As in any sector, the IoT’s market is growing at the whim of people who manage it. Then we decided to put their profession under the spotlight. Who is in charge of French technological progresses? Here are, according to us, the people who lord it over the French market.
When we are talking about IoT and the people behind it, we often mention the English-speakers leading figures as well as the major international companies. We can notice that France is central to digital transformation by looking at the delegations in the CES 2016 hosted in Las Vegas. Here is our French influencers rating “made in objetconnecte.com” who are working in this area.
1. Ludovic le Moan (SigFox) – The rising star
Ludovic Le Moan is one of the two founders of SigFox THE global network of connected devices and the epitome of business success in France.
Created in 2009, the company marks a certain vision of a connected world, a great all-purpose binder which would be SigFox.
It lends to the Toulouse SMEs planetary destiny, to Google. Why not? Le Moan managed to convince Anne Lauvergeon to preside over SigFox, ideal to accelerate the creation of « goodwill » and to distance the competing brands.
SigFox today connects everything and everywhere, including some human activities in Antarctica.
At 51, Ludovic Le Moan is the rising star of French entrepreneurship, one of the influencers recognized beyond the borders of France. Pretty amazing when you consider that in his youth he held a turner/miller NVQ out of school. Despite this, his engineering skills allow him to create Anyware Technologies which he will resell more than 10 million euros in 2008. With these funds, he launched Goodjet, Anywhere technologies and then SigFox in 2009 with the engineer Christophe Fourtet as a partner, the « Mozart of radio. »
We reiterate, Ludovic Le Moan is the rising or the North Star of IoT, which gives direction to young French entrepreneurs, particularly in the IoT Valley Toulouse in its stronghold.
2. Olivier Hersent (Actility) – The outsider
Polytechnicien, Olivier Hersent began his career as manager of VoIP architectures at France Telecom R & D before leaving everything behind to create his own company Netcentrex. His first company created in 1998 when he was only 28 years, was specialized in the construction of new generation telecommunications equipment. At 35, he already generated a turnover of 41 million euros.
This company at the forefront of innovation was acquired the following year by the Israeli company Comverse for 149 million euros. Olivier Hersent continued creating the Socracy NPO Association in 2007 and in 2008 OhDev.
In 2011, he founded Actility an « enabler » of networks based on LoRa technology, the direct competitor of SigFox. Why the outsider? After all, the track record of Olivier Hersent is stronger than the Le Moan’s one and LoRa is objectively a more mature technology. The answer is simple: the brand! Today Actility is significantly left behind in matter of awareness or resources. The instant is not in his favor. Obviously, Actility has serious advantages to compete with SigFox and close events will highlight the work of Olivier Hersent teams.
Olivier Hersent is now one of the influencers, one of the recognized experts in the telecom world. He is also the author of several books on VoIP, M2M, the Internet of Things and Smart Grid. Olivier Hersent, the outsider, possible winner in the photo finish.
3. Xavier Niel (Iliad) – The Godfather
Xavier Niel is one of the biggest influencers of the French innovative ecosystem. For decades, it spins its web in the web. If the data were an illicit business, he would undoubtedly be the godfather. « Don Xavier. » The process is unusual and the success is incredible.
In 1990, he bought 50% of FERMIC Multimedia, a Minitel Rose services editor he renamed « Iliad. » In the 90s, he created the services’ 3617 Annu « and launched the web site Société.com. Xavier Niel is actually the godfather of the internet in France as he is the one who has invested in the first ISP public, named Worldet. In 1999, he developed his own Internet access offer under the name Free. At the same time he has a great new idea : to put the telephone and the television on the same line. It was only in 2002 that he launched the Freebox.
He is currently the Vice President and the Managing Director for Strategy at Iliad, parent company of ISP Free and Free mobile phone operator. He is also part owner of Le Monde, flagship of the French daily press.
He is also the founder of investment fund Kima Venture, through which he invests in a half-dozen companies per month, in addition to his direct personal investments. Acme of giveback, Xavier Niel finances the construction of Hall Fressinet, Europe’s largest incubator, and related services such as catering and accommodation.
The sponsor then spared no blow against its competitors. It is a bloody war of clans he makes to control virtual territories. However, he undeniably has a benevolent face against French young startups. If French startups are one of the largest squares in Europe, part of the credit goes to him.
