Hello Charly is a fully automated chatbot designed to support young people aged 14 to 24 with guidance and help them build career objectives that suit them. Since its creation in March 2016, Hello Charly has provided guidance to more than 5,000 students!
Getting to know young people
In the sometimes stuffy world of guidance in France, there are entities attached to the Ministry of National Education – guidance counsellors, Information and Guidance Centres, Onisep (National Information Office on Education and Professions) – and major media groups, such as L’Étudiant and Studyrama, which have been around for decades. And then there’s Hello Charly. “I was inspired to change the way young people get guidance as, with each passing day, I noticed the failings of school and career counselling in France, which relies on tools that haven’t changed in 40 years,” explains Fatma Chouaieb. The co-founder of Hello Charly met Laurent Deambrogio, her partner, at a conference on the future of working. “Fatma explained her project to me and it immediately caught my interest because I personally had a rather difficult path.” Laurent left his position as an engineer at French electricity supplier EDF to become an independent developer.
“I spent six months meeting with young people, the parents of students and guidance counsellors,” says Fatma, “and I realised that the best guidance tool was individual coaching. The only problem is that it's often very expensive. The idea behind Hello Charly was to provide the best possible coaching and make it available to all.” So, what makes Charly different from a guidance counsellor (who spends on average six minutes with a student during their whole schooling experience), is that it really takes the time to get to know the young person, their situation, what their interests are, and their aspirations in order to give them a privileged anonymous space for reflection without making value judgements, outside the settings of school and family.
Opening up new possibilities
“The purpose of Hello Charly is to widen the scope of possibilities, to show young people that there are plenty of interesting careers that are meaningful in which they can flourish,” underscores Fatma. Opening ever broader horizons, especially through artificial intelligence, and co-constructing a career objective with young people right where they are and speaking their language are the reasons for Hello Charly’s success. Created in March 2016, Hello Charly supported over 1,000 young people in September 2016. And it was when they launched their fully automated chatbot in April 2017 that Fatma and Laurent arrived at Societe Generale’s Le Plateau.
“Being hosted at Le Plateau helped us focus the entire team on the development of the product so we could launch quickly. We were able to be super-efficient because we had the space and the tools we needed,” explains Laurent. “Le Plateau also offers a host of opportunities, especially the chance to make a pitch to potential customers.” Fatma adds: “The Le Plateau team is very considerate and helps startups while simultaneously giving them the freedom to do what they want in the best of settings.”
For Flore Jachimowicz, Head of Le Plateau and Partnerships, Hello Charly “meets all the criteria for the perfect stay at Le Plateau. It’s a promising startup with a very dynamic team. The services it offers are very attractive to our Youth market: growing up while at the same time developing an educational direction, we gradually become independent and self-reliant in managing our daily lives. From our very first meeting, we began thinking about all the synergies we could develop and we were able to put Fatma and Laurent in touch with the Societe Generale teams in charge of banking products and offers designed for 14 to 24 year-olds.” Today, Le Plateau and Hello Charly are working on a joint offer.
The startup now employs five people and supports more than 5,000 young people. The goal is to increase that number to 60,000 between now and the end of 2017 and to continue to enhance the user experience by adding more technological building blocks allowing users to chat with Hello Charly as you would to a friend. “Technologically speaking, what we have done with Hello Charly can be easily transferred to other audiences,” says Fatma. The startup could take on the markets for reskilling and training for new occupations as well as internal mobility.
Hello Charly in five steps
1 - Getting in contact: the young person sends a message to Charly via Facebook or SMS. A dialogue starts that can last from 30 minutes to several months.
2 - Getting to know each other: Charly asks the young person a series of questions to find out more about them and to provide guidance.
3 -Exploring careers: based on the answers, the artificial intelligence behind Hello Charly queries a database and suggests career paths and fields matching their profile and interests.
4 - Exploring training/education options: next, Hello Charly outlines the necessary education and training and, where appropriate, helps the young person find internships, work-study programmes or apprenticeships.
5 - Expressing the career plan: at the end of the path, the young person is able to develop career objectives and know the steps to follow to reach these objectives.
What do you tell young people who want to start their own businesses?
“We ask them if they already have a business idea and how mature that idea is. We talk about the skills an entrepreneur is expected to have and we show them that today in France there are lots of tools available to help them put their plans into action, such as the national status of student-entrepreneur (“SNEE”).”
Launched by the French National Education Ministry, SNEE status lets students and young graduates get startup help, especially with the administrative and legal formalities, and access to a co-working space. It also gives their plan visibility and credibility