Lucas Le Bell is leading the race to provide advanced technology to those who need protection from malevolent drones. No, this is not a sci-fi movie, this is the future, and his company wants to protect it. Lucas co-founded CerbAir in 2015 with Olivier Le Blainvaux.
The first paying customer came only two years after an intense technical development. It’s now been five years since the creation of the company, and Lucas Le Bell’s scaleup is proud to provide anti-drone solutions to an extensive portfolio of customers worldwide. That’s the story of CerbAir’s success, and it’s only the beginning.
Lucas was born in Paris, France, and had Breton blood running through his veins. He is a very young veteran of the banking industry. He began his career with JP Morgan, gaining experience in market finance, meeting many serial entrepreneurs, and dealing with investors worldwide.
At the young age of 30, Lucas has been featured in many publications, such as The Irish Times and BFM Business (the first business news channel in France). He gave conferences at several industry events and presented for the Master Classes at the French War College.
A graduate of the EM Lyon Business School, he is involved not only in crafting the company culture and designing the best cost-effective anti-drone solution but also oversees with his team of 20 employees, commercial strategies, and business sustainability. For Lucas, designing and democratizing a comprehensive solution (including Radio Frequency, Radar, Optronics, etc.) is the most rewarding part of his job.
Lucas is recognized as an important voice of the new generation of French entrepreneurs. The European Commission’s accelerator recently awarded CerbAir as one of the scaleups that will change Europe in the next decade.
Lucas’s influences vary from Cousteau to Mike Horn with a special focus on Jack London. Beyond Lucas’s professional accomplishments, he is an avid diver, lover of the outdoors, and a decent cook.
In an exclusive interview with AsiaTechDaily, Lucas Le Bell says:
Do not create a company to make money. It should not be the primary driver. If you do so, you’ll end up throwing the towel prematurely after a few crises. Find a more significant source of motivation in this enterprise. Know your strengths and weaknesses and build a robust plan around them. Do not play it by ear. Be patient, expect the worst, and hope for the best. Focus and resilience are crucial, be open-minded but don’t listen to the noise. Make a point of knowing your market like the back of your hand.
Read on to know more about Lucas and his journey.
Please tell me about your personal background, and what are you working on currently?
Lucas Le Bell: I have a mainstream academic background: Business School (EM Lyon) and several years of experience in banking at JP Morgan.
What motivated you to get started with your company?
Lucas Le Bell: The idea of CerbAir (systems against malevolent drones) coincided with powerful attacks or flyovers with drones on public buildings in Europe.
What is your current main product, and (If there is any) can you share any product pivot story from founding to the current product?
Lucas Le Bell: CerbAir protects sensitive sites and events from dangerous drone activity. Through in-house R&D centered on security and defense needs, we offer the ultimate in CUAS solutions at competitive prices.
Our advanced radio frequency (RF) technology is the foundation of our award-winning anti-drone systems, giving you the power to detect, characterize, and neutralize drone intrusions in real-time successfully. Our systems (hardware, software, and service) work on stationary, portable, mobile, and embedded versions.
How much money (funding) have you raised in total so far? When was the recent funding round?
Lucas Le Bell:
- 2015 500,000€ ($550,000)
- 2017 1.5M€ ($ 1.64M)
- 2019 5.5M€ (end of dec) ($ 6M)
How have you attracted users and grown your company from the start? And Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?
Lucas Le Bell: We aim to fit our customers’ needs with a complex mix of live demos and attendance/exhibition to significant trade shows in the world (Milipol, Eurosatory, Expodefensa, Edex, Africa Shield,etc.).
Which is the best marketing tool for the growth of your startup, and why?
Lucas Le Bell: Whitepapers, newsletters, social media, video for educating security advisors about drone threat.
What do most startups get wrong about marketing in general?
Lucas Le Bell: They tend to work in silo—marketing on one side, sales on another one. The sales cycle is often neglected.
What were the internal decision processes in determining when to begin fund-raising, and what were the logistics for this? And how many investors have you met so far, and how did you meet these investors and which channels worked best for you?
Lucas Le Bell: We began fund-raising first by necessity. The next ones were organized as we reached some milestones such as a Minimum Viable Product and first sales or, in the case of the last round, a very strong sales acceleration. It always took more time than we had anticipated, around 6 months on average. We‘ve met more than 150 investors and right now have about 30 in our capital. A lot of them are business angels, as we have good networks to connect with them. As the company grows, we will need higher levels of fundings that only corporates and funds can provide.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and obstacles in the process of fund-raising? If you had to start over, what would you do differently? (Your insight or advice on this would be very helpful for startups)
Lucas Le Bell: Again, fund-raising always took more time than we anticipated, so starting this process early to at least get the investment pitch-perfect is not a bad idea. What I would do differently is better to understand the hot buttons of investment funds and corporate actors to make sure, at some point, we can transition our funding sources from Business Angels to them without any hurdles.
What are your milestones for the next round? And what are your goals for the future?
Lucas Le Bell: We want to consolidate our French leadership in anti-drone solutions at the European level, and transition from a radiofrequency (RF) expert company status to a small and agile system integrator applied to anti-drone solutions. Today, all our solutions revolve around radiofrequency, but eventually, we’ll want to offer multi-technology solutions with RF, radar, optronics, acoustics, jamming, high power energy weapons etc.
How do you plan to expand globally?
Lucas Le Bell: We rely on a network of 200 resellers and vendors worldwide. Depending on how the COVID-A9 evolves, we are looking for some opportunities in the Asian markets.
What are the most common mistakes founders make when they start a company? (or What should all first-time startup founders know before they start their business?)
Lucas Le Bell: Do not create a company to make money. It should not be the primary driver. If you do so, you’ll end up throwing the towel prematurely after a few crises. Find a more significant source of motivation in this enterprise. Know your strengths and weaknesses and build a robust plan around them. Do not play it by ear. Be patient, expect the worst, and hope for the best. Focus and resilience are crucial, be open-minded but don’t listen to the noise. Make a point of knowing your market like the back of your hand.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? And What advice do you have for someone who is interested in doing similar things like yours or in a similar direction?
Lucas Le Bell: Find a job around something you are passionate about. Only then will you invest a lot of your time and effort into this without getting tired of it. Eventually, you’ll become good at it, and the passion you convey will attract talent around you: coworkers, investors, and clients. They all can feel it. Passion is the driving force of success.
What are the one or two things that you would do differently to improve your life (or what kind of personal habits would you improved?) if you could go back to 10 years ago?
Lucas Le Bell: I would read on a much more regular basis. When you’re twenty, the difference between someone who doesn’t read and someone who does is not that obvious, but as time passes, it compounds and sets them apart when they reach 30. Reading is knowledge, and knowledge is power. I wish I had read more when I had so much spare time.
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