This is the third major crisis in the internet in twenty-five years. After the bursting of the bubble, in 2000, it took ten years for the sector to found of the colors. Then after the financial crisis of 2008, it took five.
With the health crisis, the layoffs are multiplying in the United States in the start-up, and affect businesses as diverse as Lyft or Airbnb. What to expect in the digital economy in France ? A new beginning or the end of a certain arrogance ? Patrick Robin, founder in 1995 of ImagiNet, one of the first providers of Internet access in France, and more recently co-founder of the business bank Avolta Partners, has experienced these three crashes. We asked him what this crisis had been different.
The Point : in The United States, start-ups, Uber to Airbnb, passing by Lime, are laying off massively. The digital ecosystem the French will re-t-he of this crisis ?
Patrick Robin : just a Few days before the start of the containment, 13 march 2020, we were celebrating a sad anniversary : that of the bursting of the Internet bubble, there was just 20 years old. After this crash of the " new economy ", as it was called at the time, it will take nearly a decade for start-ups are creating new interest beyond a circle of insiders. At a time when we think about all the " days after ", and before you imagine, it is tempting to remember a few dates during the days before.
To cross the brief history of the " French Tech ", it is enough just to remember of five major steps which have marked a quarter of a century : 1994-1997, it was the era of pioneers, dreamers, adventurers ; 1998-2000, it is the arrival of a second wave of pioneers, but also some opportunistic, and a lot of gray suits ; for 2001-2004, it is the crossing of the desert, the era of resilient, 2004-2012, this is the remontada, the beginning of the maturity range, in particular by the strong growth of ADSL, e-commerce and online advertising ; and finally, 2012-2020, years which already belong to the past, a particular period, still very close. This period of time, rather very good for the sector, has symbolically started, for many of us, with the revolt of "pigeons;" and in 2012-2013, it also is the creation of France Digitale, an association which brings together entrepreneurs and investors, the investment bank BPI, as the label Frenchtech who wants to enhance the value of our innovation in the world.
This fifth episode of the Internet in france was that of ambition, which has seen the birth of some rare unicorns, the French, and which has seen the consolidation of a venture capital industry is extremely dynamic and that is incredibly professionalized in just two decades. It is also a period where the French people, and especially young people, have regained an appetite for entrepreneurship. I loved this period !
to answer your question, in France, the part-time unemployment measures and loans guaranteed by the state (PGE) or the different devices of the BPI have enabled us to avoid layoffs and bankruptcy filings. Moreover, in the face of this earthquake, I was appreciative of the responsiveness, the creativity and the fighting spirit of that generation of entrepreneurs. The crisis we are in is very different from those that we have previously traversed in the short history of the Internet and start-ups.
The sector can bounce back ?
The sixth episode still, of course, to invent, and we do not know what the future holds for us, but I want to trust him. These are just a few ideas, or what we might imagine for the after-Covid-19.
I imagined the three large blocks. The first, which I have called the "confinéconomie" and where one finds all the sectors of tech that take full advantage of the containment, but whose changes in behavior gained should encourage the adoption and therefore the growth in the months and perhaps years to come. It consists of the following areas : solutions to promote telework, productivity tools, technologies relating to education, entertainment, and video games, cyber-security, e-commerce, especially for food.
Finally, there are the sectors of the future who are going to install maybe a little more slowly, but very strongly in our society. This includes start-ups, which include process optimization, industrial parks, energy, site management, and traceability. But also those which concern the future of nutrition and agriculture, the change of our modes of work, new mobility, green technology (" greentech ") that can accompany the reduction of our impact on the earth, the real estate and connected cities, the fintech and InsureTech.
We are a few to think that this crisis should accelerate the digital transformation of French companies – not only those of the CAC40 or our business intermediary,but also our SMES – and hopefully, also of the administration.
consumers also would like the relocation of some of our productions. But for high-tech products, this is still a sweet dream in the era of " made in Shenzhen "...
We suddenly realized our dependence vis-à-vis economic zones (external, not only in the fields of health, just as our dependence in the supply of strategic raw materials. Without being a great economist, so there is hope that we will be attending in the two years to come up with a relocation, at least partial, of much of our production needs. And start-up of the " day after ", start-ups, targeting businesses involved in the industrial process, the management or the optimization of the parks, sites, energy, logistics... could well hold their own in the game.
Like everyone else, I hope naively a change in the behaviour of governments, businesses and consumers. In terms of consumption, this could be of benefit to some short circuits, but also to tools that allow these changes. We can also imagine that some of the habits picked up in containment will facilitate the more rapid development of electronic commerce in food. In the same way, the experience forced to teleworking, which had so much trouble to emerge in Europe could become a new normal and start-up able to assist companies in this area should grow up very quickly. It is probably too early to tell, but this virus could well hacker our society as a whole, not to make it a "start-up nation" – too often perceived as exclusionary, but to switch to France in a digitization accelerated and may be better understood and better accepted.
Before you start to change the world, start-ups should try to save it...
The digital has already changed the world ! It will no doubt take part in his change in this time of post-Covid-19 in which we are entering. In the world, entrepreneurs have mobilized to provide support and solutions to governments, to laboratories, to hospitals, to schools, to individuals, but also businesses and merchants. Some have wanted to, as the initiative is Just One Giant Lab, to pool the efforts of researchers, others have used artificial intelligence to model proteins up to now still unknown, still others are converted in the manufacture of valves for respirators essential in the recovery room... The examples are numerous.
The digital is only a means to accelerate some of the changes, what is needed is a political will, of course, but above all a commitment of more and more of our entrepreneurs. I confess that I have often doubted the sincerity of these startupeurs who explained to me that they went to their box for " change the world ", in the last ten years, it had become a kind of mantra. Well, today, I want to say : chick !
Is this an opportunity for profiles poorly represented to say ?
In the world, women represent only 20% of the creations of a start-up. In France, it is less than 10 %. For what is the social mix, I have the feeling that 25 years ago, the Internet could more easily be a social lift than it is today. Investors in particular prefer more often to invest in large schools than on personalities (95 % of CEO's of digital are at least bac + 5). I don't throw the stone, the age of adventurers is already far away, but it seems to me that we were much more numerous two decades ago to be bac - 2 bac + 2.Updated Date: 21 May 2020, 15:33