"We are working on the Internet of tomorrow"
- by Benoît July (Référence - Journal Le Soir - 14/11/2015)
Tessares is at the heart of the next Internet revolution: faster, more robust and more secure through a new protocol for aggregating fixed and wireless networks. The growth of this spin-off involves recruiting more IT staff. Its solution has recently won awards at an international exhibition in London. Tessares, which has attracted capital from Proximus, wants to boost existing Internet connections by converging access networks. We spoke with its CEO, Denis Périquet, who moved away from working for large telecom brands to co-found this 70thspin-off of UCL, Belgium.
What is the business of Tessares?
Our mission is to help operators offer faster Internet connections that are stronger, more mobile and more secure by combining fixed and wireless networks. We have developed software that can be easily added to routers, making it possible to combine fixed lines (cable, ADSL) with the mobile network (4G, etc.). Our software can distribute traffic across different networks, and then restore it, in both directions of course.
Who is your solution aimed at?
The benefits are many, especially for operators whose clients have a low throughput fixed line because they are too far away from the local exchange, for example. In addition to this increase in speed, the connection is more robust since it is spread across several networks and is also more secure for the same reason. All of this is part of a favourable trend as people talk of a tripling of the number of connected objects in the next five years, the European Union wants to boost the flow rates accessible to European citizens and users themselves are now increasingly dependent on connectivity.
So the market isn't just Belgian?
Although progress can still be made in certain regions, Belgium is generally a well-off country in terms of throughput. So our mission is therefore to move quickly abroad, not only in Europe (particularly in France) but also in Asia, Australia and the Americas.
What are your ambitions in terms of sales?
The market is potentially huge: we are talking about 300 million fixed lines in the world, one third of which is in Europe. Not all lines are affected and we will only take a percentage of the market because there are competing solutions. We're still at the very beginning of our adventure, R&D is continuing but we can reasonably expect to generate sales of about 5 million EUR within the next 5 years and have exceeded the profitability threshold by then.
Tessares is the 70thspin-off from UCL laboratories. In what way is it the result of university research?
UCL has made a great contribution to the research work that resulted in the definition of a new protocol: Multipath TCP (MPTCP), which is an evolution of the TCP protocol, which was invented about forty years ago and is used for over 90% of Internet traffic. This protocol has been very well received by telecom operators because it allows them to offer a significantly improved Internet experience while taking advantage of existing infrastructures. In addition to having contributed to the definition of this new protocol, the UCL researchers were the first to develop a prototype software solution embedding this new standard, and marketing this solution is precisely what Tessares intends to do.
You have benefited from solid sponsorships from the outset: the WSL incubator and especially Proximus. Is this a guarantee of credibility?
We have indeed benefited from the support of the WSL incubator, which has particularly helped us to validate our market approach, and in the wake of this we have raised a significant amount of money from the Vives II investment fund and Proximus. This support is not only financial but also technological, since it is with Proximus that we will finalise the solution, so that it perfectly suits the needs of operators and can be quickly and easily deployed on their infrastructures.
The company was founded in March 2015 and employs 12 staff. What comes next?
The first appointments we made were actually the founders: Professor Bonaventure, head of the lab at UCL within which the research was conducted, Sébastien Barré and Gregory Detal, the researchers who contributed the most to prototype developments and myself with my experience in the telecom world. We now employ 12 people, but we must continue to recruit in order to have about 20 employees by the end of next year.
Is it easy for a small company like yours to attract talent?
It is not easy, especially because the profiles that we want to attract are highly sought after in the market. And we are still building our reputation. Anything that can help us to strengthen it, such as an interview in Références, for example, is therefore particularly welcome. We also took part in an international exhibition a few weeks ago, the Broadband World Forum in London, where we were selected for an award among such giants as Deutsche Telekom, Alcatel-Lucent, ZTE and Korea Telecom. Within the software/IT community, that counts!
What kind of profiles are attracted to a spin-off?
People who are, above all, attracted by the project and its high technological content. They are also attracted by the idea of taking part in this adventure from the start and having a real impact on its success. Such motivation is shared equally by both the younger and more experienced staff. I recently hired a person in his fifties, with whom I had worked before: his children are now grown-ups, he has had a successful career and, more than pay or job security, it is actually taking an active role in this project that interests him. This is exactly the same kind of motivation that I had, although I have spent my entire career working for large groups. The values on which we have worked, such as excellence, freedom, fluidity and pleasure, should enable us to attract the profiles that have an entrepreneurial spirit, and like us, want to work for the Internet of tomorrow.
What are the profiles that interest you?
Mainly engineers who work in development and who have expertise in Internet protocols in order to do so: we have recruited people who have written their dissertations on the subject, computer scientists specialising in open source or networks, among other things. We will also need profiles that will help us to validate solutions in terms of technology and present them to the market including engineers, but also graduates and PhD students. For some more commercial functions, the degree is less important than the person's personality and their network that will make the difference.
Tessares is a spin-off from the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), Belgium where researchers have over a period of many years greatly contributed to the design, implementation and standardisation of a new Internet protocol: Multipath TCP (MPTCP) which is an evolution of TCP, invented 40 years ago and used for over 90% of the world’s Internet traffic. In comparison to alternative solutions, MPTCP offers many benefits in particular in terms of deployability, being simpler and cheaper to commercialise. Although any IP network can be bonded, the initial focus of the company is Hybrid bonding of xDSL & 4G networks for Home/Office Gateways. Tessares is headquartered in Belgium with development and sales teams in Belgium and the UK.