For this new edition of Pitch ta WFOE, we decided to interview young entrepreneurs to discuss their entrepreneurial experience.
For this interview, we decided to have a chat with Wing Hang Mathieu TSE, French entrepreneur and co-founder of Winko Solar.
Winko Solar is a start up whose mission is to make electricity and internet available to all in French-speaking Africa. It offers a kit that provides electricity thanks to solar energy for lighting, internet and smartphone!
Mathieu TSE arrived in French Guiana when he was 4 years old. Originally from Guangdong province, he learned French on the spot very soon after his arrival. After obtaining his BAC, he continued his studies in France and obtained a Chemical Engineering degree from ParisTech and a Master in Entrepreneurship from HEC Paris. After moving to Shanghai in 2012, he first wanted to learn several key professions before starting his own business. He then learned all the foundations of entrepreneurship starting with an internship in sourcing and purchasing then continued in supply chain (being a big sports lover, he did it at Décathlon) to then do business development and become sales manager in a French chemical company.
In 2018, he decided to consolidate all his knowledge of the business world by doing a two-year MBA, the first year at CEIBS in Shanghai and the second year at INSEAD in Singapore and Fontainebleau. All this in parallel with the launch of his start up Winko Solar!
He is now fully embarked in his entrepreneurial journey!
He shares with us today his interest for entrepreneurship with a strong social impact and his passion for emerging countries.
1. How was Winko Solar born?
“I was lucky enough to know African friends who made me aware of the African continent’s problems. Today, 600 million Africans do not have access to electricity, which is huge and shocking. I later met Ako, my partner who is Belgian-Congolese, during my studies at HEC Paris and the problems of energy in Africa were also something that matter to him. I also wanted to work in a sector where China has expertise, which is the case of solar energy. That’s how Winko Solar was born.”
2. What led you to be an entrepreneur?
“I wanted to do something useful and that impacts people’s lives, that’s what drives me to keep going every day.
By bringing energy and data, we give them access not only to electricity, but also to information, it changes their lives.
We are currently only in Togo but we also want to help Benin, Niger, Burkina Faso and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In these countries, less than 50% of the population has access to electricity.”
3. Why did you choose China?
“I have always been fascinated by emerging countries and China was one of them until recently. We have a lot to learn from this country which has developed very quickly. China has a lot of knowledge that it can pass on to Africa. It is also the leader in production in general and in the solar equipment industry particularly (world leader in production). After Asia, the next continent to develop and industrialize will be Africa.”
4. How has the Shanghai environment been propitious to the launch of your project?
“Shanghai is a very international city, very dynamic and changing every day. It is also a city that is full of opportunities thanks to events but also thanks to the investment offers and the incredible people meetings. I also had the chance to do my MBA here in one of the biggest business schools in the world and to learn a lot from my fellow Chinese entrepreneurs (CEIBS is ranked 1st business school in Asia and 5th in the world by the Financial Times).”
5. What kind of support does JEF bring to your project?
“First of all, thanks to this article but also thanks to the meetings and your network, I would also like to participate more in your events!”
Top Chrono !
Which difficulties have you encountered?
“The biggest difficulty was COVID because we had quite a few trips planned in San Francisco and in the “field”, mainly in Togo.”
How have you overcome them?
The key is to build a strong, autonomous and independent team that believes in the vision of the company. When everyone believes in the values of the company and in what we do, everything moves forward naturally.
How has your project been received?
“It has been complicated to explain to people the problems of access to energy in Africa because it is far from their daily lives. We had the chance to participate in a TV show ‘Winning the future’ to find investors in China and we were the only company to sign an investment agreement of 2 million RMB during the show!”
How would you sum up your experience in a word?
“I would say “make sense”: for our entire team, to help build the infrastructure of tomorrow’s Africa, for the users but also for me, it pushes me to get up every morning and work!”
Do you have any advice for those who want to start?
“It takes passion but also a vision of tomorrow’s world and especially of its launch.”
If you wish to follow the adventures of Winko Solar: https://www.linkedin.com/company/winko-solar
As well as his email for any collaboration (industrial, financial, consultants) for Winko Solar or requests for specific consulting missions in China (market research, search for Chinese partners etc.): firstname.lastname@example.org