This article was automatically translated. Read the original in french.
Saturday 15 December 2018, 4pm: I turned 40 today. In one hour I’ve just eaten cake, handed in my resignation and sold my house. Midlife crisis or new beginning?
Hello. My name is Jérôme Berthier and yes, a little over three years ago I decided to embark on a new adventure that looks very much like a mid-life crisis. Today, I am proud to be at the head of Deeplink, an innovative startup in the field of artificial intelligence and virtual agents, and I am very proud to have dared to take the plunge. On the occasion of our3rd anniversary, I tell you our (crazy) story.
In December 2018, while I was working as head of the Data department (AI, BI, Big data) at ELCA in Lausanne and had the chance to oversee its Innovation centre at EPFL, I received a phone call that would transform my life. A friend offered to buy his web agency, but beware, the deadlines are very short (I have 15 days to decide!). What an intriguing opportunity: I don’t really come from this world, my core business is in AI, much less in so-called “classic” web projects. I initially had trouble seeing what I could bring to this ecosystem, and yet I have an embryonic vision of what a site should be tomorrow. The adventure seduces me, and I say “bingo” on my fortieth birthday.
At this stage, I still need to quickly organise the departure of my job and find financing for the buyout. On the first point, my employer was understanding, welcoming my entrepreneurial spirit above all.
On the financial side, I started a rock-n-roll phase. Even though I’m lucky enough to have an investor ready to accompany me (thank you Cédric Juillerat – we’ll see you in the next few episodes), I still have to come up with the first block: how can I find CHF 200,000 quickly? I don’t have that kind of money. Crazy move: with my wife (thank you so much for your support) we decide to sell our house and take the risk of putting all our savings into this adventure. Our house was sold in an hour, clock in hand!
And I was looking for an adventure, and I was quickly served. No sooner had the story begun than the storm broke: the due diligence did not go well enough and the deal did not go through. I gave up on buying the agency. In a few days, I had no job, no house and a lot of money to invest… What to do, where to (re)start?
I decided to slow down. Everything went so fast, too fast (?), I need time to reflect and I tell myself that all this did not happen by chance. Was it a kick in the butt from fate? I choose to continue on my way and to realise my ambition, I will become an entrepreneur! The only thing left to do is to find out in what field.
At the time, I was active in the Empowerement Foundation (with Leila Delarive and Katia Elkaim), which aims to raise awareness of the impact of new technologies on everyday life, especially among young people.
One day, while I was leading a workshop for the foundation, an idea crossed my mind: what if my hobbyhorse was simply the democratisation of AI, at the service of humans and not at their expense? That’s it, I finally have my angle, I’m going to create a company in the field of AI allowing any company to benefit from this technology, and I keep in mind my embryonic vision that appeared when I still wanted to buy the Web agency: to contribute to the emergence of more intuitive websites through conversation.
With an eye to the future, I want to build a tool around conversation to naturally create a strong link between man and technology, I would even say a deep link: a Deep Link. With this name, which is also a nod to Deep Learning techniques in AI, the company is officially born on June 3, 2019.See you in the next episode to talk about the first challenges of AI: its learning and accessibility.