[Alumni Story] Paul DEBARNOT (founder of Obaine): a sporting chance for athletes

While the sky-high salaries of footballers sometimes turn heads or provoke controversy, the reality for many professional athletes is quite different: few of them manage to make a living from their sport. Paul Debarnot (who graduated the Grande École Program in 2019) decided to offer them support by founding Obaine with his childhood friend Clément Pradier. We take a closer look at this innovative concept that creates links between athletes and sports enthusiasts and offers them a chance to meet up.

What has inspired you to start your own business?

After completing my Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship, I decided to pursue a career in this field, which had fascinated me since I was a child. So I joined BPI France as an Accelerator Manager for industrial companies. Over four years, I supported around a hundred managers and learned what kind of things might keep them awake at night: HR, governance, operational performance, strategy, and so on. One day in 2022, during a hike in the Vexin with Clément, a childhood friend I’ve always stayed in contact with through our shared passion for sport (marathons, trails, etc.), we discussed the fact that we both felt we’d reached an “intellectual” glass ceiling in our respective professions. Setting up our own business seemed the obvious next step, and our thoughts naturally turned to the field of sport. We both dedicated ourselves to the project 100% in early 2023.

How did the idea for Obaine come about?

Crédit : @kellermans.lens

We developed five business models, all related to issues encountered in the sports industry. None of them got beyond the concept stage for various reasons (skills, financing, time to market, etc.). In March 2023, we started again from scratch and came up with the idea for Obaine. It was based on the observation that several thousand professional athletes are unable to make a living from their sport. They take out loans, find a second job and rarely have the time or resources to look for sponsors. That’s where we come in…

What do you offer them?

We help them create videos that showcase behind-the-scenes aspects of their daily lives. This genuine content – a world away from the staging of social media – is then made available on our platform to subscribers who have chosen to support them. Subscribers win rewards (video calls with their favourite athlete, a chance to spend a day with them, etc.) and 70% of the subscription price goes back to the athletes. We launched the business last September and we can already see the impact our concept is having on the lives of the athletes who have joined us. It’s now up to us to attract more and more members with our marketing techniques and innovative features. In a few months’ time, we’re planning to raise our first funds and recruit a number of interested and enthusiastic staff.

Will the Olympic Games speed things along?

In a way it will, because professional athletes will be the focus of attention for two months. Of course, the Olympic Games are a wave we can surf on, but it’s when the sea calms down and the spotlight fades that our mission will be most important. Visit our website and join the movement!

This article was written by Luna Créations for IÉSEG Network’s magazine, IÉS #18.

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