Interview with Jean-Luc Nauleau (An 81), AFAM board member since 2007


AFAM: hello, Jean-Luc and thank you for your time. How have you become acquainted with AFAM?

Jean-Luc: I’ve known Eric Benhamou (AFAM president in 2007-2020, President Emeritus) for many years. He is a long-time friend. Eric contacted me and asked to join the board at the very beginning of AFAM, in 2007. I am with AFAM from the first days of the organization existence.

AFAM: When and why did you decide to help American Friends of Arts et Metiers? What was your main motivation?

Jean-Luc: That’s a good question. When Eric asked me to join AFAM, it made a lot of sense. First of all, when I arrived in the USA in 1985 to study in Santa Clara University and later when I stayed in the US, opened my first startup, I did not have enough interactions with other French entrepreneurs, gadz’arts or not. My very first entrepreneurship steps would have been different if I had more connections. Remembering my first business failures and missed opportunities in the nineties , I was very happy to join the organization which mission was to strengthen the community of alumni and students residing in the US and to develop and nurture partnerships and relationships with universities, companies and other partners.

Second, Eric Benhamou was my motivation. The AFAM mission was not so clearly defined yet but when a friend needs help to conduct a project, we are certainly here to lend a helping hand following the best gadz’arts tradition of solidarity. In 2007 Eric was looking for gadz’arts- entrepreneurs to join the board , I was still  an executive of a semi-conductor company and had been doing business is the Silicon Valley for over 20 years. I had a good profile. My company had offices in Europe and Asia as well and I thought I could make a difference for other gadz’arts coming to the US by offering them some connections, organizing events.

In the late nineties, the datacom business was booming and many French entrepreneurs had successful businesses here in the Valley. Being able to exchange ideas and establish a business relationship with some of them would have been beneficial to my own venture.

 Louis Magne (An 130), one of the most distinguished alumni who died at age 106 in 2019 and whose achievements we remembered again on December 8th this year, the day of this birthday, - made a sizable grant to AFAM back in 2009. It meant that we could do things together with other active gadz’arts to expand AFAM programs across the US.

AFAM: What did you do for AFAM at the beginning for your volunteering experience? What is your role inside the organization now?

Jean-Luc: As AFAM board member, at the beginning my role was to help students who were coming to American Universities. Then after the launch of the Shasta program in 2010 – to help students find internships. At some point, I was less involved in AFAM activities. Other gadz’arts volunteers took the role of a students’ guides, helpers, counselors and referrers.

A few weeks ago, AFAM launched a new Yosemite mentorship program - named after a Californian national park, Yosemite program is designed to help existing and future entrepreneurs understand and develop their companies in the USA.

I am one of the Yosemite mentors along with Xavier Wartelle, Michel Vulpillat, Marc Amblard and Philippe Laurent.

So, this is a new development not only for AFAM (as AFAM targets entrepreneurs with a new program for the first time), but also a new step for me in my long journey alongside AFAM.

AFAM: Do you have any previous experience helping non-profit organizations? Any non-profit you knew of and helped to when you were a student at Arts et Metiers?

Jean-Luc: I realized that I always liked to be in contact with students, to offer them opportunities and to help them out. One of my most exciting volunteering experiences was about helping French-American students from the San Francisco French-American International School to get acquainted with Mexican culture. I am French, living in the US and I love Mexico. So, the idea of encouraging cultural exchange was natural to me.

In 2008 I sponsored a journey to Mexico for 17 French American high school students. We all traveled to Baja California a  stretch of land between the Pacific ocean and the Sea of Cortez , Those students had the opportunity to touch whales in the Bay of San Ignaciao , We visited Mexican schools in very remote areas and established relations with the teachers  there . It was a magical experience for the students, teachers and myself. It was about connecting young people who could maybe start environmental projects in the future.

AFAM: Please tell us a few words about yourself and your current projects. You lived in California and now you are in Colorado. Do you come often back to France?

Jean-Luc: I came in California in 1985 for post-graduate studies after Arts et Metiers. After completing my master’s degree at Santa Clara University, I joined a semi-conductor  startup  located in  SF bay area. The Business was growing rapidly and I decided to stay in the U.S.

In 2018 I moved to Colorado,  I love the outdoors and Western Colorado has so much to offer. After 30 years in the valley, I decided to go for a quieter setting and environment, out of busy life. My house is at 7300 feet in elevation, Elks and Bears  are my new neighbors … I travel back to California very often as I still have business ventures there.

AFAM: Anything you’d like to wish to AFAM?

Jean-Luc: First of all, Happy Holidays to AFAM team! I hope AFAM will expand and continue networking, exchanges and other activities in after COVID-19 times. We all want that our post-pandemic life go to normal, or even become better than that!


Jean-Luc in Colorado ( photo: courtesy of Jean-Luc)

How you can help AFAM, our community and our students?

You can easily donate to AFAM: here

You can help AFAM: by becoming a Shasta mentor or our expert/referrer

You can share your ideas with AFAM community manager or any member of our team

Please read other interviews of "Giving back to your community" series:

With Valentin Fehr (Cl 212), our new representive in Atlanta region

With Alain Mutschler ( Ch 190), our Shasta mentor

With Michel Vulpillat (Ch 183), AFAM Southern California representative

With Jean Pommier (An 183), AFAM board member, Shasta committee member and Shasta mentor