Following in the footsteps of Las Vegas and Lisbon with their well-known CES and Web Summit conferences, Paris tried its hand this year with its own event tailored to an international crowd. The first edition of Viva Technology took place June 30-July 2, at Porte de Versailles and was dedicated to new technologies, especially French Tech. The weekend-long event was initiated by the CEO of Publicis, Maurice Lévy, and the CEO of Les Echos, Francis Morel, with the goal of placing France at the center of digital innovation, and of bringing large corporations and startups together under one roof. This year was a total success, with more than 5000 startups, and 300 renowned speakers, Viva Tech positioned itself as an event that will influence the future landscape of new technologies in France and abroad. The numbers alone indicate France’s enthusiasm : Viva Tech welcomed 45,000 people, far exceeding the originally expected 30,000.
According to Maurice Lévy, the event responded to, “a frustration with France and its inability to appear welcoming enough for startup investments.” Viva Technology also responds to a frequently-raised issue, that the CEO of Publicis grapples with himself, “France is absent from the big masses of technology internationally. Meanwhile, digital is transforming our way of life, transforming our jobs, and shaping our future. To reenergize startups, and reach out to the big players, we must ensure that France is at the heart of digital and that the big global actors are participants.”
The global players clearly answered the call, not only through their presence as companies, but also through the speakers that appeared to discuss the problems and solutions of our time. The celebrated names of digital participated in great panel discussions that addressed everything from cybersecurity to missing out on technology cycles. Many of the main discussions are viewable now on YouTube. At Viva Tech, the audience heard from Eric Schmidt, CEO of Alphabet, Jimmy Wales, the Founder of Wikipedia, and Yang Yuanqing, CEO of Lenovo, to name a few. In keeping with the inclusive atomosphere, Viva Tech was equally open to big-name entrepreneurs as to the new generation like Frederic Mazzella, co-founder of BlaBlaCar, and Philippine Dolbeau, founder of New School, or William Shu, Founder of Deliveroo.
The approach of mixing well established and newly budding successes wasn’t limited to the conferences ; Google, Ernst & Young, JP Morgan, Samsung and others, all proposed challenges in preparation for the event, and allocated spaces at their stands to the winning startups. This was a fantastic way to build relationships between large corporations and startups with a view to discovering synergies and developing future partnerships.
Adding more excitement to the weekend, Politicians didn’t miss their chance to dip their toes in the water and show their support for France’s efforts. Even France’s President, François Hollande, made his way through the crowds to try his hand at flying drones and see the latest innovations! Others present included ; Anne Hidalgo, Axelle Lemaire, and Emmanuel Macron. In his address to the audience, Macron expressed his enthusiasm, “We are the startup nation of Europe. We create more than 1000 startups a year, but it’s time to move from startup to scale-up. The market has become a global symbol : we can no longer say ‘first I’m going to target France, then Europe, then the world’…in this new economy, we have to innovate a great amount, with speed, on a large scale, and sometimes partnerships between startups and corporations enable exactly that.”
The Minister of the Economy then got to work speed mentoring, giving advice to the youth and newly graduated on how to succeed. See the video for yourself:
On its third day, Viva Technology opened its doors to the public, departing from the idea that events like this should be reserved only for professionals. July 2 was dedicated to showing the public the exciting world of technology. Entire families came to try out the myriad new technologies. Fans were invited to see long-awaited unveilings, like Google’s self-driving car, or Sony PlayStations’s Virtual Reality helmet, drones, and dancing robots. Children and adults alike took short programming courses, took a shot at digital painting, or worked with a coach to create a video resume.
Viva Technology was truly a success, and showed that France can and will play a central role in global innovation. The Founders have already announced that a 2nd edition of Viva Technology will take place in Fall 2017 ! See you next year #VivaTech!