Solenne Colcombet de Maupeou (H.15)
The Nice Sherpa

Sydney. We didn’t know Solenne was in the promotion just before ours and we blame ourselves, because we missed something. This is HEC’s tragedy: you always lack the time (or the efforts) to meet each and every people living on the HEC campus and you miss some of them. Just like Solenne. And like many others unfortunately. But we got a second chance when we discovered Solenne thanks to this project!

Read full transcript…

HU: Hi Solenne, Let’s start with our little Chinese portrait. So, if you were a color? 

S: Bright orange.

HU: An animal?

S: A lion.

HU: A meal?

S: I would say a brunch, specially an Aussie brunch.

HU: A song?

S: Le Grand Jacques.

HU: A movie?

S: The Shop Around the Corner, with Tom Hanks.

HU: A sin?

S: My sweet tooth: gluttony.

HU: An object?

S: A postcard.

HU: A sport or a game?

S: I did a lot of fencing, so I would say fencing.

HU: A book?

S: What did I read recently… That’s a difficult one. I am a Sales person, so I would say the Little Red Book of Selling. It’s the Bible for Sales.

HU: A (super)hero?

S: Mother Theresa.

“I remembered my Supply Chain courses at HEC,which I hated, and I was not finding logistics sexy… before working with Sherpa. Because that’s what we do, very concretely.”

HU: Thank you very much! Now we are going to talk a little bit about your story and we are going to start with our little challenge, which is to sum up your professional background in 20 seconds.

S: It’s going to be quick, because I just finished school! I graduated this summer at HEC after a major in Entrepreneurship. During my time at HEC I did an exchange in the US that allowed me to discover the big world out there. I did my internship in Paris at ASO, a leading sports event company and here I am today at Sherpa, after a quick stay at Altios, a consulting company here in Sydney.

HU: Perfect! Could you explain Sherpa’s business model to a 5 year-old kid?

S: If this 5 year-old child knows about Uber or at least took a Uber with his parents, we are Uber for couriers, so what we do in express deliveries across metropolitan areas and we can deliver anything in 2 hours.

HU: Can you tell us more about the history and the strategy of Sherpa?

S: Sherpa was created last year and we just celebrated its first anniversary. Two French guys, including the CTO, and an Aussie who’s at the head of the Business Development, have created it. Now we are 18 in the team, we have covered Australia, meaning that we are present in the 6 major Australian cities and we have done more than 50,000 deliveries since the implementation of the company. The company is going amazingly well.

Our mid-term goal is to create a S-a-a-S (Software-as-a-Service) platform that will enable any courier around the world to use our technology in order to implement a better routing and better logistics to their companies.

On the long run, we want to create a marketplace, where couriers belong to nobody and where anybody, an individual or a company who needs a courier will be able to use our platform when he needs it.

HU: Is there any achievement or memory you are particularly proud of with Sherpa?

S: I am never bored. Take logistics for instance. I remembered my Supply Chain courses at HEC, which I hated, and I was not finding logistics sexy… before working with Sherpa. Because this is what we do, very concretely. I went on the road many times to deliver products myself, because when you work in a start-up you just put your hands on and do what needs to be done. These are some of my best memories. I was delivering flowers or donuts to customers, who were really surprised to see an over-enthusiastic girl saying: “Hey, this is Sherpa!” They must have thought it was a strange delivery experience! (laughs)


“My boss is great, he is very charismatic and nice, I learn a lot with him, which is also very important in my opinion.”

HU: Have you coped with a difficult choice during your short professional life. What did you learn from it?

S: Yes and I think it was a very good lesson.

When I arrived to Sydney, I was working for a consulting company. After a month I was thinking that it was not for me, after my second month I asked my boss to do something else because it was not working and third month I quit.

It was hard to arrive here, really far away from France without liking what I was doing. I was not passionate about my job. But at the same time I was thinking: “Who am I to tell my boss that I know better than him and that I don’t like what I am doing?” It was difficult to admit that I needed to quit but I never regret it. So if you are not passionate about what you are doing or if you feel uncomfortable in your job, don’t stick to it, because life is too short to be stuck in a situation you don’t like.