4. Pierre-Eric Leibovici (Daphni+ Hardware Club) – The VC
Pierre-Eric Leibovici isn’t in the spotlight, yet it is one of the actors / key influencers hexagonal IoT.
For nearly twenty years he participates in the growth of startups, first at Banexi then BNP Paribas Private Equity and then Orkos Robolution capital. Today partner of Daphni, he co-founded with Marie and Pierre-Yves Ekeland Meerschman and dedicated to IoT, he is positioning himself as co-pilot of the connected revolution.
Hardware Club investor, his track record puts him again in the center of a number of issues related to the Internet of Things like training (Coursera) or energy (EnerBee).
Beyond the financial triviality, Pierre-Eric VC is positioned as a « benevolent » VC who is the driving force of a more efficient collaboration that martial management KPI whose motor is energized in the ratio of power.
The paradigm here is found rotated in a contractor to contractor relationship where each party is completing each other and improve as well.
5. Barbara Belvisi (Hardware Club, Elephant venture)– Mamma Midnight
The story is beautiful. Barbara founded in 2011, Elephant & Ventures, a « boutique venture » financing and strategy for technology startups, convinced that through innovation, entrepreneurs contribute significantly to the evolution of our society.
In 2014, to complete its investment activities, she co-founded the Club Hardware with Alexis Houssou and travels to support and develop the seeds of future IoT. Between Paris, Boston, San Francisco, Hong Kong and Lausanne, nothing can resist her. The Hardware Club includes among its members the following startup : Prynt, Blocks, Click & Grow, Keecker, Senit Mistfit, Thync, Nebia, Buesmart, Fove, Roli or Romy, etc.
Barbara Belvisi is also the mentor and the head of the category Hardware / Robotics of Hello Tomorrow Challenge.
In recent years, the Hardware club has become one of the most select clubs in the world. « We came back at the right time, at the beginning, we got lucky » said few entrepreneurs.
6. Stéphane Bohbot (Innov8) – The dealer
Serial entrepreneur, Stéphane Bohbot embodies the French « startup » since twenty years. Very discreet, he remains one of the most significant influencers of the industry.
His career began in 1998 when he founded Digiplug, a management and distribution company of mobile content; we are then in the early hours of the mobile revolution, the terminals are still rustic and the screens are still in black and white. Sold in 2002 to the Japanese company Faith Group, Digiplug become the world leader in audio technology for mobile phone a few years later. In 2004, Stéphane Bohbot created ModeLabs which became the French leader in telecom distribution and expert in the manufacture of luxury phones. From 2004 to 2011, the company grew from 23 to 292 million before being sold to Big Ben Interactive.
In 2008 he established Atelier Haute Communication, a leading company in the manufacture phones for European luxury brands. Stéphane Bohbot accelerates its activity in connected devices in 2011 with Innov8, a group including Ascendeo, Extenso Telecom, InnovHK Lick and the European specialist of online distribution of products (smartphones, connected devices and accessories). Composed of 350 employees, the company achieved a turnover of $ 360 million in 2014.
Stéphane Bobhot plays a key role, through lick, in the promotion of French IoT startups to which he offers a public forum. Further upstream, the entrepreneur participates in start-ups financing via the IoT investment fund of CIC to which he is associated.
7. Gilles Babinet – Mr Big Data
Appointed Digital Champion in 2012 by Fleur Pellerin, who was a French Minister dedicated to digital, he represented France at the European Commission. Before 2012, Gilles Babinet was president of the National Council of the digital chamber of reflection on strategic digital topics in the life of the nation, innovation financing, taxation or the digital release of public data.
This multi entrepreneur yet has an unusual background. Unable to fit properly in a classical school curriculum, Gilles Babinet ends up spending his high school diploma as an external candidate when he was 20 years old. However, this does not prevent him from going into entrepreneurship, without theoretical foundation, founding his first company « Climbing Industry » and « Absolut Group ». Composed of three entities, Design Absolut, Absolut Media and Exa Design, the group is sold in 2000 to Euro RSCG Havas, one of Europe’s largest advertising agencies.
The same year, he reinvested and founded Musiwave, a mobile music platform that will quickly become the market leader by providing 30 telecommunication operators worldwide. This is the jackpot for Gilles Babinet when he sold Musiwave for $ 139 million in 2006.
