Major groups, start-ups, investors and public bodies don’t always speak the same language, and don’t usually have much in common. That is precisely why the French Ministry of Finance brings together these different ecosystems each month as part of their Jeudigital (Digitalgame) initiative. Their goal: to teach public institutions the “language of start-ups” so that they can be better supported. On Thursday, 30 October, the walls came down!
France is looking to breathe new life into its economy, and the number of initiatives dedicated to nurturing start-ups is on the rise. These include incubators, accelerators and more, demonstrating how imperative it is that young entrepreneurs receive support. That is why Axelle Lemaire, French Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, launched Jeudigital to help the government understand this new momentum and adopt the start-up spirit. The aim: to ‘hack’ into ministries and connect start-ups, public bodies, major groups and investors.
DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES: “AN ECONOMIC ASSET AND A SOURCE OF SOCIAL PROGRESS” (AXELLE LEMAIRE)
Axelle Lemaire believes that the public sector needs to adopt the ‘Digital for all, now’ spirit:
“The world of start-ups is quite obscure outside of the digital ecosystem. It is vital that members of the government, cabinet ministers and public bodies, in particular public procurement, are familiar with and accustomed to the language of start-ups, as these are stimulating a burgeoning economy and we must be there to support them”.
Jeudigital is therefore a sign of the strong political drive to implement the ‘Digital Republic’ project launched in September, which was allocated a budget of €15 million for boosting the international profile of French start-ups. To mark the occasion, Axelle Lemaire told the Les Echos newspaper that ‘French Tech’ should work to “develop and spread digital technologies and usages” so that they become “an economic asset and a source of social progress reflecting the principles of the Republic”.
“IT’S FRANCE THAT WILL HELP US CONQUER THE WORLD”
The second edition of the Jeudigital took place at INSEP (the French Institute for Sport, Expertise and Performance). Eight start-ups operating in the sports sector presented their projects to an audience that was so large there weren’t enough chairs to seat them all. With projects ranging from the Hexo+ drone (which received $1,306,920 in KickStarter crowdfunding) to the Vogo Sport second-screen application for use in stadiums, and the Openfield solution for tracking information on spectators in sporting arenas, every pitch was a crowd-pleaser.
But in addition to attracting this initial interest, the problem start-ups face is moving from virtual to reality and succeeding on the real market. Many start-ups have highlighted the important role the French entrepreneurial ecosystem has played in the success of their projects. Hexo+ CEO Antoine Level states:
“There’s no doubt about it for us: it’s France that will help us conquer the world. We come from Grenoble and the ecosystem there really spurred us on and has made it possible for us to develop. I think that France is a special case when it comes to providing support. French engineers are able to understand and anticipate various technical problems and find solutions to them”.
THE CHALLENGE: MOVING AHEAD. “BEING IN CONTACT WITH THE RIGHT STAKEHOLDERS TO ENSURE DEVELOPMENT”
That is how Julien Lavault, co-founder of the start-up Fysiki, sees it:
“Today in France, we are lucky enough to have all the help we need for launching a start-up, with organisations willing to support and finance our projects. Yet, while we have lots of help at the launch stage, the challenge is now moving ahead to the next step – being in contact with the right stakeholders to ensure development, proving ourselves and growing internationally”.
Becoming established in France in order to export worldwide subsequently was the ambition of all the start-ups who went up on stage at Jeudigital. This mindset is shared by Minister of Sport Thierry Braillard:
“The start-ups that have sprung up in the area of sport are extremely strong on a national level, but they are also looking further afield. When we see what French entrepreneurs are capable of creating, like we did today at the Jeudigital, we can feel proud to be French”.
BUILDING AN ECOSYSTEM FOR OPEN INNOVATION
“The best place for developing a start-up is a multi-faceted ecosystem with good universities, SMEs, major groups and areas for experimenting with and showcasing new apps,” says Vogo Sport’s Christophe Carniel. “And that’s the aim of Jeudigital”.
There is a strong political drive to uncover ‘national treasures’ and stimulate open innovation.
According to Axelle Lemaire :
“there is no perfect place to develop a project, as long as it’s part of an ecosystem. We need start-ups that are able to work with major groups, local government (in particular local authorities), local MPs, research laboratories and schools. It’s an ecosystem that favours open innovation and the sharing of ideas, discussion and meetings. That is how innovation and companies are born and growth is stimulated”.
We are confident that this outlook has what it takes to appeal to the proudest nationalists and still charm foreign stakeholders!