Posted By Simon Montford on July 20, 2016
France is home to some seriously dynamic IoT tech startups. Two of the most well-known examples are SigFox, the LPWA network technology pioneer (the Gallic startup raised France’s biggest VC round ever of $115M), and ride sharing trailblazer BlaBlaCar. Other examples include Lima, D-Vine, Invoxia, Parrot, Withings (acquired by Nokia), Sen.se, and my personal favourite Aldebaran Robotics (acquired by SoftBank); maker of some of the cutest humanoids on the planet - I met Pepper at IoTTechExpo, and Nao on the IBM Watson stand at MWC.
Speaking of MWC, one thing that didn't escape my attention was the number of French tech startups in attendance. They did an excellent job of making their presence felt in Barcelona. Not only did I run into a disproportionate number of French entrepreneurs at many of the networking events I attended, but they also had one of the most impressive stands, which featured a giant illuminated Gallic rooster next to the words "Le French Tech".
There is no doubt, therefore, that the French are rapidly becoming a "tour de force" on the global technology stage, but I'm puzzled as to why that is. There is no doubt that they do have legions of good engineers, and an entrepreneurial spirit, but why France should be enjoying so much recent success in a nation that has been criticised for restrictive labour laws, high corporation tax, and an anti-capitalist bent in terms of regulation and corporate governance, is rather perplexing.
One explanation for France's tech renaissance may be down to changes in government policy. In addition to initiatives such as the aforementioned “La French Tech" campaign, the French government has made a big attempt over the past few years to make it easier for entrepreneurs to operate there. Some of the incentives offered to those who wish to start new businesses include tax breaks, a reduction of red tape, and the discontinuation of a business failure blacklist.
In addition to stimulating domestic growth from within, the French government is also on a mission to attract more talent from abroad. The “French Tech Ticket" has been devised with the aim of encouraging foreign entrepreneurs to setup in France, or relocate their businesses there. The programme offers a residency permit, office space in a tech incubator, and discounted flight tickets with the nation's flag carrier.
France isn't the only nation on a charm offensive. Following the British EU referendum, a German political organisation sponsored a van that drove through the streets of London. On the side of it read the words “Dear startups, keep calm and move to Berlin”.
It appears the European tech startup ecosystem has never had it so good, and I predict things are about to go from good to great for the tech industry. Brexit woes, and Italy's impeding banking crisis aside, we can all look forward to an abundance of opportunity delivered in the form of a giant wave of IoT innovation. Compared to what is about to come, today's IoT is simply a series of small waves lapping at our feet.
Entrepreneurs and tech execs throughout Europe should get on board the IoT train, because it's about to leave the station. Network, seek knowledge, and snag talent while it lasts, and what better way to kill all three birds with one stone? In a word - conferences, and Europe boasts some of the very best. In addition to events taking place in the more obvious locations such as London, Paris, Berlin, Dublin, Helsinki, Barcelona, Stockholm, and Amsterdam, I highly recommend you visit some of the less well-known clusters. Believe me, you'd be amazed at how some of these cities are punching well above their weight! Examples include Estonia, Cambridge, Oslo, Krakow, Zagreb, and Edinburgh (where I'm currently based much of the time), but one such city is Grenoble.
Grenoble is an exemplar of the adage "small is beautiful". With a population of just over 160,000 it's a thriving centre of research and innovation, best known for expertise in micro and nano-technology. It also has world-renowned universities, scientific research centres, is home to a very cool startup called iskn, as well as a good number of well established high-tech companies such as STmicroelectronics and NXPSemiconductors.
So if you need an excuse to visit the "Capital of the Alps", I suggest you attend IoT Planet on Oct 25-27th. The organisers estimate that over 7,000 professionals will visit, and more than 600 companies will be there to exhibit their products and services. There will be a programme dedicated to start-ups - including "crash tests", which will involve entrepreneurs exposing their prototypes to public scrutiny, or at least that's my understanding. Either way, it sounds a little scary and very intriguing! In addition, attendees will be treated to a hackathon, various industry forums, debates, and other "side-events" that the organisers are in the process of cooking up with partner organisations. If you'd like to attend, head over to the conference website to register, and book your hotel, but don't forget to bring your ski gear!
In addition to Grenoble, there are loads of other European cities that host excellent IoT events that are definitely worth attending. For a list, head over to our events and conferences pages, and if you are an event organiser, and you'd like us to include your IoT event, please contact us via the online form.
© Simon Montford (WEB3IOT), 2014-2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Simon Montford and WEB3IOT with appropriate and specific direction to the original content at web3iot.com.