HU: It must be even harder when you are a young professional just starting your career.

S: Yes! I have many friends who had this problem of not liking their job or being stuck with a boss who was really tough on them. A friend of mine didn’t want to quit and was saying: “No, I am staying, I went through preparatory classes, I know why I am here and things are going to get better.” She got very depressed instead of just quitting. You can always say no.

HU: But today you like your job. What makes you happy to go to work every morning?

S: The fact that there is absolutely no routine. I was doing deliveries last week, I am organizing a lecture and side events and I am constantly looking for new clients, which is exciting. I also love the team, my boss is great, he is very charismatic and nice, I learn a lot with him, which is also very important in my opinion.

HU: Very concretely, what are your daily tasks? What are your days full of?

S: I am working as Business Developer. For now it means that I am Sales person: I am calling and meeting businesses to show them how important the delivery part of their business is. For many companies, the only interaction they have with their customers is through a courier, so if they have a shitty delivery service, their brand is affected. I try to convince them that they need to use our service. This is fun because I am also creating relationships: I know my businesses now; I go and have coffee with them…

On the long term, I would like to work more on the strategy of the company, the other aspect of business development.

HU: How do you convince them that Sherpa is the best delivery experience? Make us your pitch.

S: First, we don’t have many competitors here in Australia, except for the traditional delivery companies that have been there for years. We are still struggling to change habits. This is actually the most difficult thing to do when you are a start-up I think: saying to businesses they need to change their habits. Educating your customers is probably the most difficult part of business development, but the most exciting too, because when you see that the person you are talking to understands what Sherpa can bring.

We have a great technology allowing use to track all deliveries and to be sure that nothing gets lost. We have a great customer service, meaning that we call the client to tell him when a delivery is going to be late. Other delivery services just don’t care about this and you can neither contact them not track your delivery.

We created something new in the Australian market. It’s safe, fast, automatic, there is no paper: it’s the delivery system of the new era!

“Australia needs to adapt to this increase in its population: we are 20 million living today in Australia and the government is forecasting to double this number in the coming 10 to 15 year.”

HU: Are you already selling your software to other parts of the world?

S: For the moment it’s mostly here in Australia and the S-a-a-S is not ready yet but we already found couriers companies interested in using our S-a-a-S when it’s going to be ready. And yes the idea is to find new partnerships around the world for the platform.

HU: Well, we don’t have anything to deliver, but we are convinced! Let’s stalk about Sydney now! When did you arrive here?

S: Seven months ago.

HU: Where do you hang out on Sunday afternoons?

S: At the beach, definitely. My husband and I are living in Coogee, so probably around that place.

HU: If you had only 24 hours left to live in Sydney, where would you go?

S: I though of that question and I wanted to ask you if I could have 2 days, because there is too much to do! (laughs)

HU: We are going to make an exception for you.

S: Let’s try to put everything in one day, though. I would wake up at 6:00am, because that’s what Aussies do. They wake up early and they go to the beach to exercise. At 6:00am I would be on the beach to run on the beach and have a swim, in Coogee or Bondi.

I would grab a coffee on the road to the Carriageworks market, which is settled in an old train station, you have farmers and it’s a great place to go to.

Then it’s time for a brunch, one of the things I like the most doing and I would go to Bondi Sugar Brwon, a really cool place, or to a any new brunch place in Surry Hills.


Surry Hills looks like a paradise when it’s sunny, that is to say always

Then I would go to the Centennial Park, where you can find massive trees that are 200 or 300 years old. There are actually bats hanging in the evening, but Australian bats, that is to say huge bats, not our tiny ones in France.

Then I would take the ferry to manly and I would do snorkelling. You can many fishes as well as baby sharks! I would then do a barbecue on the beach there. Shelly beach is definitely a place to go to.

