A businessman with a wealth of experience, a company director, a member of the Paris Business Angels network and a member of the Carbon Waters strategy committee… Who is Luc Varigas and what is his relationship with Carbon Waters? Interview.
You’ve had a long career, most of which has been spent abroad. Can you tell us why?
Luc Varigas: I had a double education, both scientific at Chimie de Paris and in business in the ESSEC business school. After I graduated, I quickly left France in 2002 for a professional career abroad. After moving to Singapore (where my youngest son was born) and Switzerland, I worked in Belgium, where I still am today.
This taste for living abroad has always been reflected in my professional experiences. I love being in contact with multicultural teams and working on an international level, it’s very enriching both professionally and personally!
And this diversity is also reflected in the different positions you’ve held.
LV: Yes, it’s true that in the course of my career I’ve been able to evolve in several functions and business sectors. First of all, I started out in finance, until Regional (Asia) and Global Chief Financial Officer (CFO), then I moved into general management and supervised various corporate functions. My specialty among others is implementing strategy and helping companies restructure, in terms of organization, business models and team change management. I have also developed competencies in business development, for instance in the context of chemical parks infrastructures.
These roles have given me the desire to offer my expertise to entrepreneurs with innovative ideas who lack the resources and knowledge to develop them into businesses. That’s why I set up Altarence with a partner in 2014. Our aim is to identify, at a very early stage, projects with high technological potential and breakthrough innovation and turn them into deeptechs.
The very definition of Carbon Waters.
LV: That’s what it is. But I didn’t find out about Carbon Waters directly through Altarence. It was through the Paris Business Angels (BPA) network, of which I’ve been a member for a year. PBA is an organization gathering private investors (“Business Angels”) that validates and supports already more structured projects looking for financing to boost their development.
How did PBA put you in touch with Carbon Water?
LV: When I joined the PBA network, the Carbon Waters file was coming in for appraisal. I had the opportunity to attend a pitch by Alban Chesneau, the CEO of Carbon Waters, who immediately convinced me. I saw the potential of the company’s graphene-based products, which have a wide range of applications in industry and chemistry. So, I volunteered to be part of the instruction team. In September 2022, we presented our recommendations to the whole of PBA, and the network was also convinced by the project, in particular thanks to Alban and Nicolas Castet, COO of Carbon Waters, who removed any doubts.
What does the PBA network bring to Carbon Waters today? And how are you contributing in your own way?
LV: PBA has invested €300,000 in the project, a substantial sum, part of the end 2022 funding, which will be used to build a pilot production plant as well as for the commercial development of a range of graphene-based products for paints and coatings.
Given my knowledge of the chemicals sector, I became the PBA referent and joined the Carbon Waters strategic committee at the same time. I was also able to visit their premises in December 2022 and talk to a large part of the team, people who, despite being fairly young, have already gained a lot of experience, which is a real strength for Carbon Waters.
What is your role on the strategic committee?
LV: I take part in decision-making on short-, medium- and long-term strategic directions, as well as on the major financial investments facing the company. We are also committed to studying all existing funding possibilities and are currently preparing the future Series A.
In addition, I contribute my expertise to the Business & Marketing Expert Committee to advise management on the implementation of strategic marketing (segmentation, targeting, positioning) for the company. For example, we have identified opportunities for Carbon Waters additives in the energy and hydrogen sectors. So, we’re working on a strategy to address these new markets. I’m also taking advantage of my extensive network in the chemical industry, particularly in Belgium, to put Carbon Waters in touch with organizations so that they can assess the possibility of collaborating on projects.
You spoke earlier about the Carbon Waters team, why do you think it is a strength?
LV: Throughout my career and my experiences, I’ve crossed paths with many people and discovered many innovative start-up projects. But when I met the Carbon Waters team for the first time, I was genuinely impressed by the quality of the discussions I was able to have with each person individually, and above all by the motivation and ingenuity shown by everyone. For me, the role of the team is fundamental in supporting a company’s progress, provided that the company also offers its team good prospects in return, which is the case today at Carbon Waters.
Would you have any final words to add in conclusion?
LV: I’m 100% convinced by Carbon Waters’ technology and products, as well as the strength of its team, and I want to continue to be involved with the company to accelerate its development and get its technology into different markets, with priority to those that offer the most value. I also want to help Carbon Waters increase its impact, its recognition, by advancing its technology and its team, in the broadest sense.
The journey will certainly be bumpy and unpredictable but the team will, I am sure, make the difference to find out the right options. Supporting all of them in a business project with so much potential makes me feel happy and proud to be part of the Carbon Waters adventure!