Entrepreneurs Forever 2014 | Version française

Pierre-Emmanuel Grange

CEO and founder of Microdon

He created the first French social enterprise for micro-donation.

« Say yes to Round-up! », that's the war cry of Pierre-Emmanuel Grange, a geek whose childhood had always been immersed in associative work, and who imported from Mexico the idea of a “giving economy” and created the first French social enterprise for the micro-collection of donations.

He logged on to internet during his studies in the U.K. in 1998, and displayed on his task-bar an internship with Nomade.fr, the first French search engine. He then upgraded his know-how with a specialised Masters in NTIC Management at Centrale Lyon-EMLYON.

He left for Mexico at the behest of his first employer, an American group, with only three words of Spanish in his hard drive, ‘’Si, cerveza, beso’’. Whilst shopping in a supermarket, he didn't understand the Cashier's question, and tried out the ‘’si’’ by default. He noticed afterwards that his shopping had cost more than usual! And he understood that he had just accepted his shopping bill being “rounded up”, with the difference donated to a charity.

Everyone can transmit, in a form of collaborative and symmetrical solidarity.
At microDON, we transmit meaning in acts of daily life to distributors and to their customers; competencies in fund-raising to the regional associations we accompany; and energy and entrepreneurship to our employees.

Pierre-Emmanuel Grange activated the idea of ‘’Round up’’ when he got back to France, designed a pilot Donation Card, and incubated his project with PlaNet Finance, the association specialised in micro-finance, founded by the economist and writer, Jacques Attali.

Between the beta versions... and the financial crisis, the year 2008 shook up the first version’s architecture: Pierre-Emmanuel Grange left PLaNet Finance and abandoned the initial not-for-profit model. In 2009, he configured the social enterprise microDON, to develop innovative financing using Donation Cards and Salary Round-Up. « In the giving economy, we graft the opportunity of donating onto different transactions; we inject generosity into the gestures of everyday life. We are close relations of participative finance, somewhere between a voluntary tax like the Tobin tax, and the ‘’small change’’ collection in airports, version 2.0. »

Then there were five difficult years, despite some successful receipts. « I started off alone; I didn’t do enough prospecting; I should certainly have had a mentor. And it takes a long while to convince a HR Manager to adopt the system, and then to set it up. »

The horizon became clear at last in 2013: with the MIT Review Award for Social Innovation Enterprise of the year, and a speech given by Pierre-Emmanuel Grange at TEDx Paris adding a few mega-bytes to the project. MicroDON converted some big accounts to Salary Round-Up, launched Checkout Round-Up with the Franprix sales network (owned by the Casino supermarket group), and then on-line Round-Up with the e-commerce site Alloresto.fr, and Round-Up on bank statements with BNP Paribas.

« I am more serene today, but for a long while, I had my stomach in knots, not being sure I could pay the wages at the end of the month. It is very hard to go through that. » After a first round of fund-raising in 2012, microDON installed a new financial programme in order to roll out its services on a wider level. « My dream is to extend Checkout Round-up to the big supermarket chains and collect over €5 million a year. » That is a maxi challenge for the micro team of microDON, who developed its own system of exploitation, based on participatory governance and a not-for-profit operation.

If the entrepreneurial adventure means that sometimes Pierre-Emmanuel Grange is a ‘’no-lifer’’, he nonetheless plans to download the Wedding 1.01 application this year, and even imagine other functions in his existence. «What will happen to microDON? You have to be lucid; you have a tendency to want to live several lives in one. Perhaps one day I will want to transmit my passion for solidarity to others. But first I have a dream to fulfil! »

EM Lyon: Mastère spécialisé NTIC Management 2002
Translation : Carole Bausor, ILTC
Date de parution : 12/09/14