Inria at Vivatech
Ecosystem 8 minutes

Inria at Vivatech

Vivatech is the French technology fair and as such, Inria is obviously an exhibitor. But beyond this evidence, participating in a such show is costly in time, energy and money, so how can Inria best participate? This is probably less obvious. Of course, it must simply fist noticed that Vivatech…

Vivatech is the French technology fair and as such, Inria is obviously an exhibitor. But beyond this evidence, participating in a such show is costly in time, energy and money, so how can Inria best participate? This is probably less obvious.

Of course, it must simply fist noticed that Vivatech is an opportunity to listen to or even meet tech personalities. This year, the long speech of Elon Musk has (not?) surprisingly fascinated the crowd despite all the controversies of the wealthiest tech entrepreneur of the planet. Closer to Inria, Robert Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet and founder of 3Com not only spent time on the Inria boot, but also gave an inspiring talk in the Inria Research Center of the University of Paris Sorbonne.

Robert Metcalfe at the Inria booth.

Inria makes it possible to participate in Vivatech in many different ways

Researchers have the opportunity to demo prototypes and present promising research results. In addition, every day, depending on the year, between 3 and 5 deeptech startup project leaders from Inria Startup Studio also have a presence on the Inria booth and one more project in the field of artificial intelligence on the French -German Tech Lab in partnership with the DFKI research institute.

This year, there was a wide variety of projects. In chronological order, on Wednesday, June 14, AFoodI (Foodtech), Twinical (Health), Poucet (Software tools), Vocalia (Voice synthesis); on Thursday June 15, Dahu (Robotics and health), Denergium (Energy), Pontos (Foodtech) and Abbrevio (Internet B2B); on Friday, June 16, Compliance Robotics (Foodtech), Matricis (Healthcare), Operys (Construction market) and Zvote (electronic voting); and finally during the general public day on Saturday June 16, Co-Idea (EdTech), Pulse Audition and Qairnel (Health). Without forgetting on the Franco-German stand with DFKI, ScreenIA (Fintech), Skyld (Cybersecurity for AI), DecorAR (Web application for interior decoration) and Nijta (Cybersecurity) in chronological order. The portfolio page of this site allows you to find more information . And there is value in this gathering as one entrepreneur said : “The opportunity to see others, which paradoxically is not always the case on a daily basis”.

When we know that more than 30 projects are selected each year, there is not room for everyone, and the least arbitrary choices possible must be made. However, all the entrepreneurs, as well as a dozen doctoral students interested in the show, are also invited by Inria: “My objective was to experience the start-up atmosphere in France/Europe, and what technologies people are currently working on/show interest. Also, I wanted to see the technologies of the future, which are currently under construction. And although I would be interested in an entrepreneurial project in the future, I couldn’t find the right idea to work on. I will keep thinking about all the great ideas I discovered at Vivatech, and I hope I can do something interesting in the future.”

Make the best use of a participation in Vivatech

The presence to a fair cannot be limited to a few more or less accidental encounters that one will have there. So how do you try to make the most of it? First, a large exhibition must be planned. The list of guests and participants is available long in advance and it is therefore important to think about the objectives you set for yourself. You can thus set realistic priorities and objectives, because it is simply impossible to see everything or everyone you would like to!

Plan. Browsing and studying the plan of the fair, planning visits, contacting people or institutions of interest is the first phase of preparation for a fair. One of the entrepreneurs told us of his satisfaction but noted that he could have “better anticipated, in particular the press and the media”. We can draw a parallel to the preparations we make when exploring a market (see Key points and best practices for a successful market exploration). For example two people told us “We had an objective of more than 10 contacts with major accounts to recontact with a commercial proposal” or the need to “prepare well in advance, objective of at least 10 contacts, not always achieved.”

