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Matthias Leridon, Serial Entrepreneur

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What do a consulting agency, an investment company, a publishing company, a brand of tea and a development fund have in common? Their creator Matthias Leridon (E85).

Matthias Leridon set his eye on communication early in his days at ESSEC. "I created the Press Bureau, a student club in charge with promoting the school. We managed to get an eight-page supplement in Le Monde." He then did his military service within SIRPA (Information and Public Relations of the Armed Forces). "I was on the front line for the Rainbow Warrior scandal in 1985. Then in 1986, French singer Daniel Balavoine's helicopter crashed during the Paris-Dakar rally. That was a real lesson in crisis management."

The Calling

Matthias Leridon was hooked. He joined the cabinet of Bernard Rideau, a former advisor to Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, and carried out assignments for André Giraud, Defence Minister, and Hervé de Charette, Minister for Planning and Civil Service. "I had to deal with the press on subjects like Greenpeace as well as civil servants morale." In parallel, he signed up for a Master in Communication and Audiovisual Law, then got into Sciences Po Paris. "I learnt how to deal with simultaneous activities the hard way."

Drawing on his experience, he founded Tilder, a communication consultancy firm for business leaders, in 1990. To help its expansion, he also launched La Compagnie de Trucy, an investment company. A strategy that paid off: "We are the market leader in France."

New horizons

Matthias Leridon does not rest on his laurels: "I am more of an entrepreneur than a manager. I would rather launch new projects than run smooth machines." Hence the permanent need for diversification: making a point of honour to capitalize on his experience, he took control of Débats Publics, a publishing company specialized in essays by business leaders - the same leaders he's been advising for 25 years. Then he created Cape&Cape, the first brand of African rooibos, "betting on the fact that the tea business is much less saturated than the coffee one. We are the first in Europe".

A taste for Africa

Matthias Leridon has had a long-lasting fascination for the Cradle of Humanity. "My wife was raised there as a child. She made me discover the local contemporary art scene. Art there is meaningful and full of hope, even though artists are short of resources." The pair assembled one of the richest collection in the world, with 4,500 works, "all an impulse buy, with no gain expectation". They set up African Artists for Development, an endowment fund that supports local development initiatives. "We help them while asking African artists to give them more visibility. This is why we set up Lights of Africa, an exhibition featuring 54 painters, sculptors and photographs from the 54 countries of the continent, around energy transition."

Will this passion force him to relocate? "We must have a global vision, but we won't leave France: I can't betray this country after all it did for me. France helps its entrepreneurs more than you may think. We must give back by supporting its economy."

 

First published in Reflets ESSEC Magazine n°112. Click here to suscribe.

 

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