From basketball to self-driving cars

Meet the Skyline alumnus and his endeavor to revolutionize the automotive technology

Ashley Hernandez, Arts & Entertainment Editor

March 20, 2021

Etienne Boutan attended Skyline from 2013 to 2014. His interest in technology led to him choosing to study in California. Whilst playing basketball as a shooting guard at Skyline College, Boutan found a passion for the tech industry, and is now a co-founder and chief financial officer of the startup company Heex Technologies.

Heex Technologies is a software company that helps development teams select the important data in autonomous vehicles. The company helps development teams work faster and more efficiently in order to develop an algorithm for the autonomous vehicle. It is based in France, but worked with US-based programs such as Plug in Play Program, Microsoft for Startups’ autonomous driving program and Nvidia Inception.

Once in San Francisco, Boutan connected to networks in the area, seeking to find out what problems engineers in tech companies were facing. One of the engineers Boutan met talked about the difficulty in accumulating all the data from the autonomous vehicles’ algorithms.

“To give a perspective of the amount of data, the amount of data accumulated for an hour of driving by a single vehicle will take at least four days to be sent with perfect 4G connection, which is huge,” Boutan said. “So the guys had to actually take the hard drives to data centers and work on it, and we thought there was an opportunity there.”

Thus, the idea to start a data management company was born.

Boutan, Bruno Mendes Da Silva, and Arnaud de La Fortelle started the company in March 2019. Da Silva came up with the idea of the name Heex, an alternation of the letter X, intended to symbolize technology and sustainability crossing over and meeting together.

(From left to right) Etienne Boutan, Arnaud de La Fortelle and Bruno Mendes Da Silva, the founders of Heex Technologies.

“Autonomous driving cars need to be very accurate,” Boutan said. “If your algorithm is 99% accurate and is killing 1%, it is a terrible result. In order for self-driving cars to be safe, you need to be so close to 100%. Self-driving cars are driving roads over and over again in order to find scenarios and cases they don’t know, in order to improve.”

Companies were forced to adapt to COVID-19-related restrictions last year, and were not allowed to drive in the street. Because of this, they have been using simulation software to test scenarios on computers.

An athlete, a scholar, a businessman

As a sophomore, Boutan transferred from Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, to Skyline College. Upon his arrival, he reached out to Justin Piergrossi, professor and head men’s basketball coach, and was told about an open position as shooting guard. This confirmed Boutan’s relocation to the Bay Area.

Piergrossi lauded Boutan for his stellar performance as a player for the Skyline College’s basketball team, and as an outstanding student.

“Etienne was a pleasure to have in the (basketball) program,” Piergrossi wrote. “He was a great teammate and worked hard every day to prepare.”