From Private Equity Pro To ‘Robot Of The Year’ Winner

Photo ©Vincent Fournier from the Man Machine series. Courtesy photo


A series of coincidences indeed, but Nacson credits his B-school experience for awakening his entrepreneurial spirit. “The cohort that I belonged to was very much composed of entrepreneurs and people who had gone through the entrepreneurship experience in different fields. That brought my attention to the excitement and interest already embedded in me,” he says.

“With 59 people from 32 different nationalities, I remember the scope of exchanges and quality of exchanges with people from around the world and really senior level in their own fields. Taking the time to drop out from your day-to-day life and be challenged intellectually in a different fashion than your day-to-day job opens windows of thinking and approaching things from a different angle. It’s a classic way of describing things, but this really was the case for me. It made me think, ‘This is what I really want to do. I really want to be an entrepreneur.’ But at the time, I had no idea. It ended up being a series of coincidences and being able to grasp opportunities that had been placed before me.”

As many B-schoolers often do, Nascon has since been able to tap into his alumni network. Working alongside him on the Robot of the Year challenge are two HEC Paris MBA alumni he met outside of his cohort.

Nacson tells Poets&Quants 30 projects have been submitted for The Robot Of The Year and he hopes to have 150 by the end of September. Winners will be announced in Paris on November 26 with financial support of up to 2 million euros awarded to the best ethical AI and robotics projects.


Photo ©Vincent Fournier from the Man Machine series. Courtesy photo

Healthcare and education are just two of the 11 industries involved in the competition. Others include energy, environment, fintech, retail, agriculture, and more. Each entry into the competition must fall within one of these categories to be judged by a “jury” of renowned experts, scientists, philosophers, and entrepreneurs in the robotics and AI fields.

“We’ve identified these as industries where the application of AI is interesting and aligned with our core principle which is the ethical use of AI and robotics,” explains Nacson. In short, he believes that artificial intelligence and robots can significantly improve people’s lives, as well as help us to build a better and more sustainable world. “There are a whole bunch of projects in this field helping humans living a better life.”

Nacson explains there are two angles to the robotics and AI challenge: prizes that will be awarded to competitors in the form of financial backing for their projects as well as a global ethical investment fund to help spur investments into ethical AI which is currently being finalized.


Challengers must meet certain criteria when they participate in The Robot of the Year: In so many words, competing participants must design AI or robotics projects that adhere to 10 ethical principles to ensure the projects are grounded in the idea of making the world a better place. “Inspired by the universal laws governing humans,” the competition websitedeclares, “The Robot of the Year principles are consistent with international and ethical laws recognised worldwide.”

Such principles include “human responsibility,” which says robots are the creation of humans and humans cannot ignore the laws that govern them — therefore the laws aimed at securing human lives also apply to robots. The second core principle: “physical integrity.” Robots do not kill or harm. The list goes includes other guiding core beliefs such as well-being (robots ease human labor), privacy (robots never disclose personal data, information, or inner thoughts entrusted to them), and education (robots help humans become better individuals and help humanity navigate its expending landscape of knowledge and diversity).

The competition officially launched last week in France during a tech convention alongside KPMG, one of the event’s heavyweight sponsors. Nacson says sponsors are “helping us communicate the competition and obviously tapping into their networks as far as bringing in experts to take part and participants to compete. They’ve also introduced me to other key partners that we’re currently in discussions with and they’re helping me for the fundraising side of the project.”


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