Andis that France is proud to become a “start-up nation”, the United States disillusioned. Under the pen of a columnist, the blog TechCruch wonders about the “end of the era of start-up”. “Here we have the feeling that the golden age is over.” Before him, the New York Times, the Wired Backchannel blog and Vox.com had also expressed their fears.
All engage in the same observation. The Web is dominated by some great powers, the famous Gafa, who buy every bit of everything new and kill their future competitors in the bud. Microsoft and Apple have learned from their mistakes, while Google, Facebook and Amazon achieve a flawless course. Born in the days of PCs, everyone has been able to rely on smartphones to become in his field unmatched.
A lost generation
The quintet of the Web, the youngest of whom is about to turn 15, has picked up the best fruits available to them. Their leaders withstood the headwinds, took on threats, and competed in Internet services, hardware and consumer software with multi-billion dollar buyouts. WhatsApp, Instagram, Waze, DeepMind, Beats and so many others have come to strengthen them. In artificial intelligence, autonomous cars, virtual and augmented reality, nothing seems to be able to disarm them.
Result? In the United States, the number of business start-ups and employment in SMEs is declining for the benefit of large groups. IPOs are stalling and the list of unicorns, these private start-ups valued over a billion dollars, is starting to resemble a list of old glories. It’s been ten years that we are referring to the same successes: Airbnb, Uber, Pinterest … A lost generation is constituted, and the eyes are turned more often to Europe, China, India or Africa.
This reversal of situation calls into question the model of the American start-up. The one that pushed young entrepreneurs from around the world to imagine themselves as the Bill Gates, Larry Page or Mark Zuckerberg of tomorrow, able to reverse everything in their path. New examples to follow, like Stripe or Slack, are scarce. The latest to have refused to give up, the CEO of Snapchat Evan Spiegel, has just suffered a decline of 25% of his fortune. Do not improvise anymore Steve Jobs who wants.
The French model
In Europe and France, where we have missed the wave of Internet services in large widths, the discourse around start-ups remains marked by a certain carelessness, far from the pessimism that is surfacing on the other side of the world. Atlantic. Young entrepreneurs are still educated to “think globally”, spreading the codes of Silicon Valley. In the web conferences, in the speeches of the politicians, there is still the idea that the next Gafas – the innovative multinational and sprawling – will germinate in one of the countless incubators that have sprung up on the territory.
There is always a sense to want to become a “start-up nation”. In three years, the communication around the French Tech has brought a boost of confidence in digital entrepreneurship. The French delay in this matter was considerable. Last year, the number of business start-ups rose again. The opportunities, in fintech, cryptocurrencies, health, are numerous, and the brakes on startup have been lifted. Some 700 rounds will be signed in 2017, 35% more in one year. It is now easier to find financing than a good idea.
Doubts of Silicon Valley should be an opportunity to change references. What is the point of staying focused on a model without much diversity, which is not even sure of itself? The French success stories are made by patient entrepreneurs, who have not sought to be the Uber and Airbnb of anything and everything, without cutting corners on their ambitions. It is better to learn to celebrate OVH, Sigfox, Devialet and Actility, to learn from their backgrounds, their successes and their failures, than to constantly refer to uncommon companies that have had a unique chance in entrepreneurial history.