The French nuggets of the digital economy that compete with the "big boys" of the sector


Deezer, Dailymotion, Viadeo, Criteo: our few international champions should not overshadow France's 20th place in the digital economy. 

deezerContrary to popular belief, France has some very fine global successes in the digital economy. Deezer, Dailymotiom, Viadeo, Criteo, there is no shortage of examples. In just a few years, these French start-ups have managed to make a name for themselves on the international scene. Essential successes. The digital economy, a major lever for competitiveness, and therefore for the economic growth of today and tomorrow.

dailymotionIn France, the Internet is expected to reach a flow of economic activity of 129 billion euros in 2015, more than 5 % of GDP. One more reason, if one were needed, to support especially the digital start-ups, whose small size makes internationalization all the more difficult.Nos digital nuggets should not be the tree that hides the forest.

The growth will be digital or it won't be. In this respect, France has some very fine world champions. Leaders in their domestic market, they have succeeded in less than fifteen years in making a name for themselves internationally. Video games, software, digital advertising, content distribution and social networking are just some of the sectors in which the French excel. So what are these start-ups that compete with competitors from all over the world, most often Americans and most probably Californians? The suspense doesn't last long.

The too rare French nuggets

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viadeoAll of us have indeed heard about and probably also used the music listening service. Deezer or video playback Dailymotion. Created in 2007 and 2005 respectively, both companies are big. The first has more than 26 million users in nearly 100 countries and the second 110 million unique visitors in 34 variations of its homepage. Spotify (founded by Swedes in London) and YouTube, owned by the almighty Google, are both big companies. The two French platforms are more than challengers, real global competitors in the online music and video markets.

jeuxvideoAlso b-to-c, but more professional, France also has its world champion in the world of social networks. Founded in 2004, Viadeo more than seriously defies the American LinkedIn bulldozer. 45 millions of members in a dozen countries, the Frenchman is performing very well, particularly in the emerging countries of China, India and Russia. Long ahead in the field of video games, our country still has two publishers on the world podium : Activision-Blizzardowned by Vivendi, and UbiSoft regularly produce some of the most popular titles in the world. UbiSoft's Assassin's Creed series has sold more than 30 million copies since 2007, including on shelves, the fastest growing market. Vivendi's subsidiary also has its own blockbuster: the Call of Duty series has sold more than 130 million copies since its creation in 2003.

Surprisingly, France also has a world leader in high-tech equipment. Parrot dominates its "niche", these wireless devices for the car and home, especially Bluetooth. This company generates 85 % of its turnover abroad. A French company that is a world leader in electronic equipment, "hardware" requiring R&D, is indeed an exception.

catiaTraditionally, the French are indeed better leaders in the field of software, such as Dassault System. Its 3D design software, Catia, has been the standard in aeronautical and then industrial design for some thirty years now. Boeing is the main user. And finally..,Criteo ? This year, the specialist in targeted advertising won first prize in Deloitte's Technology Fast 50 with a 5-year growth rate never seen before. In 2011, the company generated more than €2 140 millions in revenues, including 80 % internationally.

In spite of the outrageous domination of the Americans in the digital world, some French companies manage to exist on a global level. If the number of global giants that the French Internet has managed to produce can be counted on the fingers of one hand, I'm not sure that there are more world Internet champions in Italy, Germany or Spain," he said.« says Gilles Babinet, entrepreneur, digital champion, in charge of relations between France and Europe on digital issues. In many cases in Europe and France, local champions are bought out before an IPO and having crossed borders. Ibazar, Kelkoo, Pixmania, PriceMinisterThere is no shortage of examples. Amazon, Google, Apple, eBay, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, to name only the main ones, most of the world's digital giants are American.

siliconvalley2"Americans live next to each other. There's a kind of emulation that's being created in Silicon Valley, answers Guilhem Bertholet, co-founder of WeLoveSaaS.comA software selection service for companies. It's kind of like the Olympics. The reason American athletes win so many gold medals is because they have a lot of competitors in their country, he sums up.

Market size, English language, resources and finances, companies on the other side of the Atlantic have many assets that the French do not have. And yet, some of them compete. "We are very proud to have succeeded in taking positions in markets where few French players have established themselves, such as China and Russia.explains Dan Serfaty, the CEO of Viadeo. Its number one key success factor: "It is important to understand whether or not the trade has local characteristics. To become international, Viadeo has chosen the path of country-by-country acquisitions. To go faster. In the Net industry, there's one thing that's easy: I've translated, so I'm international. It's a bit short because there's a world between translating and taking solid positions. Another necessary quality: perseverance. In the world of start-ups, the brightest one doesn't necessarily win in the end.

"He who wins is the one who holds on the longest. After years of difficulties, a vision of uses or a service is caught up by the market. And there, at last, the start-up grows".explains Guilhem Bertholet. Like a surfer riding the wave, the entrepreneurial act can go very far. Dailymotion in the video, Deezer in the music, Parrot in the wireless or Viadeo in the social are all in this case.

The growth will be digital, or will not be

croissancenumerique"Growth will come from digital or it won't."s, simplifies Guy Manou-Mani, president of the Digital SyntecThe Association is a representative association of companies in the sector. It is clear that digital technology brings competitiveness, differentiation and modernisation. The digital economy is everywhere, multi-sectoral with e-commerce, media, social networks and online services. It is also a component of the value chain of any business: industrial, agricultural, health and social... In May 2011, the strategy firm McKinsey looked at the e-economy of the G8 countries (USA, Japan, Germany, France, United Kingdom, Italy, Canada and Russia) as well as that of Brazil, China, India, South Korea and Sweden. According to this study, the Internet accounts for 3.4 % of the GDP of the economies of the developed countries.

