Business News

Startups Fuel Growth of Paris Tech Show

Skift Take

More than 90,000 participants are expected to gather in Paris over the next four days for this year's VivaTech, a show fully focused on startups and technology companies.

The seventh edition of Viva Technology (VivaTech) opens today at Viparis Paris Expo Porte de Versailles. This flagship trade show for the French startup ecosystem. It promotes itself as the largest startup and technology event in Europe.

Last year 91,000 attendees, including 4,500 investors and 2,500 exhibiting companies, took part. Organizers believe this year’s edition of the four-day startup and technology show will be even larger. The show’s format is non-stop from 9 am to 6 pm and features multiple offsite evening events.

French President Emmanuel Macron will take the stage. Alongside will be a slew of mainly U.S. and French CEOs. Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, Twitter), Marc Benioff (Salesforce), Bernard Arnault (LVMH), Christel Heydemann (Orange), Nicolas Hieronimus (L’Oréal), and Luca de Meo (Renault) are among the speakers representing major brands.

François Bitouzet, managing director at Viva Technology, recently spoke to Skift Meetings about the event’s history and its ambitious goals.

The Evolution of VivaTech

The event was founded by media companies Publicis Groupe and Groupe Les Échos-Le Parisien, supported by founding partners Google, BNP Paribas, La Poste Groupe, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and Orange. The concept is to bring together startups, big tech companies, and businesses from more traditional sectors looking to embrace digital innovation.

The event undoubtedly competes for the attention of startups with the Web Summit. VivaTech has been able to attract an overall larger attendance, but this is mainly because it includes a day open to the public that brings in around a quarter of the total attendees. In terms of exhibitors, startups, and media in attendance, the shows are very similar.

Another competitor lies across the channel in London. London Tech Week also takes place this week, concluding today. It is organized by Informa Tech in partnership with the UK Government and supported by the Mayor of London. Celebrating its tenth edition, the event is expected to attract 30,000 participants over three days centered around the Queen Elizabeth II Centre.

The first edition in 2016 brought together 45,000 attendees and included 5,000 startups. The following year 6,000 startups were part of the event. The focus seemed to have moved away from the number of startups, but attendance figures hit records in 2018 (100,000) and again in 2019 with 124,000 total attendees.

With no event in 2020, the hybrid 2021 edition brought together 26,000 attendees in Paris, under strict Covid guidelines, with 114,000 joining online. The 2022 edition’s in-person attendance came close to 2018 levels with 91,000 attendees. This year they are expecting to beat this number.

Focused Content

This year, the content focuses on AI and the future of sport, with the education program organized into 11 tracks. There are also four full-day summits happening simultaneously dedicated to specific roles.

Two iconic French sportsmen now turned entrepreneurs, Blaise Matuidi (Origins Fund) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (All in Group), are also featured.

Although the event is not marketed as hybrid, TV-style coverage of the whole show – the VivaTech News channel – and streams from the four main stages are viewable online at no cost. There is also an option to connect with other viewers in a shared experience via a Watch Together option.

Under the hood, inwink provides a mobile event app focused on networking, while live streams are hosted on Voilà streams, with Vimeo used for replays.

VivaTech has seen a rise in startups participating in the event, with more corporations focusing on the green side of tech. “VivaTech is very efficient for them. Just to give you a number, last year 50 percent of the startups exhibiting got up to 25% of their annual leads [here],” said Bitouzet. The show also welcomes more international exhibitors, with around half coming from outside Europe.

Bitouzet believes that people are investing a lot in VivaTech due to the media coverage and networking opportunities, with exhibitors asking for more behind-the-curtains meetings with decision-makers and targeted networking. They also want to showcase their mission and purpose, which has led to new kinds of offsite events and content platforms.

Content collaborations are valuable, but VivaTech believes it is important to have only editorial content on the main stages. “At VivaTech, you don’t pay to be on stage. We have 100 percent independent editorial approach,” said Bitouzet.

The size and impact of the booths are less important today than it was in the past. “Now they [exhibitors] consider the booth as just their headquarters. And so they ask us to organize for them more and more behind-the-curtains meetings with key decision makers at big companies. So I think it’s more and more important to have networking, but very targeted and tailored networking,” said Bitouzet.

“My feeling is that people are focusing on participation in the biggest event once in a year,” said Bitouzet. While booth size may not be as important as in the past, the size of the event matters as it makes it the one big event of the year for many startups.

National Investment

It’s not just the French government that invests in VivaTech. The event features a number of pavilions from around the world. Several countries promote participation in country pavilions within their own national startup scene.

Of the nations represented, the Republic of Korea is the largest investor. It enjoys exclusive Country of the Year status driven by a partnership announced in March. Korean innovation is at the center of the event, with a K-Startup Integration Pavilion prominently featuring 30 Korean startups in the main hall. Additionally, the Republic of Korea’s minister of SMEs and startups Lee Young will deliver a keynote address.

Showcasing Innovation to the Public

While the event mainly focuses on business-to-business, consumers can attend the event’s final day open to the public. “The fourth day of VivaTech every year is dedicated to families, students and whoever wants to discover a little bit more about innovation. It’s part of the energy,” said Bitouzet.

In 2020, VivaTech did not take place due to the Covid pandemic. During this time, it focused on working with startups and developing matchmaking networking technology. The company chose to collaborate with partners and participate in the ecosystem rather than developing something in-house.

Bitouzet is confident that VivaTech has become one of the unmissable events in the tech and digital agenda worldwide.