There is no doubt that the VivaTech conference is a great demonstration of how France is catching up and embracing tech innovation with more than €2.5 billion invested in startups last year and with significant investments from tech giants such as IBM or Salesforce. In this good summary article, The New York Times looks back at how French President Macron is succeeding at making France a startup nation.
That said, the sad reality today is that France and the rest of Europe are lagging behind the US and China for two main reasons. Firstly, there is no EU-based digital platform ready to invest billions of dollars — especially in the new AI disruption wave — in the way that Alibaba, Apple, Baidu, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and Tencent do. Secondly, too many European and French firms are very slow at embarking on their digital transformation journey. They invest and partner with startups and do more and more pilots and POCs, but few are developing their culture and organizations fast enough to scale innovation.
That’s why it is great for European citizens to see President Macron at VivaTech asking for a European technology regulation model that reconciles innovation and the common good. From IBM to Uber, via Google and Microsoft, most US tech platforms have made some first steps in this direction at the Tech for Good Summit.
At the end of the day, it is not regulation but consumers themselves who will decide which player they trust. Value-based marketing is not just a tag line but a key driver that US firms should embrace when localizing their approach in Europe. It is not just a matter of apologizing in front of the EU parliament as Mark Zuckerberg did and of abiding by the new GDPR regulations. It is truly critical to embrace the needs and expectations of consumers in the various European countries. With Apple enabling consumers to gain access to their entire historical data set and Amazon being scrutinized by the ACLU for their AI facial recognition technology, privacy is already a key differentiator between digital platforms.