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internet2If the Internet were an economic sector, it would already have overtaken those of education, communication, agriculture and public services. Its total contribution to world GDP is greater than that of Spain or Canada. In total, the Internet generates more than 5 500 milliards of euros each year. In France, the economic weight of the Internet is expected to reach 129 billion euros in 2015, i.e. slightly more than 5 % of GDP. For Eric Hazan, associate director at Mc Kinsey, "The Internet is a little bit like electricity. The more we spread this technology throughout the economy, the more it will be a factor in accelerating business performance and therefore growth.

The positive externalities of digital are very fortes : around these web technologies, there are many induced jobs. In start-ups on the Net but also elsewhere. In fact, digital is a factor of competitiveness for everyone. By integrating digital into their processes and their business, manufacturers are changing dimension.

programmer"In Germany, at car manufacturer Audi or phone manufacturer Gigaset, the skilled workers are no longer turning and milling machines, but computer programmers, illustrious Gilles Babinet. Making good use of digital technology in general could therefore generate additional growth points. "Digital has a knock-on effect, a multiplier effect, as economists say. To maximize this effect, we need many more champions."s Chief Executive Officer, Frédéric Creplet.Atelyas Digital Opportunity Task Force.Montaigne Institute. Major technology companies serve as the driving force. For example, founders who are usually very wealthy invest in new projects such as the founders of Google or eBay.

"Digital is a sector of the futurepleads Marie Ekeland, Co-Chair of France Digitalean independent association of start-ups and venture capitalists, and a partner at Elaia Partnersa private equity firm. On average, Web companies generate 39 % of their turnover internationally, compared with 3 % for "classic" SMEs. In addition, the average age in start-ups is 32 and 87 % contracts are permanent contracts. We are therefore sure of long-term employment for young people. »

France's 20th place

websiteUnfortunately, according to Anglo-Saxon rankings, France is around 20th in the world in the digital economy. The Internet has remained at the doorstep of many companies. Two out of three SMEs still don't have a website!" Our country has potential. But its economy needs to go even further and faster to get on a growth curve that resembles that of the UK, comments Eric Hazan. At the global level, France is probably not where its economic position should put it. This is all the more annoying since it is not necessary to have invented a Web technology to benefit from it. The question is rather to appropriate and develop it. There may be start-ups that invent differentiating technologies, there may also be others that use existing technologies to become champions.

And yet there's no shortage of start-ups

startupaventurerIn France, the pool of start-ups is very important. And of quality. Every year, the firm Deloitte also ranks Europe's best growth companies: "In 2012, France will be the leading contributor to the European Fast 500 in terms of companies with 94 start-ups".Ariane Bucaille, Deloitte partner, responsible for the technology-media-telecom sector, is delighted. The country is not lacking in assets. The French are creating real models with real innovations and good entrepreneurs. "We don't specialize in the me-too like the Germans do who spot foreign businesses that work and replicate them at home."says Marie Ekeland.

The quality of French engineers is recognized worldwide. So are our research organizations and institutes. Our mathematical training is powerful and we also have a broad history and a strong culture of telecoms. It is not by chance that in California, the French are the third largest professional community after the Spanish and the Chinese. There are 15 % of French people in the management teams of Silicon Valley, which makes France the leading nationality in the top management of Californian companies. For example, the Chief Technology Officer of LinkedIn is a Frenchman. Moving to the digital world is no longer exceptional. Founded in Paris, Criteo grew up in the United States.

"I saw some young Web entrepreneurs in San Francisco, testifies Dan Serfaty. But beware, he warns, the Valley is very "networking". The networks are very strong there. Those who went through Stanford, Google or McKinsey will always be at an advantage. »

conquerirstartupThe mindset of young entrepreneurs is changing. Today the business plan of a start-up foresees from the outset a worldwide deployment, mainly in high-growth countries such as China, Singapore... What was unthinkable ten years ago, when it was necessary to succeed first in France, to prove oneself on the French market in order to try the adventure outside borders, digital technology has made it possible. Conquests in geographically distant markets. Attitudes are changing: failure is no longer as taboo and the taste for risk is probably more pronounced. "There are many more start-ups being created and disappearing. That's good because these entrepreneurs are working their experience curve."adds the founder of Viadeo.

The great French successes abroad show the way. Guilhem Bertholet dares to make a comparison with basketball: "For a long time, France didn't have any players in the NBA, the American professional league. It was enough for one or two players to break through like Tony Parker and now there are a dozen Frenchmen. »

foreignlanguageLaunching its services directly in English on international distribution platforms such as iTunes or Facebook also gives another dimension to French start-ups. Before the dematerialization of distribution, partners abroad were needed. Very cumbersome and costly. Now it is much easier to be global. In fact, France is one of the countries that produces the most applications for mobiles and smartphones. Nevertheless, the whole digital economy aspect remains diffuse, especially at the highest level. Digital is only mentioned five times (three of which are in brackets) in the Welsh report.

However, an awareness at the highest level is emerging. An inter-ministerial seminar on digital will be held next February. To facilitate the emergence of champions, the ecosystem will have to evolve. In France, 90 % digital companies have a turnover of less than 10 million euros. In order to break through this glass ceiling, several brakes have to be released.

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