IE University student François Mari is on track to help shape the 2024 EU elections with a game-changing app called Adeno.

François Mari first burst onto the global scene in 2022 during the French presidential elections. Along with his friend Grégoire Cazcarra, he created Elyze, a Tinder-like application that matched voters with their ideal candidates based on shared values and priorities. Soon, Elyze became the most downloaded app in France for that year.

Now, François is in his second year of the Bachelor in Business Administration at IE University, and he’s ready to shake up the political scene again with Adeno, an app designed to get more young people involved in the 2024 European Union elections. Here’s his story.

When did you first notice your passion for entrepreneurship?

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak. In middle school, I created my first website, though without much success. Also, I’m inspired by great entrepreneurs—especially those from France—who succeeded in building empires with innovative ideas, perseverance and sheer audacity. Beyond this, I believe that entrepreneurship and politics have one essential thing in common: both aim to provide solutions that can transform people’s lives. This noble mission should be made accessible to as many people as possible.

“Commitment—whether entrepreneurial, political or associative—is the only way to change the world.”

François Mari

What inspired you to create Adeno?

The record abstention rates at the last elections had a real impact: more than one in two young people in the EU didn’t go to the polls. But the success of Elyze confirmed that young people can be interested in politics. On the strength of this experience, I decided to continue down this path by co-creating Adeno with Matthieu Maillard, who is a student at Sciences Po Lille. Our focus is on the upcoming EU elections, which will define the major answers to tomorrow’s challenges in every EU member country. 

Which key features help Adeno effectively capture young users’ attention?

To arouse young people’s interest in politics and European issues, we needed to successfully take over their code. It’s what we did with Elyze, using the codes of popular dating apps like Tinder, where users “match” with their favorite candidate.

For Adeno, we had to find a way to translate proposals from different political groups in a playful way that would appeal to young people. We took inspiration from party game applications to develop an app with two game modes: single-player and multiplayer. While the single-player mode remains classic, its multiplayer feature has interfaces reminiscent of those found in typical party games. Once the game is completed, Adeno ranks players according to their answers, such as “the most liberal” or “the most ecological.” Many users tell us this is what led them to become interested in the elections.

What obstacles did you face in developing and launching Adeno, and how did you overcome them?

Firstly, the incubator Inceptio Lab generously allowed us to take charge of legal and administrative processes, often the most unpleasant part of setting up a project.

Then, during our launch, we had to decide how to get the word out. So, we organized an event and invited journalists, institutional representatives and our academic partners. This enabled us to create an initial buzz at launch—we reached ten thousand downloads in just one week!

The next challenge was making our app known in Europe. How do we translate it coherently across all 27 member states? This required several months of work—and hours of translation—but today, it allows us to benefit from a network of ambassadors and partners who spread the word about Adeno throughout the EU.

How did IE University feed into your entrepreneurial mindset?

The inspiring encounters that contributed to my entrepreneurial spirit were those with other ambitious students keen to launch their own projects. Discovering the story behind these projects allowed us to understand and improve one another. What’s more, IE University offers an excellent network and numerous resources dedicated to entrepreneurs, enabling us to meet personalities we would have never imagined.

“All young people have convictions, but only a few translate them into the ballot box.”

François Mari

Where do you see yourself and Adeno in the next five years?

My focus will be on expanding Adeno’s reach and impact. Civic technology projects thrive during major democratic events and election campaigns, and it’s exhilarating to develop them. Our goal is to continue encouraging civic engagement among young people across Europe.

I’ve also been working for several months on a new project in the fashion sector, which will be launched later this year and aims to revolutionize the way we dress!

Lastly, what’s your message to young people who may be hesitant about getting involved in politics?

All young people have convictions, but only a few translate them into the ballot box. Our generation can take strong positions on important issues, but politics will always be the only means of translating them into public life. So getting involved is our way of fighting for our convictions. In the end, commitment—whether entrepreneurial, political or associative—is the only way to change the world.