The French Tech Revolution is happening: how France Digitale is bringing the big players together

    The French Tech Revolution is happening: how France Digitale is bringing the big players together

    The French digital ecosystem isn’t simply growing. It’s quickly playing an important role across the globe.

    On Wednesday 18 September, behind the creative backdrop of the Musée des Arts Forains, Paris, 3000 people and 200 investors attended France Digitale Day, a major “unicorn1 gathering in Europe discussing challenges, solutions and ways innovators can work together to build a dynamic and attractive French Tech ecosystem. One that will retain its disruptive players and help them grow. Innovation is the cornerstone of our philosophy at Lombard Odier. And our partnership with France Digitale supports the next generation of entrepreneurs, starts-ups and inventors.

    “En Marche”

    France’s  economy is expanding fast. Even faster than neighbouring Germany and it’s quite close to surpassing the UK tech market as Brexit woes continues to cause market volatility and cause pressure.  In turn France is fast becoming an attractive place to develop technology. President Macron’s recent adoption of measures to boost innovation and investment including tax cuts and a special fast-track French visa might just make France a haven for budding entrepreneurs.

    The French start-up ecosystem is dynamic and scaling-up.

    The France Digitale Day hosted a ream of respected CEO’s and ground breaking entrepreneurs who are all driving a difference. 

    Frederic Sebag, from Ernst & Young, confirmed that: “Investments in start-ups have grown” in France. And President Macron’s announcement earlier last week confirms it. The French government announced, “5 billion dollars of capital from institutional investors will be invested in tech companies over the next three years”2. The French government is looking to its unicorns to lead in the digital race.


    But how can we get a seat at the table?

    “Today, if you go to Palo Alto, and ask to see the list of the top ten companies in the world, on each list, there is not a single European company”, said Joe Schoendorf from Accel Venture.

    So how can France get there?

    First, said Joe, “bring back the French CIOs in the Silicon Valley to educate those in the  French ecosystem”. Then, “France has to adopt more flexible regulation”.

    Regulation is the enemy of innovation, said Joe Schoendorf, Accel Venture

    Magnus Nilsson from iZettle explains that: “We need to work together. Unify regulation. Politicians have to be strong enough to build a pan-European model”…“Even a small French player can go into a 10 billion dollar market and bring enough disruption and play in the game”.

    Unicorns for good?

    Entrepreneurs have a responsibility today. When creating a new company or developing a concept, sustainability must come into the process as well as profitability. The environmental and social challenges the world is facing today affect every sector. Some companies have done much more than include CSR principles into their businesses, they’ve embraced sustainability and it’s at the heart of their business model.

    French start-ups are showing the way towards building a sustainable tech ecosystem.

    Ynsect are farming insects to make high-quality natural ingredients for aquaculture and pet nutrition. They started off as an NGO in the food sector with the objective to educate. Now they have grown into a full entrepreneurial business, from manufacturing to production. For Antoine Hubert, Ynsect CIO, “It was not so much defending our impact that was difficult. Managing and controlling the value chain was really what started to be complicated”. Ynsect has been awarded a Tech For Good in the environment and gender equality categories.

    We are at the forefront of a major shift in the business industry. One that will change everything. The social purpose of business now is to have a profitable impact.

    For Le slip français, the most important elements when creating a company is transparency, desirability and sustainability. Established in France, the company was one of the first to openly share its sourcing information. For Guillaume Gibault, the founder, he feels bigger brands should have the same approach. “Don’t just stop buying from big brands. Go and ask them about their sourcing. Show interest. They will change. Be patient”. However, being a sustainable brand can have its challenges. Gillaume said that “Our margins are cut by two compared to bigger brands. But we believe consumers will embrace this change by buying less and more local.” The next test for the brand is finding investment to conduct important research. “Now we need to improve the material we use. Cotton doesn’t grow in France. We need capital and research to develop local solutions. The circular economy is part of the solution. We want to look into how we can recycle our own products”.

    Backmarket is another disrupter. Awarded a Tech For Good in the circular economy section, they aim to fight e-waste by allowing customers to easily access thousands of refurbished products. “We need to change the mind-set about second hand products” declared Thibault de Larault, in his fight against fast consumerism. “The entire refurbished market is worth 1.2 trillion dollars. This is not just the future it is the present”. Today, “Five cars are sold used whilst one car is sold new. We need to bring this to tech”. One way to do this according to Thibault is to “build trust with the consumers. And never stop innovating. There are thousands of ways to use old iphones. We need to think circular”.

    Think about if you can repair it before you create or buy a new product

    In order to be a sustainable company, the entire value chain must be challenged and the management must be agile. Education is key to driving interest in local solutions.  At Lombard Odier, technology and sustainable investment go hand in hand and are synonymous with our belief that sustainability will be key driver of growth and performance in the long, and the short term.

    A disruptive France

    “France has, for a long time, fostered innovation and has been pioneer in developing disruptive technologies and innovation,” said Cedric O. French Minister of the Digital Economy. However, he went on to say that, “the French economy is behind and still functioning with a post-war system”…“We need to accept failure, we need to innovate and we need to support and invest in this change”.

    Today, France is building an agile, responsive and innovative economy. One tech firms want to be a part of. We’ve seen investment flood into the French market – from 2.5 billion euros in 2017 to 5 billion in 2019. Yet France has to continue to attract talent, foster change and businesses need to work together, with investors, to make this happen.

    Investment cannot only come from the public sector. Private investment must play a role.

    Our mission, at Lombard Odier, is to support innovative ideas that have sustainable objectives, in order to tackle today’s exploitation of natural resources, climate change, inequality and the challenges that come with changing population structures.

    And we believe companies are leading this change.

    1 A unicorn is a privately held startup company valued at over $1 billion. The term was coined in 2013 by venture capitalist Aileen Lee, choosing the mythical animal to represent the statistical rarity of such successful ventures.

    Important information

    This document is issued by Bank Lombard Odier & Co Ltd or an entity of the Group (hereinafter “Lombard Odier”). It is not intended for distribution, publication, or use in any jurisdiction where such distribution, publication, or use would be unlawful, nor is it aimed at any person or entity to whom it would be unlawful to address such a document. This document was not prepared by the Financial Research Department of Lombard Odier.

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