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OliKrom, its smart pigments conquer the corporate world

After seventeen years of research at the Bordeaux Condensed Matter Chemistry Institute (ICMCB, CNRS own unit), Jean-François Létard left his laboratory benches to set up his own business. Created in October 2014, the startup OliKrom is developing a new generation of hybrid pigments combining “the strength of metal ions and the flexibility of molecular matter”. Resulting from his years of research, these pigments are synthesized by chemical addition and have thermo-, photo- and piezo-chromatic properties...

Since the filing of the first patent in 2005, the creation of the company has set the pace for the transformation from researcher to entrepreneur. Throughout his career, Jean-François Létard has surrounded himself with valuable partners who support him in his project. The latest supporters to date, the investment funds Starquest Capital and Pertinence Invest raised €300,000 for OliKrom in December 2014. For the scientist, these are not just financial supports. They also provide him with an address book, advice and perspective on the status of entrepreneur.

If he chose Pertinence Invest, it's because the investment fund followed the work he did for six years within the OliKrom transfer cell, managed by Adera. "I found it interesting that the people who saw me grow up wanted to continue to invest in my project, and I am happy that new players such as Starquest Capital are supporting the adventure," confides the scientist.

In 2009, the researcher began to wonder about the possibility of taking his pigments out of his laboratory. Is there a market for this technology? Is it possible to move these pigments from the laboratory to industrialization? To answer these questions, the research director, with the financial support of the Aquitaine Regional Council and the legal backing of CNRS/FIST, set up a transfer unit managed by Adera. "The objective was to find out if it was relevant to create a company," explains Jean-François Létard.

For six years, he worked on his project within a very rich ecosystem in Bordeaux. "There are a lot of motivated people that we never see but who are there to help us," he confides. The Incubateur Régional Aquitaine (IRA), Aquitaine Développement Innovation (ADI) and Bordeaux Unitec helped him think about his industrial project. "There are many pitfalls in creating a company. Thanks to the incubator and Unitec, I was able to take appropriate training courses."

After six years of maturation, the Gironde-based startup was born in October 2014. On the market for intelligent pigments, OliKrom is banking on a personalized offer for the customer. The startup offers to accompany companies to custom-model pigments according to their specifications. It then produces the pigment and integrates it into paints, inks or textiles. "In the end, the customer receives a finished product. For him, it's a gain in time, expertise and efficiency," enthuses the entrepreneur.


Increasing production

In partnership with Tessares Conseil and Bordeaux Unitec, OliKrom is already working on its Up 2017 program. Within two years, the young company plans to increase its production. Currently able to produce its pigments by the ton thanks to 300 m² of equipment, the startup plans to integrate a new building of more than 1,000 m² by 2016 in order to exceed one ton.

In addition to the recent €300,000 fundraising, OliKrom can count on a €200,000 grant from the region, €210,000 from Bpifrance and a €30,000 loan from the Aquitaine Amorçage fund. This financial support will also enable the company to expand its team and deploy its sales force. Created less than a year ago, OliKrom is already receiving international requests. Little by little, Jean-François Létard plans to address these new markets by producing pigments and innovative solutions. Because to meet the needs of industrialists, the startup must anticipate. "I have never done as much research as I have since I have been at the head of OliKrom", says the president.


OliKrom pigments in Info Chimie magazine