After Generation Y, the Innovation Generation
The evidence abounds: we are creating a generation of entrepreneurs. Paris will soon welcome the largest incubator in the world at the Halle Freyssinet.
The “serial entrepreneur” becomes the new economic icon, a role model assumed by Xavier Niel, Jean-Baptiste Rudelle, Frédéric Mazella, and others, illustrated by the successes of Parrot, OVH, Criteo, Blablacar, DBV, Cellectis, etc.
The financing chain is absorbing this dynamic with continued growth in fundraising: the 2015 fundraising greatly exceeded those of 2014, in venture capital and on the stock market, and the fundraising of more than 100 million euros, which was an exception – only one in 2013, Criteo – are now commonplace (6 in 2015).
But this formidable wave of energy and intelligence can be lost by crashing into the sometimes compact and too rigid block of CAC 40 companies and mid-size companies.
First of all, because to grow faster, our start-ups obviously need financing, but also and above all customers. And these groups in the traditional economy are: either major potential customers or privileged access to a sometimes global customer base. Large French companies and mid-sized companies must buy more solutions from French start-ups, which is essential.
Secondly, because these groups themselves must be transformed. They sometimes have the first temptation to answer this difficult question by creating an incubator or an in-house investment fund. Unfortunately, having an athlete in your family does not make you a marathon runner… The most innovative groups in the global village have developed aggressive strategies for acquiring or partnering with start-ups, what is called “acquisition”. innovation”.
Google has made nearly 70 acquisitions over the past three years, which is more than all of the SBF 120 companies! However, making an acquisition is taking a double risk: the risk of overvaluing the future and the risk of failure. But these two risks are intimately linked to the innovation process itself, and R&D is, by nature, a cost center!
It is therefore urgent, for our large groups and our mid-cap companies, to initiate a cycle of acqui-innovations.
If each company or group invested 10% of its R&D budget each year in acquisitions of innovative SMEs, the speed of transformation of these companies would sharply accelerate, in turn promoting the emergence of new ecosystems. The value created would also be financial. By making the financing chain more fluid, it would speed up reinvestments but also the experience acquired during the cycle.
Last but not least: the preservation and enhancement of human capital. Because if we can create the conditions so that each young or old has a chance to launch and develop his innovative project, we cannot guarantee, it is the very essence of entrepreneurship, that everyone will succeed in creating a new ” Criteo ”.
Through acqui-innovation, our large groups and mid-cap companies can, beyond technology, absorb new and sometimes atypical intelligence, enhance it by giving it resources and, in fine, diversify the backgrounds and experiences of their senior executives.
Let us not let the Innovation generation get lost: its experience, its understanding of the driving forces behind the world to come, its technologies, its ambitions will be even more essential tomorrow than today in helping our companies invent their future.
Paul-Francois Fournier is executive director Bpifrance Innovation & member of the Executive Committee since 2013. He joined the France Telecom Orange group in 1994 as a business engineer in the Business France segment. After a seven-year career dedicated to the development of business services, in 2001 he became Director of Broadband Business at Wanadoo, where he ensured the take-off in France of ADSL offers which increased from a few thousand customers in 2001. to 3 million at the end of 2004, then internationally as a member of the Executive Committee of the Wanadoo group. He has thus led strategic projects such as the launch of Livebox and voice over IP, in partnership with Inventel and Netcentrex, French start-ups.