Synopsis: Leslie Marel-Guyon is the co-founder and CEO of Biomarel, a Paris based company that specialises in helping people with debilitating conditions communicate through technology. Here, the Business Worldwide Magazine Award winner tells us about this groundbreaking technology and her plans for the future.
At just 30 years old, Leslie Marel-Guyon is a woman at the interface of innovation and philanthropy. Her groundbreaking company Biomarel specialises in the development of medical devices that empower disabled people to regain autonomy and independence through the power of communication. Speaking to Business Worldwide Magazine, she told us about her experiences as a young female entrepreneur, and explained how Biomarel’s state of the art technology is changing lives.
Can you tell us a little about your career so far?
I graduated from the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts as an engineer in biology. With the desire to become a doctor-researcher, after 2 years in medicine, I began moving more towards research.
After doing my first year of a bachelor’s degree at the University of Paris Est Créteil and the other 2 at a distance, I was given my first laboratory experience at the Imagine Institute in Paris. Freshly graduated, I embarked on an engineering degree in biology with the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts, also in Paris.
What was your inspiration for establishing BMconnect?
I decided to work as an engineer assistant at Curie Institute. Eager to want to help others, I gave evening computer classes to individuals. One evening while giving a class in Paris 10th district, I met Martine, who had been suffering from Charcot’s disease for more than 10 years at the time.
Also known as Charcot Marie-Tooth disease, this is a group of inherited conditions that combine to damage the peripheral nerves, which are found outside the central nervous system. This system controls muscles and relays important messages such as the sense of touch. In severe cases, such as Martine’s, patients lose the ability to communicate. Martine’s husband wanted to find a solution to help her communicate with her loved ones, and that’s how the concept of BMconnect was born.
After months of R&D, we arrived at a final result which allowed Martine to write her first word: THANK YOU. For me, I thought the story ended there. But it was quite the contrary, and I had no idea of the adventure that awaited me. Driven by working with more patients and carers, I created BIOMAREL with my husband, an electronics engineer, in 2018.
What was supposed to be a humanist helping hand turned into a real desire to use technology to improve the comfort of life for people with disabilities. For me, BIOMAREL is a vector of inclusion, and we must innovate more and more in order to make our technology as accessible as possible.
How does BMconnect work?
BMconnect is an ergonomic, wireless device that allows people with motor disabilities to use a computer, tablet or smartphone only with their head. It simulates the movement of the mouse on the screen thanks to the gyroscope and validates the action using a configurable optical / breath sensor via our internal software. Our development was created in collaboration with associations of patients and occupational therapists, and we undertook extensive field tests to be sure to correspond to the specific needs of users.
What lessons have you learned along the way?
Between theory and practice, there are sometimes a few surprises. During this entrepreneurial adventure, I went on an emotional roller coaster. When pitching in front of investors or a jury, I had to face outdated views of entrepreneurship that were reserved for elite males over 40 years old. I felt like my human values were literally crushed; that my mission to make technology accessible was going to be hard to prove because so many people judged me based on my age, gender, and industry. I began thinking that maybe they were right, and that if I had gone to business school I surely would have avoided basic beginners mistakes in the early stages.
But I’m one of those people who thinks the school of life is the best school. At best I am successful, at worst I learn. So, to recharge my batteries and remember why I had created the company, I turned to the BMconnect users. After one hour of discussion with caregivers and health professionals I left recharged ready to defend my project in front of another jury. Now my greatest accomplishments have all been learned in just 3 years. Before I stood for 3 hours in front of an empty business plan, and today I am putting together grants for several thousand euros.
What’s your advice to other young entrepreneurs?
To be an entrepreneur is to be crazy, because you have to be ready for risks, upset and a lot of questioning. But it’s also about sharing smiles, personal and professional successes, and meetings with entrepreneurs who are even crazier than us. I now feel rich and privileged to have been part of such an extraordinary experience, creating solutions that empower others with the gift of communication.
What are your plans for the future of Biomarel?
Our goal is to become the market leader and to create innovative compensatory tools for all kinds of disabilities.
Our solution adapts to several different pathologies, but also to the different stages of the same pathology. And we are very proud to contribute to improving the autonomy and access to digital technology of populations who have lost it. In order to produce our stock and relocate our production and change scale, we are currently opening our capital for fundraising. We plan to recruit 2 sales representatives by the end of 2021, and 3 other employees in 2022, with the objective of doubling growth from 2022. After this step, we want to penetrate the European market then England, Canada and the USA.
What does this award mean to you?
It is a great honor for me to have received this Award and to be recognized for the work I do every day behind Biomarel. Thanks again to Business Worldwide Magazine.