Then it’s time to go back to Sydney taking the ferry, allowing me to see the skyline by night, and I would go to the Coogee Pavillion to party for the rest of the night!

HU: Well, that’s many “Then” (laughs)

What do you like most about people from Sydney?

S: They are very relaxed and they have this “No worries, mate” they use all the time and I love it. They also have a great work/life balance, they know when to start and to stop working very well, and this is enjoyable.

Gold Coast, Queensland

Random Aussies looking very worried

HU: What is Australia’s challenge that matters the most to you?

S: Population in Australia and Sydney is growing because there are a lot of people coming in. The big challenge Australia faces is to make sure that there is room for everybody or that the transport system is well designed, which is really not the case today. Australia needs to adapt to this increase in its population: we are 20 million living today in Australia and the government is forecasting to double this number in the coming 10 to 15 year.

Additionally, Australia needs to shift from its traditional mining-based economy to a new model. Many old mining companies are slowing down and the government wants tech start-ups to take the lead now. The problem is that they need to attract those entrepreneurs by giving them good reasons to come so far away from the rest of the world.

HU: Down Under…

S: Yes, down under the planet.

“Only a third of my promotion did an exchange in a foreign university and I really think it should be part of the journey of any student.”

HU: Let’s talk about HEC now and go back in time.

S: Well, not so far! (laughs)

HU: Old habit, sorry! (laughs) What was your favorite place on the HEC campus?

S: I don’t know how to say it in English, but my “co-douche”, my room and the bathroom I shared with a friend. All our friends were living in the same floor in the same building, the C2. We pre-gamed before the POW and had so many morning coffees or late afternoon teas or whatever! It was the best place.

HU: What’s your best memory from HEC?

S: I thought about this one and I think it’s my graduation. You are going to see, it’s a very intense moment. All your friends are gathered, your parents are here and you feel that a page is turning and that something is starting.

There is a lot of excitement. I was completely excited the day before and the day after, it was insane. You enjoy every last thing you do.

HU: Would you advise someone to go to HEC today? Why?

S: For sure. It’s number 1 in France and Europe so you have a great recognition. Even here in Australia people know about HEC and they are proud to have people from HEC working in their teams.

HEC is also great for its international aspects too. Doing an exchange semester in a foreign university is fantastic because you can see what other schools are doing in other parts of the world. In my opinion, HEC should make it mandatory for students coming from the French system.

HU: It is now. Students who did preparatory classes have to make at least one exchange program during their time at HEC.

S: Cool. When I was there, only a third of my promotion did an exchange in a foreign university and I really think it should be part of the journey of any student.

HU: For which reasons would you like to be contacted by an HEC alumnus.

S: First, I like meeting new people. People from HEC have great memories to share and we have the same background in a way. You guys came home for a few nights and there would be no point welcoming you if you were not part of the HEC community.

In the US they are really good at it: alumni help each other a lot so if we can all do the same for HEC it’s great!

HU: Is HEC a well-known brand in Australia? We have been travelling in many countries now, including countries where there are many much HEC alumni than in Australia, but many of the alumni we met said that the HEC brand was not very strong outside of France and Europe.

S: You know, Australia is a huge but sparsely populated country and HEC alumni who live here have great positions in companies. Pernod Ricard for example is full of HEC and there are many other companies who have small teams with many HEC in it.

The French community is quite strong too. Take any business in Australia, you will surely find a French working in it. Once you have a French in a company, he can explain to his colleagues what HEC is. That’s how it works.

HU: What would you advise to a young graduate from HEC?

S: Don’t do what the others do. Many young alumni are following common tracks and want to tick the boxes in a way. Try to feel what you want to do and go for it. Follow your path and it will work.

HU: Last question. HEC’s motto is: “The more you know, the more you dare.” What would be yours?

S: I have a lot actually, the one I can think about now comes from the movie Into the Wild and it goes like this: “Happiness is only real when shared.”

… or pick a category…
…or an Alumnus

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