We recently interviewed Benjamin Gaignault, co-founder and CEO of Ornikar, a French startup that is currently disrupting the driver’s education in Europe. Ornikar combines online learning and on-demand instruction enabling students to obtain a license at a fraction of the cost of traditional driving schools. Launched in 2014, Ornikar is now the largest driving school in France, and the company closed a Series A round earlier this year to expand into new markets.
At Brighteye, we are excited to have Ornikar as a portfolio company and to accompany them in their ambitious journey.
Could you briefly introduce yourself?
I grew up in Châteauroux, France (a rural region of France) and I attended a boarding school in Paris before joining Kedge Business School in Marseille. I met my wife at 18, we got married at 24 and we have a new-born baby, his name is Andrea. When we graduated we both took 8 months off to travel in Australia and South-East Asia. That was a fantastic experience!
Prior to Ornikar, what was your previous work experience?
I worked as a business developer at SFR in the South of France and at a hardware company in Paris. Both experiences were valuable as I developed a strong business sense.
What are your hobbies?
I try to spend my weekends doing watersports such as sailing (catamaran) and kitesurfing. Also, my wife is from Marseille (FYI: I fell in love with the city of Marseille during my studies) so we travel back and forth between Marseille and Paris, which allows me to enjoy all the sea activities that the city has to offer.
How did you identify the opportunity to disrupt the driver education industry?
Getting your driver license in France is an important milestone for almost everyone. A total of 1M people take the exam on a yearly basis and unfortunately it’s a very painful, boring and expensive process. When we graduated from business school, most of our friends were preparing for the exam and we definitely felt that there was a huge percentage of the exam takers that were unsatisfied with the existing exam preparation solutions; so we basically started exploring the different avenues on how to disrupt the driving education system!
What keeps you awake at night?
To be honest, today nothing keeps me awake at night! Even though we're facing challenges on a day to day basis, I've adopted a new philosophy that allows me to be completely relaxed and to have fun while working. Every challenge is a new opportunity to learn something new and to expand my skill set! Ornikar is gaining momentum and I'm super optimistic for the future of the company.
How was the fundraising process of your latest round (Series A) compared to the previous one (Seed)?
The seed round was actually pretty simple and straightforward. The Series A round was much more time-consuming and demanding - I had to prepare for 7 months!
Do you have any advice for European EdTech entrepreneurs?
The EdTech cake is pretty big, which means that there are plenty of opportunities for everyone. Also, I would add: “Don’t be intimidated by big and established players, they’re slower than you would think!"
From whom did you learn the most?
I'd say that there I’ve learned different things from different people. My wife has taught me humility, my parents introduced me to strong life principles and my friends and current business partner have opened my mind on many different aspects.
How do you see the future of the French education?
I hope that the French Department of Education will integrate digital in the curriculum. To me, coding should be the very language that children should learn!
Interview has been condensed and edited.