Secondment Experience in Aryballe, France

By Neva Bojovic Zec, ESR 12

During the second year of my PhD, I had a seven months secondment. It was with a company Aryballe Technologies, which is a start-up from Grenoble, France, and works on developing an innovative technology to measure and represent smell.

My PhD topic is about designing business models for multisided markets in health. Thus, working with Aryballe was a unique opportunity to observe processes of business modelling and technology innovation. During this time I have also learned a great deal about anosmia – the loss of the sense of smell. It is a condition which affects 5-10% of the population, and the device that Aryballe develops can help people living with anosmia improve their quality of life. I got to know the topic very well, and I wrote a press article about anosmia, published online in The Conversation, which attracted a lot of attention from the community. I also met personally numerous people living with anosmia in France and in the US, where I visited a first international conference for people with smell and taste disorders. This gave me a completely new perspective, as reading about a condition and actually being in the room when people are sharing their experiences is a completely different thing.

During the secondment I have worked with Aryballe on getting to know the Anosmia patient better, so they can develop technology which can create value and satisfy the needs of user. Also, I participated in meetings around matters of strategy and business modeling, where I hope I contributed to resolving some challenges and questions. This was of immense importance for my thesis development, as I could observe the business modeling process in real time, which resulted in a valuable pool of data collected. My key learning objectives were met, and I learned much more than I first expected. I learned how a company goes through a process of envisioning the technology and a business model, experimenting with it, interacting with potential users, and redesigning technology and business models. I also learned about how start-ups work and many underlying mechanisms of legitimacy building. I did several round of data analysis while I was doing my secondment. This enabled me to write an academic paper about role of experimentation in business modeling, which I presented in several academic conferences, and which I hope will be publsihed.

My key objectives were achieved during the secondment, and I also continue working on them, as I will stay in close touch with the company. It was a very pleasant experience, as I met wonderful and inspiring people, who appreciated my effort and were very willing to help.

Also, it was very interesting to see how much progress a start-up can achieve in just 7 months!

In conclusion, my secondment was a great opportunity and gave me a chance to open up my perspectives, gather and analyze data, but also to help people and get better understanding of the challenges they face. It is a great part of the CHESS experience, and I enjoyed it and learned from it.