Director of French Tech for a year, Clara Chappaz discusses the challenges facing startups, including improving purchasing power and economic sovereignty in France.
You were appointed director of the French Tech Mission almost a year ago. What conclusions do you draw from this?
Above all, it was an opportunity to tour the French capitals of French technology, including Montpellier. It gave me a good perspective on what has been accomplished since the creation of French Tech and the entrepreneurs’ ambitions for the coming years.
What is the situation today?
We are in a somewhat crucial period of maturity, after the fundraising record and the goal of 25 unicorns reached in early 2022. Today, the activity of start-ups goes far beyond digital, namely creating consumer services, such as Doctolib, but also has activities in industry, environmental change, deeptech, etc. Today, France is recognized as a territory of entrepreneurship and innovation. However, today the economic context is less favourable, start-ups are more difficult to finance.
In this context, what are the challenges for start-ups?
We are moving from a decade very focused on the growth of startups to a decade that will pay much more attention to the impact of these companies on social and environmental issues. French technology companies will have to face these challenges. But also providing solutions for the great technological challenges of our time, such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, quantum… This is an opportunity to gain an advantage over the United States and Asia.
Startups have their role to play in creating a new French sovereignty
In this sense, how can technology help France to increase its sovereignty?
The France 2030 economic development plan helps innovative companies to develop, including through calls for projects. We are convinced that start-ups have their role to play in these sovereignty issues and that is why French Tech will support these structures by major theme. Therefore, we implemented the DeepNum 20 program, which supports start-ups in the creation of revolutionary innovations, namely in the areas of cloud, space, robotics or 5G. We also created the Green 20 programs for environmental start-ups, Health 20 for biotechnology companies, etc.
Minister Delegate for Digital Jean-Noël Barrot announced that the next companies that will be part of the Next 40 and French tech 120 rankings will have to meet social and environmental expectations. About?
We see that start-ups offer, in part, direct solutions to impact issues. Others, on the other hand, do not offer direct solutions, but are very involved in issues of diversity, parity or the struggle to protect the environment. These are important issues for its investors, employees but also customers, who all want to verify the performance of companies in these matters.
In this context, we want to support the launches of the next promotions of the Next 40 and French Tech 120 programs, so that they can improve their actions, in their own way and at their own pace. That’s why we’re going to ask start-ups in these rankings to publish, by the end of 2023, their gender equality indices and their carbon footprint.
Clara Chappaz: “Thanks to start-ups, France will recover its digital sovereignty”
How can start-ups help improve the purchasing power of the French when they themselves are looking for profitability?
Some startups naturally respond to this challenge. In particular those that work to promote the circular economy, such as Back Market or Vestiaire Collective, which allow you to buy second-hand products at a reduced price. I’m also thinking about Too Good to Go, which allows merchants to sell meals or food they would otherwise have thrown away. These start-ups have the power to scale useful and effective solutions in times of economic stress.
Furthermore, one of the main responses of the French technology ecosystem to the issue of purchasing power is job creation. The barometer published in September by France Digitale shows that 98% of start-ups continue to recruit, so the economic context is less favourable. It should be noted that they offer all types of jobs other than engineering positions, some even offer re-employment.