With Macron’s re-election, the “start-up nation” dreams of its own ministry

This Sunday, Emmanuel Macron was re-elected President of the Republic. If the latter is very favorable to the ecosystem of start-ups, France Digitale invites the Head of State to initiate, as of now, several important projects for the next five years. Maya Noël, the general manager of the main association of French start-ups, offers 20 minutes a few ways to “restart the start-up ecosystem” and “give it a positive dynamic over the next few years”.

During the election campaign, several associations have multiplied the calls to candidates to ask them to seize more digital issues. At France Digitale, do you share this observation?

During this campaign, at France Digitale, we worked a lot behind the scenes on the digital aspect. Last October, we notably published a manifesto with 37 proposals for candidates, a kind of digital toolbox. Finally, the main subjects were treated and each candidate included at least one of our proposals in their programs. This concerned important topics for the years to come: training, attractiveness, recruitment of international profiles or even sovereignty and cybersecurity.

Would you say there has been an evolution since the 2017 presidential election?

Yes, five years ago, the subject was much less present. Digital was then the differentiating element in Emmanuel Macron’s program compared to the other candidates. But this time, he was treated much better and even had his place during the debate between the two rounds.

“Our country is the one that produces the most start-ups and they are growing,” Emmanuel Macron underlined during his campaign. Is it really true?

We can say that there is a real collective desire to develop the French ecosystem. We have a very attractive sector for the French, which has recently shown its ability to attract foreign funds and talent, which allows it to grow very quickly. However, if we compare on an international scale, we observe that the evolution is very similar among our European neighbours. It’s a race against time. We must maintain the same momentum and support our efforts.

Yet the start-up ecosystem is emerging from two years of health crisis. Was the rate of growth able to be maintained during this period and afterwards?

Against all expectations, the health crisis has accelerated digitalisation. Of course, it depends on the sectors, but we observe an acceleration effect multiplied by three. Our sector was able to pull through and bring about real change, especially when we take the example of Doctolib. Moreover, it is interesting to see that digitization has been widely accepted by the general public, making digital ubiquitous in our daily lives. Three out of four French people have at least one digital tool. For example, the emergence of Open Class room shows that teleworking and distance learning have been increasingly accepted by the French.

If digital has taken more place in the public debate, it is currently only represented by a General Secretariat, belonging to the Ministries of Economy and Territorial Cohesion. Would you like more space in the new government?

“In the recommendations issued as early as October, we are indeed asking for the creation of a Ministry of Digital. For us, this is important because digital is present everywhere. Innovation will be able to respond to cross-cutting problems, which concern different ministries: health for example or mobility. This idea would make it possible to consolidate the public policies which have already been initiated for ten years, which have been accelerated and which will be able to be represented through the same person in government.

Assuming that this new Minister of Digital arrives at his post, what is his first project to put in place during this new five-year term?

The first project expected is that of administrative simplification. Today, the main constraints faced by our start-ups are administrative. There are many standards and legislation that impact them. These are inappropriate, time-consuming and costly regulations for businesses just getting started. It is necessary to adapt to start-ups, with faster deadlines.

In the digital field in particular, the phenomenon of brain drain is often mentioned. How to keep talent in France and make the country more attractive?

This is another very important project in our opinion. We have a real need for talent to be able to meet the growing demand from the companies we represent. Training must be accelerated, by giving it many more resources. This requires the training of teachers who are lacking considerably, especially in computer science. But the attractiveness also goes abroad, favored by the development of the French tech visa [une procédure simplifiée pour les investisseurs, fondateurs et collaborateurs de start-up non européens N.D.L.R.]. The problem, once again, is the image that France can send abroad with the somewhat tedious side of administration. We should now develop easier access solutions.

Can the new government anticipate new measures to help the development of start-ups?

Of course. In addition to having talent, what they are looking for is to generate sales and find customers. This is the sinews of war for companies. It is also a subject on which we campaign: facilitating access to public procurement. It would open up bigger budgets for start-ups, while promoting French tools. But for that we would need to facilitate access to public procurement through criteria imposed on start-ups, lower minimum turnover criteria for example. When we ask start-ups about our ecosystem, more than 80% today say that access to public procurement is extremely restricted and almost unattainable for them.

During the campaign, Emmanuel Macron often linked digital to Europe, in particular by campaigning for a “European Google”. Why are they so addicted?

“Digital is done a lot at European level. There in recent news, there is a whole discussion around the Digital market act (DMA) and Digital services act (DGS), which aim to regulate the predominant place that certain GAFAM and other companies which have a place so hegemonic that they do not allow other companies to emerge. The idea is to be able to regulate the obstacle to competition and that can only be done at European level. If we manage to create a single market in Europe, that will make our job easier against American competitors who have a very large market, with a single legislation and a single language. We are already years behind and if we want to catch up, we will have to regulate, but in an intelligent way. There have been attempts that have been made with a tax on GAFAM, but this also affects our start-ups, which are themselves GAFAM customers. There is new thinking to provide. »

A topical issue now, the week was marked by the takeover of Twitter by Elon Musk. Do you fear a future lack of independence for digital companies?

“This echoes what we were saying earlier about the ongoing regulations against GAFAM. Today, we actually have players who have become digital giants and who have an ultra-dominant position in the markets. We, our objective, is to propose alternatives and counter-powers. It is imperative to invest for this in French and European tools. »

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