Entrepreneurs Forever 2014 | Version française

Eric Bellion

CEO and founder of Americom

He navigates between ocean racing and promoting human diversity.

Eric Bellion is as free as the wind, as idealistic as a child, as stubborn as a Breton, as fascinating as the ocean. « I try to live my dreams, I don’t want to be just a passenger in this world », he declares.
The first of his dreams was launched at EMLYON.

« I didn’t ask myself many questions at the time, but our school taught me imagination and a “can-do” attitude, which I needed to envisage my first quest: a round-the-world sailing trip. »

First (and last) traditional port of call with Devoteam. For two years, Eric Bellion coasted in the over-sailed seas of consultancy and refitted his journey with two school friends. He came back transformed, co-skipper of a 26 ft sailing boat, eyes open to Adventure and burning to share his enthusiasm.

One of his crew-members had two cousins suffering from cerebral palsy. Together they developed ‘’Kifouine's journey’’, a virtual round-the-world sailing voyage financed by crowdfunding. A ‘’crazy’’ idea which, over a 3 year period, has seen 45 young people embark and experience two weeks of very real exoticism: a safari in South Africa, sailing down the River Nile... « In a society obsessed by appearance and performance, it was a real journey of initiation for us all. » The challenge was enormous, the experience gruelling but it acted as a foundation. Eric Bellion wrote a book, and made two films about the project, which won several awards, but still feels the frustration: « of not being able to make these young adults more active ».

Transmission is a precious word for me.
I create adventures in order to transmit them, and then to live them.
I hope to transmit Team Jolokia to transform it into the academy of being different.

He was invited to the French Nautical Trade Fair in 2006, where he met the quadraparetic adventurer Laurent Marzec, and set sail with him for the ‘’Challenge Intégration’’: to set an important new maritime record, with a mixed crew composed of both handicapped and non-handicapped members.

In 2010, after 3 years of preparation, the ‘’Challenge Intégration’’ sailed from Port-Louis (France) to Port-Louis (Mauritius) in 68 days and sent reeling and pitching all preconceived ideas about handicaps. « On a human level, it was a difficult and passionately interesting learning experience. It is not so much the handicap which is a problem, because there are technical solutions. The difficulties are human ones, because of our differences. »

A new cap was set with Team Jolokia, a 65 ft boat with a new crew every year, recruited on the basis of their differences (sex, age, handicap, sailing experience). Team Jolokia has entered the most prestigious ocean races, like the Fastnet Rolex Race in 2013, with three points of anchorage: to demonstrate through high-level sport that diversity leads to high performance, to communicate this experience to the general public through partnerships with television, and, by 2016, to produce a first white paper together with researchers from different disciplines and the French Association of Managers for Diversity.

« You overcome human incomprehension by feeling your way, by discovering others and by discovering yourself. You can't cheat on board. The more lucid people are about their own weaknesses, the more reliable they become, and the further the group will go » he observes.

Eric Bellion could stay happy with being the pilot, skipper and head fundraiser of Team Jolokia. He could remain satisfied with his excursions on a kite-surf off the coast of La Rochelle. But he has already set his sail towards his next dream: the Vendée Globe 2016, a solo race which will complete 15 years of Togetherness. « If you don't dare, you've already lost. I’m aiming for more than winning. I want to continue sharing, creating real meaning for the enterprise, only in a different way. »

Navigator, entrepreneur, explorer of human diversity, right to the last.

EM Lyon: Programme Grande Ecole 2001
Translation : Carole Bausor, ILTC
Date de parution : 12/09/14