Do demos. “We had an excellent experience. We made many contacts on this occasion, the ‘wow’ effect of our demo worked well, and we planned many post-VivaTech interviews. The booth was well placed, and allowed us to obtain good visibility. The “promo” spirit at the ISS stand also made it possible to obtain good traction.”

Be visible. “Thanks to Inria, with our our project specialized in generative AI and voice synthesis, we were able to confront the very best in terms of technical innovation, dynamism and entrepreneurship. On our stand, we had the pleasure of exchanging with curious prospects as well as with potential investors, even future partners… The opportunity to discover other innovations and to participate in various conferences also marked out our journey. We were very pleasantly surprised by the spotlight on generative AIs during this event. Note, for example, the intervention of the President of the Republic underlining the importance of our area of expertise for French industry. This confirms that we are sailing in the right direction, and this has strengthened our resolve. A special mention to the superb Inria T-Shirts made for the occasion, color purple. With Inria, you never go unnoticed. :)”

Grégoire Maurice, Monica Le Bezvoët from Inria research centers in Lille and Rennes.

Pitch. And what a better visibility than to present your startup project for a few minutes, and even better on the Franco-German stand of the Tech Lab? ISS encourages its entrepreneurs to work on their pitch in a multitude of events of varying sizes and objectives (Pitch & Talk, Find Your Cofounder, Fête des startup) because this exercise is not natural and yet essential when your interlocutors are looking for efficiency.

Cyril Baudrillard founder of Arboel (aka ScreenIA).

Establish contacts. Contacts are mostly prospects/customers, also ecosystem players and to a lesser extent, investors. “We met a lot of people from many different fields and we came back with prospects and VC contacts, institutional etc. So it’s good for visibility and for the network.”

Validate hypotheses. For example “The project needed to challenge itself live with its future clients, it was really good timing for us.”

Be prepared for some wasted time. However, you also have to accept a waste of time, such as “A little disappointed with the profiles that came to the stand (irrelevant profiles or consultants who wanted to sell us something at all costs)”. Even worse “Many different audiences, lack of thematic classification to find the corporations with the same customers or adressing the same needs. We are clearly in a “whaoo” fair in the sense that the perception seems more important than the content…”. Another testimonial: “we would have liked to have had more contacts and fewer ‘tourists’ “.

Stay optimistic. “The list of exhibitors led us to fear that we would find few interesting contacts on site. Ultimately, it was quite the opposite, and we were able to greatly benefit from VivaTech to develop our project.”

Learn. And sometimes it’s a simple apprenticeship for the first show of this type: “it allowed me to understand who comes to the show and why. Important in order to be able to position ourselves to hold a stand there next year, if this is part of our development strategy. Essential also to soak up the atmosphere to adapt your stand strategy by seeing what other startups have done” or even “Very positive to have been there as a visitor [in 2022] to prepare our future stand for 2023 and so see what works well or not (level of attractiveness, demo, etc.)”

Discover. Staying on the Inria stand would be a mistake, at least for entrepreneurs. It is necessary for those who have been selected to spend a day presenting their demos, quickly pitching visitors. However, the show lasts 4 days and gives the opportunity to discover the other regional, national and international stands of the show. You can listen to a multitude of fascinating speakers, possible sources of inspiration.

Inform. Finally, the stand gives Inria permanent staff the opportunity to present their institute, to explain that Inria Startup Studio is open to anyone who has a digital deeptech startup project. The general public day on Saturday makes it possible to encourage vocations, recruit trainees and perhaps stimulate the future entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

And after?

There is the before, the during but not only. The show is noisy, exhausting, the meetings are often short, just the time for an elevator pitch. Back in the office, you have to archive the list of contacts made in a simple excel file or in a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) when you have it. We are no longer in the field of market exploration but that of managing a commercial “pipeline”. It will be necessary to qualify, contact again and without waiting, interesting people on LinkedIn and follow up with memories and notes.

Happy Vivatech 2024!

Publication date: 11/07/2023

Hervé Lebret

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