CES 2023 – French Tech: Three questions to the head of Wisear, a French alternative to Neuralink

Yacine Achiakh, co-founder and CEO of Wisear, and Alain Sirois, CTO.

© Maxence Fabrion/Digitais

For many start-ups, a successful CES is synonymous with a well-filled order book and contacts made with investors to ensure the company’s financial sustainability. But going to Las Vegas represents a significant cost between air tickets, lodging or even the hotel. Therefore, exhibitors must weigh the pros and cons before attending the world’s largest technology fair.

Within French Tech, more than 200 start-ups have decided to dive into this 2023 edition. Supported by Business France, the young tricolor Wisear is one of them. The company is developing a neural interface to allow users to control their electronic devices through thought. In a brain-computer interface market especially occupied by Neuralink, Elon Musk’s company, Wisear has a lot to do. Digital spoke with Yacine Achiakh, co-founder and CEO of Wisear, to find out his expectations for CES.

DIGITAL – What motivates you to participate in CES?

YACINE ACHIAKH – The CES allows us to have the opinion of the public and journalists about what we are doing to know if we are on the right path. The objective is to have visibility and feedback, to leave Las Vegas with interesting information about the product we are developing.

What is also significant compared to other trade shows is that there are executives from every major company you can imagine. And in this context, the advice to give everyone is that they have to be accompanied by CES to meet people in high places. This makes for slightly more qualitative meetings. Because at the stand there is a colossal flow of 200 to 300 people passing by every day. Therefore, there is little time left to talk to companies.

The advantage when you have the following is that you can sit down, do your demonstrations, talk about business… Also, there are people who don’t want to show themselves too much at the show, like the directors of Meta or Microsoft. They don’t want to testify because they know everyone is going to jump on them. The ultimate goal is to ensure that our headsets are compatible with the entire virtual and augmented reality ecosystem. And for that, we need to talk to all the big companies that make this type of product, like Meta, Microsoft and Apple.

CES is a significant investment for a start-up. How is the decision to go there made, given the financial risk that this implies?

This will depend on the types of companies. On our side, a lot of R&D is needed before we can generate the first euro of profit. My problem is more how I’m going to raise funds for the next three years than whether CES will put a weeks-long hole in my budget that I won’t be able to make up. For us, this is a totally relevant cost in relation to the added value that can be extracted from it.

When it comes to a company that doesn’t necessarily have a lot of cash for the next few months, it can be a delicate cost that will have to be profitable very quickly if it goes to Las Vegas. On our side, we don’t have this problem as we are just losing money and not generating revenue yet. But the challenge is to find the right contacts that will allow us in one or two years to have good commercial relations to generate much more income than the CES will have cost me. But whether we spend €10, €20 or €30,000 at CES, that is not what will impact our survival. We still have the advantage of being comfortable until May 2024, so we will definitely start lifting again this year to expand our team and increase our investment in R&D.

Historically, DeepTech funding has always been more complicated, although things have recently changed with the launch of DeepNum 20 in France. What is your opinion on funding your ecosystem?

From the moment we started to exhaust everything that is developed in the mobile part and really bypass everything that is SaaS or B2B, we realized that what generates the truly great companies of tomorrow are revolutionary innovations, that is, things that will have an impact on humanity and that will create giants like Meta, Google, Tesla or SpaceX tomorrow. But these technologies require a lot of investment in R&D before they reach maturity, which is not necessarily the ideology we tend to have in Europe.

On our continent, we like products that have a fast-developing business, where there is no need to invest a lot. This approach has borne fruit since we managed to create giants like PayFit, Spendesk or Doctolib, but this is not what creates revolutionary innovations. Now, we are reaching a pivotal moment where we can see that existing platforms are maturing. Now the question is who will appear next. Tomorrow, if we want Europe to be the spearhead of new platforms, we must invest in companies that mobilize large resources in R&D.

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