And… 23! Juice is the 23and company to be credited to Rafi Haladjian. Behind his round glasses, the 60-year-old boy’s eyes sparkle as he talks about his latest “baby”, a mobile application based on artificial intelligence that allows you to listen to a thread of personalized content, constantly fed by multiple sources (radio , podcasts, music…)
“Augmented info”, explains the entrepreneur, associated for the occasion with Arié Sélinger and Stéphane Dadian, both of whom passed through Silicon Valley and younger, he says, than his own children.
Beginnings in the pink Minitel
Rafi Haladjian, over the course of his business creations, has acquired a reputation as a pioneer of digital revolutions. He is now more ambitious than ever. Juice’s goal: to win 100,000 users this year.
This lover of cinema, “indie” rock and contemporary art has nothing to do with a “geek”. But he was able to surround himself with engineers. “In the story of Juice, I’m the one who says: it would be cool if we did that”, laughs this boss in a sweatshirt, wedged in a leather armchair in his Parisian apartment in the middle of books galore. He reads dozens at a time.
Born in Beirut, child of an Armenian family and son of a carpet seller, he left behind him a battered Lebanon to study semiology in Paris. In the process, he enrolled in the telematics course at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University. “At the time, the Minitel technology was shaky, there was no economic model, no market, he says. But that’s what I liked: everything had to be invented. He was quickly recruited by Guy Sitbon, journalist and businessman. Among his first successes, he launched a “pink” Minitel company alongside him.
During a trip to Armenia in 1991, in the middle of the Karabakh war, a student from the University of Yerevan showed him a network allowing him to communicate on screen with Moscow: the Internet. New click.
And after discovering the Mosaic browser in Canada, he founded, in 1994, FranceNet, one of the first access providers in France, which also concocts the merchant sites of large groups (La Redoute, Carrefour, TF1, etc.) In 2001 , he will resell the company at a good price to British Telecom. “Like all visionaries, when it starts to work, he gets bored and dreams of other horizons”, sums up Nada Fayçal, ex-director general of FranceNet, remembering “a bubbling spirit but common sense”.
It will also create Moralscore, Deepscore, Micronet… And sometimes there will be failures. As early as 2003, Haladjian saw the Internet of Things (IOT) as the next big bang. With Olivier Mevel, he founded the companies Ozone and Violet to bring the IOT into the daily life of the French. To demonstrate the existence of a market, he launched his own connected object, a rabbit, named Nabaztag. “It was a demonstration by the absurd. If you could connect a rabbit to the Internet, any object could be! he said.
Nabaztag or the ancestor of voice assistants
In its most successful version, the animal included a microphone to receive instructions in order to broadcast, for example, the weather forecast. An ancestor of voice assistants. Alas, the avant-garde vision of Rafi Haladjian struggles to be profitable. “Selling 180,000 copies, the product was too expensive to manufacture, not at all profitable,” says its creator. The business is transferred to Aldebaran Robotics.
Rafi Haladjian then founded Sen.se in 2010 when the IOT finally seemed to take off. Its first product, in 2014, is in the shape of a Russian doll: “Mother” is connected to mini sensors stuck to ordinary objects, such as a bunch of keys. And collect data. For example, you can check remotely if your children have returned from school. But the “digital mom” has not found her audience. The company was liquidated in 2017.
Since then, the entrepreneur has continued to invest in start-ups. Never satisfied, he admits to having projects in the Metaverse and Web3. Placed on the fireplace in his living room, his Nabaztag has taken a hit.