Shortly afterwards, he became Partner at Ventech and will follow the MXP4, eYeka or captain Dash adventures. Being the Author of several essays such as « Big data, think differently about the man and the world » and the « Digital Era, a new age of humanity, » he considers IoT from all angles, including « big data » which is the real heart of the IoT revolution.
8. Eric Carreel – The architect
Eric Carreel is one of the evangelizers of the new connected religion. Very discreet, we could compare him to St. Augustine – « The noise does little good, good makes little noise. »
Engineer of ESPCI ParisTech, he first worked in institutional research as a researcher in the radio’s field. He is the author of fifty patents in this area. He is one of the first entrepreneurs to specialize in what will prefigure the IoT. From 2002 to 2005, Eric Carreel is the CEO of the Inventel company, which has designed the Livebox for France Telecom, before it was bought in 2005 by Thomson. At that time, he is already one of the major architects of Triple Play in Europe.
Following the development of the first « connected » devices, Eric Carreel takes the initiative, with Frederic Potter and Cedric Hutchings, to found the company Withings, maker of communicating objects related to health and well-being. The Wi-Fi balance, launched in 2009, has become one of the most iconic IoT connected devices. More recently, he founded the 3D specialist printing Sculpteo in 2009 and Invoxia. Unconditional innovator, Eric Carreel was appointed Head of Connected Devices plan, set up by the Ministry of Productive Recovery in 2013.
Multi-entrepreneur, Eric Carreel is central to the French IoT landscape. Both architect and chief of the French innovation, he is one of the landmarks and one of the driving forces, one of the influencers whose French entrepreneurship needs.
9. Frédéric Potter (Netatmo) – The uncle gunslinger
Frederic Potter remains resolutely at the intersection of strategic vision and specialized technical expertise. According to him it’s make or break. The uncle Gunslinger, to paraphrase Raoul Volfoni, isn’t « come there to butter sandwiches. »
CTO of Kaptech, he co-founded in 2000 Cirpack which he sold eight years later. First feat of arms.
He is also behind Withings which he quitted in 2011, giving way to Eric Carreel. Second feat of arms.
He is now the CEO of Netatmo whose last fundraising gives him « the firepower of a cruiser. »
With him it’s make or break. This visionary sniper now carries on his shoulders the new IoT champion B2C Netatmo. For example it provides connected cameras for the inside and the outside, one of the most popular smart thermostats and its famous connected weather station.
Today, Frederic Potter says that the only thing that could make him renounce to Netatmo is « the technical direction of Apple. »
10. Olivier Ezratty – The voice
This peerless advisor has over 30 years’ experience in R & D, marketing and business development in the high-tech industry. From 1990 to 2005, Olivier Ezratty had the experience of management and leadership at Microsoft.
Since 2005, he evangelizes and advises major large groups as startups with a wide spectrum of issues. He also teaches marketing and innovation at universities (École Centrale Paris, Telecom ParisTech, HEC, NEOMA, Epitech, etc).
Olivier Ezratty is one of the influencers to follow especially for the quality of its publications on his blog « Free opinions ». This media covers entrepreneurship, innovation, digital media, digital television and the IoT, etc.
He also wrote the annual startups Guide s and the Las Vegas CES Report, institution since 2006. Olivier Ezratty is a man of influence.
11. Benjamin Cabé – The evangelist
A native of Toulouse, Benjamin Cabe is an expert in new technologies and evangelist of IoT in the Eclipse Foundation. This is a non-profit organization overseeing the development of the open source IDE and Eclipse projects gravitating around.
His role is to promote and educate software developers about using Eclipse technologies, especially the M2M and IoT. Benjamin Cabe is very present on social networks; he accumulates many followers on Twitter and Linkedin.
He takes to heart his mentor status by supporting many IoT startups such as Hono, Kura, Lesahn, OM2M, Ponte, Tiaki and many others. He “preaches” the benefits of Eclipse during filmed conferences around the world and also has a very technical blog, blog.benjamin-cabe.com on software engineering.
12. Axelle Lemaire – The digital defendant
Axelle Lemaire has initiated many events dedicated to the Internet of Things. She never misses an opportunity to welcome French innovation, the French Tech, putting a few geeks jokes in her speech.
