#Ynspire – Mathieu Nebra, Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer of OpenClassrooms


Interview with Mathieu Nebra, Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer of OpenClassrooms

How can we feed the planet while respecting nature’s resources and biodiversity? This question guides the daily life of all Ÿnsecters, and puts impact at the heart of everything we do. As our initiatives broaden, we are giving the floor to others helping to change the world, offering alternatives, and contributing to a more sustainable society. Today, we meet Mathieu Nebra, Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer of OpenClassrooms, who envisaged the company from a very young age and launched it in the 2000s. While OpenClassrooms and Ÿnsect are different, they both work towards the same goal: the construction of a fairer and more inclusive world and the common good. We therefore wanted to create a bridge between our two companies: on one hand, a natural, sustainable and premium insect-based solution; on the other, an online school that allows men and women all over the world to develop their skills. We had the opportunity to meet Mathieu Nebra, Co-founder & Chief Innovation Officer of OpenClassrooms, to discuss these topics.

How did you get the idea for this startup at such a young age?

When I was 13, I wanted to create websites but I couldn’t find any books in bookstores on the subject or, more generally, for young people. So it was out of frustration that I decided to do it myself and rewrite it the way I would have liked when I was younger. It was more of a personal project that later evolved into a startup. I had no idea it would be this big. The project was really born when I met my partner Pierre in the 2000s: we developed the project with several business models, leading to the one we have today: helping people to get a degree and a job, but first and foremost, offering free lessons. The main goal was to create something useful, and this objective has always been top of mind.

Are you able to measure your impact on the users of your website today?

I could talk about so many incredible stories from students. We have so many stories, that they have almost stopped being stories! We’ve helped people to find jobs, launch projects… I regularly meet people who tell me how much these lessons have changed their lives: it’s incredible to see how much we’ve been able to impact people’s lives without knowing it, without knowing them. But we don’t want to stop there: by 2025, we want to help 1 million people to find a job. This is definitely an ambitious goal, but our growth rate leads us to believe that we can achieve it!

How does OpenClassrooms help meet the social and environmental challenges of tomorrow?

It is the natural consequence of wanting to do something useful and remaining focused on this goal. As the company grew, we needed to clarify our mission so we wouldn’t get lost. So we defined what we are, what we do, but above all, what we don’t do. I would summarise this mission as “Making Education Accessible”. Do we have a societal impact? Today we do, but it is the result of hard work, and now we can think about improving our environmental impact. The Bcorp certification has highlighted our efforts in terms of the environment. Today, we reimburse our employees’ electricity costs if they have green energy at home.

Have you established values in the company? Hoz do you action these values in the company’s day-to-day?

We currently have four values: “We care”, because we care about the learner; “We take as it is”, because we open our eyes to what’s going on around us; “We dare” because we have to dare to challenge ourselves and push our limits; and “We persist” because we have to be patient, and we can’t expect everything to work at first. Despite the fact that the project is 22 years old this year, there are still issues we face.  We are now really able to put our values into practice because they are the result of collective work. With my associate, we often chat about them. We have to experience them, without lying to ourselves!

At Ÿnsect, we have established 5 values: explorer, balance, authenticity, adaptability and solidarity. Is there one that rings true for you more than others?

Authenticity, without hesitation. It’s the one that speaks to me the most because we’ve done a lot of work on our brand values and we’ve also landed at authenticity. If I had to define it, I would say that we have to be aligned with ourselves, be frank, and embrace who we really are. It’s a form of alignment between who we are on the inside and the outside.

In your opinion, what is the role and mission of the entrepreneur today?

Everyone is entitled to their own definition. I see an emerging need for meaning in my generation and the younger ones. Before, we used to contrast profit-making companies with non-profit organisations that worked for the common good. I see a desire in the new generations to reconcile these two models, which is what we are doing. We have to be realistic: to do positive things, you need money. In my time, being an entrepreneur was not a process, while today it is. This is really what motivated us to create OpenClassrooms. We wanted to be able to pass on the lesson because, even among entrepreneurs, there are things that can be learned