March 14 marked the opening of a fundamental issue at Le Camping, one month before the first round of presidential elections: innovation in France and the corresponding financing environment.
Growth and competition are at the core of French public discourse and the question that appears essential today is: “How can France be made a more competitive country?”
However, at a place like Le Camping, promoting the development of young entrepreneurs, generating growth and jobs, is responding. Le Camping is an advocate of new values and drives a revamped model of growth.
Inspired by international accelerator models, including pioneers like YCombinator and Techstars in the United States, Le Camping has adopted a methodology in guidance based on creation, emulation, collaboration, and competency matching all within the context of a sound economic model that mixes public and private financial support.
This model is made possible by the involvement of large public and private partners like Google, SNCF, BNP Paribas, the greater Parisian region of Île-de-France region as well as the European Social Fund.
Different players in innovation (companies, schools, associations) were present at the first panel.
As Dan Teodosiu, director of the center for engineers of Google in Paris, summarized: the force driving innovation resides in the complementarity of the actions of the various players : “One of the keys to success: creating a virtuous circle by enforcing the links between different actors within the innovation ecosystem.“
Companies, governments and tertiary institutions can each, in their own way, with their own particular capabilities, promote innovation; and work together in order to create a supportive, visible and influential ecosystem.
For Patrick Ropert, Director of Communication at the SNCF Group, it’s a way for the SNCF to tap into the source of innovation, to test projects. “This stance has been accompanied by an agility, an imagination, a dynamic attitude that feedsnourishes the SNCF“, he says.
As far as the startups are concerned, it’s represents an opportunity to sign contracts with the largest railway operator in France (something two Season 1 startups Doctrackr and Mesagraph can both attest to.)
On their side, the schools allow an injection of new working methods and orient their students towards entrepreneurship which is far from being valued highly enough in France.
Olivier Cotinat, Executive Director of the CPI Program, the best interdisciplinary program in innovation based out of Centrale Paris, ESSEC and Strate College evokes the importance of a risk-taking culture and mistakes, both necessary in the creation of an entrepreneur who is not afraid of failure.
Olivier also explains, “In order to maximize your chances of succeeding in a relevant innovation, it is necessary to iterate as quickly as possible and to make mistakes quickly so that you can get always get back on track.”
The second panel took on the question of financing in itself: concretely, where are the startups in terms of cash? Why does this so often resemble an obstacle course in France?
Anne Gloageun, head of grants atfor the Paris branch of OSEO admits that it is not necessarily easy to “ask for funds when the first steps of launching an innovation have not yet been proved and that the project is still in its early stages.”
But even if it is difficult, it is still possible according to her and OSEO provides many different options.
He recounted his own experience after having raised funds with English business angels. Valentin Lautier didn’t raise funds easily. He’s been through all the on-line processes to address Business Angels organizations but the framework wasn’t designed for startups and was far too heavy to fulfill.
He met with every Venture Capitalist in France but he’s been kindly told to “make some money, find some clients, and then come back and see us“. Finally, he found smart angel money in the UK.
There are many startups and few Venture funds, and the situation makes the funds go for less risky investments.
Thinking local ecosystem: with or without public intervention?
The last panel was dedicated to intiatives that have a local impact on the whole innovative ecosystem, like Startup Chile, a special program launched by the Chilean government to promote entrepreneurship, represented by Anne-Sophie Dutat, founder of Guia Vulevu, one of the startups selected to follow the program in Chile.
The idea is outstanding : allowing 100 startups from all around the world to come and work in Santiago, with a grant of $40,000 for each startup.
The only thing that the program asks of the entrepreneurs is what they call a “social equity”.
This means the willingness to give back, to give lessons regularly to students, to spread the entrepreneurial mind-set. Not all the startups will stay, but an average of 20% do. That’s a very “pushy” way to foster innovation, an interesting experience!
Contrary to the above-mentioned model, Springboard is fully private. One could understand that Jon was more convinced about the efficiency of entrepreneurs’ money rather than public funds, when it comes to building an innovative ecosystem.
His vision is influenced by his environment. London is already a dynamic ecosystem and the needs are totally different from Chile, and even from France.
It’s more about how to leverage the quality of the community of startups and mentors and the specialization of each organization helping innovation.
But the environment can changes fast. Less than 5 years ago, Jon had launched Distance Engine, the first well-known accelerator of the Bootcamp program in Europe, fully backed by the public sector.
Sandrine Murcia, President of Silicon Sentier intervene in came to the panel with the “middle voice”. Le Camping is 40% public funded, 60% private. Though our tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem is may still be under construction, but it’s growing fast.
Would Paris be somewhere between Santiago and London?
We could clearly see the relationship between the maturity of an ecosystem and the involvement of the public structures. It raised also a point : France might be now in the transition from an ecosystem to develop to a developed ecosystem, and the role of the public actors is key in helping the actors to become independent and fully competitive…
THÈME 1 : “Entreprises, Écoles, collectivités, ils s’impliquent directement, avec différents moyens : quelles actions pour quels résultats ?” with Patrick Ropert (Directeur de la Communication du Groupe SNCF), Olivier Cotinat (Entrepreneur, CEO Bazando et Directeur Exécutif du programme CPi), Christine Balian (Directrice du Développement Economique et de l’innovation au conseil général de l’IDF), Dan Teodosiu (directeur du centre d’ingénieurs de Google à Paris). Animated by Yoann Jaffré
THÈME 2 : “Le financement des startups en France : comment en finir avec le parcours du combattant?” with Xavier Chopard (responsable de la Maison des Entrepreneurs de Paris Centre), Anne Gloaguen (responsable des garanties à la Direction de Paris d’Oseo), Xavier Lazarus (Co-fondateur d’ELAIA Partner) et Valentin Lautier (Co-fondateur de Skimm!). Animated by Mathilde Cristiani, journalist at L’Atelier Numérique on BFM Business.
THÈME 3 : “Du local à l’international : quels sont les leviers publics/privés pour des actions territoriales efficaces?” with Jon Bradford (Managing Director de Springboard), Anne-Sophie Dutat (fondatrice de Guia Vulevu) et Sandrine Murcia (Présidente de Silicon Sentier). Animated by Alice Zagury, manager at Le Camping.