She is left-wing, but agnostic from an entrepreneurial point of view. Since April 2014, she was Secretary of State for the digital in the Manuel Valls government.
Last August, following her renewal, she decided to defend a bill for a digital Republic.
She proposes this bill for the default opening of public data, Internet neutrality, a duty of online platforms loyalty and an better protection for personal data. The final text is passed before the Council of Ministers the 9th December 2015, then debated in the National Assembly from the 19th to the 21st January 2016 and voted on January 26th, 2016. Adopted by 357 votes against one, the text was adopted by the Senate on first reading the 3rd May, 2016.
Member of Linkedin since September 2015, she published a post in which she announced « Digital Republic is running. »
With this law, Axelle Lemaire also intends to boost investments in startups. Her goal is to guide policies towards a digitalization of the country and especially towards IoT securing.
13. Loic LeCerf (SmartMeUp) – The mastermind
Loïc LeCerf is one of the developers of facial recognition in France. Young successful entrepreneur, he started his entrepreneurial activity in 2004 with the web site Savoirtoutfaire.com, bought in 2010 by Benchmark Group. This is partly thanks to this that he founded the startup Artificial Design. The main activity is the artificial intelligence’s automation in the design.
He co-founded SmartMeUp in 2012, a startup from Grenoble specialized in the machine learning and computer vision, specifically in facial recognition. The first use of the SmartMeUp tool is in the photos booths and in the Netatmo’s products.
With a turnover of € 250 million in 2015, Loïc Fretwell has no longer to prove his skills. SmartMeUp technology is able to detect the driver’s drowsiness, to analyze trafic in train stations or count up the actual audience of advertising posters in the street.
In March 2016, the startup completed a 2 million fundraising and hosted famous businessmen like Xavier Niel, Jacques-Antoine Granjon, Jean-David Blanc and Pierre-Eric Leibovici.
Loïc Fretwell hopes with this fundraising, to democratize facial recognition. Estimation of age, emotions, sex, eye tracking, nothing escapes this technology which has been difficult to set up. With this type of solution, artificial intelligence gradually comes into our cars, public places, in our smartphones and our robots.
14. Thierry Sachot (Eolane) – The CEO
Thierry Sachot is the CEO of the Angers City’s connected devices and CEO of the Eolane company. This city is now under the supervision of a group of industrial partners gathered around Eolane.
He earns a BTEC electronic monitoring and he took some training courses in Master level, this self-taught man quickly begins his career by integrating the Eolane’s group he will never leave.
The company had only about twenty employees at the time. Today, Thierry Sachot is the head of the company and manages 3,500 employees, including 1,300 internationally. This company founded more than 40 years ago is specialized in electronic subcontracting. Through the action of its manager, it campaigns for IoT French startups.
The Angers City’s connected devices is a meeting place created to address the topics of design, industrialization and integration. The City’s aim is to spread Made in France technologies internationally. How? By bringing together the expertise of several startups and providing visibility to the French Tech companies.
The adventure of this ecosystem has started alongside Eric Carreel, the Withings company CEO, with whom he canvassed the first industrialists.
Thierry Sachot said about Eric Carreel « I know him for 20 years. He is a great industrialist. Somehow he is the father of the City. « But in March 2016, it is Thierry Sachot the industry’s captain who was promoted Chevaliers of the Légion of d’honneur in the Ministry of the Economy, Industry and Digital.
15. Bruno Maisonnier (Ex Aldebaran) – The boss
Teenager with learning difficulties, Bruno Maisonnier dreamed of a world of robots. He eventually got back a taste for studies joining the polytechnic field with his passion for robotics.
Credit Agricole CEO in Poland in early 2000, he dropped everything to create the Alderbaran Robotics company in 2005. Thanks to this pioneer, the company is rapidly become one of the world leader in the field of humanoid robotics at professionals’ service.
Aldebaran is as the root of humanoid robots NAO, Pepper and Romeo, especially created for the men well-fare, in order to commercialize them to the public as a « new kindly species towards humans. » Bruno Maisonnier is a man of vision and belief being one step ahead the sector of robotics in France. In 2012, he sold his Aldebaran’s shares to the Japanese group SoftBank.
He gave in 2015 all his shares up before traveling and reaching Patagonia alone with his motorcycle. Bruno Maisonnier remains one of the biggest investors of new technologies and holds significant shares of the Hardware Club. Last February, he announced his comeback in the robotics industry, while carefully keeping the secret about his current projects or future.
