DAME
Awards
Thursday, 30 September 2021
Kim
Hollamby

From concept to product: how an award winner was born

What did it take to research, develop and place on the market the TEMO 450, last year’s DAME R&D Excellence in Adversity Award winner? Kim Hollamby speaks with Justine Perussel, sales and marketing director at TEMO.

Where did the idea for the TEMO outboard come from?

Our founder, Alexandre Seux, had sailed since a child and in 2015 he circumnavigated for two years on a 6.5m sailing boat with a friend. He met many sailors on his travels of course and realised there was a problem using internal combustion outboards on tenders and dinghies – they were heavy and they polluted. That got him thinking ‘how can we improve that?’

When Alexandre returned home, he saw the boom in electric mobility devices such as bikes and scooters, as well as electro-portable inventions like Dyson domestic equipment. It prompted the question of why we could not have that kind of thinking on the sea for a small outboard?

How did you set about turning the idea to an invention?

We engaged designer, Christopher Chedal Anglay, who has worked for major clients like Tefal, Petzl and Rossignol. There were a lot of constraints that we needed to place on the product, such as simplicity, size and weight. Christopher had to put all our ideas into a nice design that we felt met the concept – you can read more about the initial TEMO outboard design process here.

Next, we needed to conduct the research and development to create a first prototype. We called upon a nearby mechatronic design office called CIMTECH in Rennes, Brittany and worked with one of its lead engineers, Pierre Degremont, for that. We made several versions and conducted a lot of tests to find the right solution. The original designer modified various features through this phase to accommodate changing technical needs. We’ve explained in more detail how the TEMO prototype was created here.

Once we had the right prototype, we engaged with an industrial accelerator, AXANDUS, in our hometown of Nantes. Their job was to take our TEMO concept and turn it into a product that could be manufactured in volume. You can read more about that industrialisation process here. We are still working closely with all these companies – they were very good from start to finish. We are the sailors; they are the experts.

The whole process to get to the TEMO 450 from idea to finished product took around two years, with a lot of adjustment along the way that resulted from our testing and development. Towards the end we were also affected by lock-down.

How did you source components for the TEMO 450?

The TEMO 450 looks simple and compact, but it comprises more than 100 components. For us, it was important that we work with people around us and 70 per cent of the finished product is produced within 100km of Nantes in France. We are collaborating with very good suppliers and that is important as we wanted the quality to be right.

A year on from your DAME Award win how is the TEMO 450 progressing?

We delivered the first product in September 2000. Because of the DAME win and METSTRADE Connect we had a lot of visibility in December which generated a rush of interest and many messages from all around the world. We sold a lot of units, some of them as Christmas gifts!

Sales were limited to France at first, close to where we could provide good aftersales support. I contacted around 30 key shops and received positive feedback from them on initial responses from their customers. It was winter however and many places had COVID-19 lockdowns in place again.

We wanted to hear about the on-water experiences from first time users once the high season started in March of this year. A survey we have now sent out indicates more than a 96 per cent satisfaction rate and people recommended the product to friends – word of mouth has been the best marketing for us.

What lessons did you learn in the field so far?

Our technical issues have been surprisingly low for such a new product. Less than two per cent reported issues on the TEMO 450 and they were quite minor, such as the need to change a type of screw. We also had some issues with our environmentally friendly packaging which was initially not strong enough. Again it was a minor issue, but feedback helped us to make our materials and process better and our logistics smoother.

How are your export plans progressing?

We’ve been taking the same step-by-step approach for selling in other countries. We now have points of sale in place for Germany, the Netherlands and Italy. We’ve just appointed Marine Components International as our UK distributor and will continue to expand in Europe before addressing the Caribbean, Australia and New Zealand.

We have almost 1200 TEMO 450s on the water now, which is good. Our manufacturing plant in Nantes can handle an acceleration in production as soon as we have the right things in place to enter a new market successfully. Our team is also growing. It started with two of us. Then we were four at the time of METSTRADE last year and now we are six, with a seventh person about to be appointed to assist with exports.

Your product looks different to all other outboards – has that made you design your marketing differently?

We know the TEMO 450 is an innovative product, so our marketing and communications must match that. It's a simple product, so the explanations must be simple too. We try to make a lot of light-hearted videos and post these on our YouTube channel. It’s easier to do them now that we have more staff. When we send the product it also comes with a short video from Alexandre, who thanks the customer for making their purchase and explains the first steps of using TEMO.

We also spend a lot of time demonstrating TEMO and getting it on a lot of different boats, from which we get feedback which we can report on. Sailors are passionate. Once they get the idea, they don't need a lot of marketing.

How has the environment and sense of social responsibility affected your decisions?

The decision to create TEMO came from our passion from sailing and awareness of the boating environment. Starting a new company gave us the opportunity to the right thing from the beginning. We think electric is the future – by starting with dinghies and small sailing boats the TEMO is a good first step to getting sailors used to the many benefits of electric power across wider applications. Our decision to build locally was important to us, to support workers in our region. Some of the packing tasks are undertaken by a social enterprise company who employ people with disabilities. We also donate a percentage of our French sales to the SNSM volunteer lifesaving organisation.

What advice would you give to innovators looking to drive an idea to finished product?

Don't be afraid to talk about your idea. People can be scared to talk about their concept in case it is stolen but for us it was good to share the idea, gain insight and receive a lot of feedback about the concept. We operate from an entrepreneur working space which helped that process.

Next you need to recognise you cannot do everything. Choosing the right partners takes time but invest that time as making the right selection is essential.

Finally, don’t wait until everything is perfect before moving forward or trying new ideas. It took us several prototypes to arrive at the right solution. Don’t be scared to show your product to people. The TEMO was not 100 per cent finished before we launched it on the website and in communications. You need to be fast to test your ideas and put them on the market.

Speaking of new ideas – what is next for TEMO?

We are already working on the TEMO 1000 – a 1kW outboard that will be double the power of the TEMO 450. We’re aiming it at larger tenders and small sailing boats.

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