie Dahl

An entrepreneurial spirit who bided her time

For, when looking at her career to date, it would appear that Marie’s entrepreneurial tendencies were never far away. “I did choose to take the entrepreneurship module during my last year of school”, she admits. She also tells us how, together with some engineering students, she took on the challenge of creating a technology company. What was their product, you might ask? A robot which could cut hedges. “I recently reread some of our old documents, which said that I was the CEO. Looking back on it, I think that was already where I wanted to be”.

All that remained was to find the trigger which would enable her to overcome her fears. “I have always been fascinated by entrepreneurs; by people who create entire businesses out of nothing. But I never dared to do it myself, partly because maybe I wasn’t quite brave enough for it, but also because I never really had any ideas”. 

The turning point

In the end, Marie’s entrance into the world of intrapreneurship happened almost by mistake. In April 2016 she took part in a Jam Session organised by Leasing Solutions on business uberisation. It was here that she put forward the idea of a platform which companies could use to rent out their rolling stock. Its first name? ‘Rent Your Asset’. The project was rebranded and she was asked to provide additional information for it, particularly in terms of its feasibility. 

Little did I know at that point how big this was going to get.

From then on things all happened very quickly, and she was asked to apply to People’s Lab. Her application was successful, and she joined the second cohort of intrapreneurs. “Little did I know at that point how big this was going to get. I told myself that it was going to be an interesting experience alongside all my regular work”.

It was only when she realised that her platform project fitted Leasing Solutions’ strategic vision for the division’s digital transformation programme that she saw its full potential. She threw herself into the adventure at that point, with the goal of making it “into something real”. 

A role that’s been made to measure

Her commitment paid off. In December 2016 she was offered a newly-created position, in which she would be responsible for overseeing the marketplace project, finding a long-term technological solution for it, recruiting a team, and setting up a functioning product.

She also joined the L'Atelier BNP Paribas acceleration programme, based on her experience with the People’s Lab. Here she collaborated with French start-up Wizaplace to create the first version of her marketplace - now christened Kintessia - which is due to officially launch in January 2018.

From personal to collective benefits

What is also interesting is how this young woman’s personal experience has taken a turn towards the collective. She has been able to recruit an account manager and a business developer to support her. She is also looking for a full stack developer. 

Such job titles have a very “start-up” ring to them, and have been a cultural shock to colleagues within the company. Marie emphasises that “this means that we are also able to modernise traditional recruitment processes”. Moreover, she is well aware of the pioneering, experimental roles that an intrapreneur must play in today’s world. “I get the feeling that what I’m doing now could be seen as a test piece for something that will be copied in the years to come”. Another way of teaching large groups to innovate fast, then test, adjust and redo, using these changes as an opportunity to bring employees together.

I get the feeling that what I’m doing now could be seen as a test piece for something that will be copied in the years to come.

And from collective benefits to personal

When asked whether she understands the extent of the progress she has made in just one year, her answer is simple: “No. I’m not yet in a position where I can take stock of everything I have learnt, everything that I have accumulated”. She does, however, accept that her self-confidence has grown considerably. “I would never have said that I would want anyone to give me responsibility for a project like this”.

Will she look at herself like an entrepreneur from now on? “I’m under pressure to deliver a product, and I’ve brought people along with me. Messing up is not an option. But let’s put things into perspective. This isn’t the same pressure that an entrepreneur, who has all their savings at stake and no safety net, might feel. I even took 3 weeks of holiday this summer!”, she laughs. “I would say that being an intrapreneur is similar to being an entrepreneur, but you have a level of security,” she tells us. And, before we wrap up: “the most important thing is for people to feel like they belong”. 

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