16. Eric Dosquet – The connector
Under the radar of the press, Eric Dosquet is yet an actor in entrepreneurship in every sense and in the IoT’s field in particular. Co-founder of Athene Partner in 2010, where he helped between Paris, Oslo and San Francisco a couple of startups to transform the idea of garage to the industrialization supported by funds.
This graduate of HEC Paris Dauphine worked for Cisco and Aldebaran and is now running several IoT startups which deal with smart agriculture topics, Artificial Intelligence, drone or smart watch between Paris, Geneva and Boston.
Eric is a connector, an intermediary between cultures and generations, a strong personality that we understand it can be motivated by a vision beyond « the scum of the days » or traditional skylines. A technophile environment which is paradoxical for this man whose ultimate dream is to live in a mountain chalet, a little bit disconnected from the ambient noise.
Eric Dosquet is also the co-author of « Connected devices, the new digital revolution » and of a forthcoming volume on breakthrough innovation and mobile marketing.
17. David Monteau – The French Touch
In late November 2014, the minister Fleur Pellerin launched the French Tech plan to stimulate the growth of digital startups. From the start, David Monteau is designated to be the program director.
He hold a degree in engineering in Central, it’s after working ten years at INRIA – he sets a goal to network skills and talents of the entire French and international research system – that he is appointed at the head of the French Tech for his great experience in digital landscape. The French Tech has partners such as the Enterprise Directorate-General, the Treasury Directorate of the Ministry of Economy and Finance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Caisse des Dépôts, Bpifrance and Business France.
The first French Tech objective is to improve the visibility of French startups internationally as France is suffering from an erroneous image. According to the prize list of Deloitte Technology Fast 500, France leads with 86 selected companies, followed by the UK with 71 companies.
18. Thierry Lestable – The network man
Thierry Lestable is the vice president of LoRa Alliance since October 2015. He runs today one of the main French IoT systems adopted by major operators such as Bouygues Telecom to cover France and other countries. Thierry Lestable is an enthusiast who has a business mind in terms of innovation.
His strategy supplies the concepts, research, standards and LoRa Alliance prototypes. He has a significant experience in gathering teams, and to establish multidisciplinary programs.
All in all, Thierry Lestable has the typical leader profile. In June 2015, he got the Vice President Strategy Committee’s post and participated in the launch of this IoT network.
This network man is a great influencer in the world of telecoms and IoT for over 15 years. In 1998 he made an entrance as a software engineer on the GPRS development and integration in Alcatel.
Then he worked for Samsung Electronics as a research engineer and project manager between 2004 and 2008 before joining Sagem Communications as a technology and innovation Manager. He still holds this position and combines this profession with his LoRa Alliance’s vice president status.
19. Renaud Acas (Publithings) – The mediator
This is not because he is the boss that he is here. Renaud Acas, co-founder of the Publithings company promotes the IoT ecosystem in France for several years.
He discovered the Internet of Things in 2012 through his entrepreneur’s friends during their first brainstorming meetings for the development of Romy Paris startup. Evangelist of the IoT, he is now one of the backbone between startups and old economy. He is behind several reference media in the Internet of Things: objetconnecte.net (B2C website) objetconnecte.com (B2B website), and realité-virtuelle.com and lebigdata.fr. He is working with manufacturers, retailers and startups thanks to these media.
Connected to all the IoT news and innovation in general, he meets the project promoters, the heads of the companies and large corporate groups with digital transformation issues. Renaud Acas, who knows 90% of the stakeholders in this area, oversees some media which are generating the most important traffic. Between Aix-en-Provence and Paris, he is very often contacted for conferences with large corporate groups. He is the activity’s tracker of IoT companies.
20. All of you – the public
Possibly you after all! The influencers we have quoted are often at the root of innovations or are able to identify them quickly. But if the average Joe or professional don’t find their groove, what’s the point? You have a great influence on research institutes and consulting firms which are watching any comings and goings.
You are also those who are generating essential data to put into practice innovative connected services. It is you who are approving new technologies as well as the advent of smartphones, connected bracelets and soon autonomous cars. Perhaps there is among us future personalities who will influence tomorrow’s high-tech? Who knows?