The 2012/10/04 at 07:23
An encounter with Loïc Bodin, 27 years old, Delegate General of the think tank “Renaissance Numérique” and Spokesman of “NetLab”, a platform for debates on Internet and society.
Commerce International: How did you work to write this book?
Loïc Bodin: We selected six emblematic Internet sites. These are the finest French successes in the digital sector, with significant turnovers and staff numbers. We went to meet their heads to find out the stages of their development, what worked for them, but also errors were made. Of course our selection is not exhaustive. There are many other examples. There is a real French breeding ground.
Can we speak of a French specificity?
L.B.: Not necessarily, but we noticed that creators showed common character traits. They are visionary, perseverant, and have long-term visions. Indeed, entrepreneurs have little chance of survival if they seek success straight away. Deezer or PriceMinister have undergone periods of crisis – but they didn’t give up. Another factor: the founders are not afraid of failure. Fear of risk is an obstacle to entrepreneurship. In the French professional world, error is overly dramatized. This is a psychological obstacle that needs to be eliminated. Finally, the founders were ingenious in trying their luck, in making the right decisions at the right time.
Can the French find a place alongside the global e-business leaders?
L.B.: Yes, especially if the enterprise offers a new product. In this case, there is no competition. This is the case of Criteo, specialised in displaying personalised banners on web sites depending on the Internet user’s navigation history. The enterprise was very ahead on this market and managed to develop quickly in the United States. Otherwise it’s necessary to adopt a different strategy. In Asia, Seloger joined forces with local businesses in the real-estate sector. Launching yourself internationally is an important stage: all French businesses that have succeeded on the Web have done so.
Is the French environment favourable?
L.B.: Before writing the book, I thought that it was complicated to set up a business in France. But all the entrepreneurs I questioned have stated the opposite. Certain measures for setting up Web enterprises are even more advantageous here than overseas. France’s Research Tax Break (credit d’impôt recherche) and the Innovative Young Company (jeune entreprise innovante) status were key tools to their success. It is crucial that these tax measures not be overturned. Also, in France, personal data is well protected. This allows a stable environment to be set up. The only off key remains a lack of European standardisation.
What advice can be given to an entrepreneur wishing to get started on the Web?
L.B.: The founders that we met shared their recipes for success. In their opinion, it’s necessary to focus above all on the product and client experience. One shouldn’t be obsessed with financial success at the risk of putting off consumers. It should be understood that success is not immediate. Often, turnovers only take off after one to three years of existence.
Are there points needing improvement in France?
L.B.: Links between the world of research and universities need to be developed. There is also a lack of contact between businesses, particularly between big companies and start-ups. As I mentioned earlier, it’s also important that aid measures be maintained as they allow research and development to be financed. Finally, focus needs to be placed on training. The digital sector brings jobs. It’s essential to develop streams and to train future Web employees.