Over the past few years the French start-up scene has seen a fresh growth. To get further insights into this area, Atout France invited key industry players in the French start-up scene to share, with the international audience at IMEX Frankfurt 2017, the latest developments and how the MICE industry can benefit from working with start-ups. Entitled “how start-ups can improve the MICE experience”, the aim of this session was to showcase how the MICE industry can work closely with start-ups in the tourism space to deliver more authentic MICE experience for attendees.
The session was moderated by Hans Jürgen Heinrich, Publisher, Events-Magazin and speakers were Violaine Terreaux, Chef de Pôle Tech & Services, Business France, Christelle Larché, Business Developer, VizEat and Florian Benejean, Founder & CTO, My Jomo.
Start-ups in the MICE industry: risk or opportunity?
Hans Jürgen Heinrich started the presentation with saying that the start-ups can be seen as a risk, chance or challenge for traditional businesses. This means, risk and challenge if companies don’t cooperate, see and identify the chances in working with start-ups. They have a chance if they decide to cooperate. At the same time, there is also risk and chance for the founders, chance if the idea and support are strong enough to accelerate and risk if they fail financially before taking off.
To minimise the risks and maximise the chances, many centres and campuses have been established worldwide. In France specifically, France Tourism Lab, established in December 2016, is an accelerator offering support to start-ups operating in the tourism space. In Paris, the Welcome City Lab is home to 30 tourism start-ups each year.
VizEat: for more authentic dining experience
Hans Jürgen’s first encounter with a French start-up was with VizEat in Strasbourg. Simply said, VizEat is for restaurants what Airbnb is for hotels. Travellers can book a private dinner at a local’s home for an average price of 25 Euro per person. Being a guest at someone’s private home gives guests an opportunity to experience the destination in a more authentic way. The hosts love it, too. They can build relationships with guests from all over the world who wanted to have a social gastronomic experience alternative to a restaurant. For them, it’s not about the business case but more about the friendships they make.
Christelle shared that the company was created in 2014 and saw phenomenal success. Founded by two French entrepreneurs Camille Rumani and Jean Michel Petit, the idea came along as more and more people were travelling but had very few opportunities to meet local people during their travels.
Fast growth for VizEat
While travelling in Peru, Jean Michel had his best meal experience sharing an Indian meal during his visit to the Amantani Island, on Lake Titicaca. Meanwhile, Camille was living in China and having dinners and lunches with Chinese friends at their homes. That’s how the idea was born. From 30 hosts in three countries (mainly friends and family) offering dinners, it grew to 22,000 hosts in 110 countries, additionally offering cooking classes, wine tastings and food tours. The most important aspect of VizEat is the human element, sharing the moment with local people and discovering the cities from their perspective. Surprisingly enough, the host will recommend further restaurant to try, giving the guests insiders insights.
Experiencing such fast growth, VizEat was able to grow further thanks to financial support. When the website went live in July 2014, one month later they raised 1 million Euros, followed by further investment in September 2016 of 5 million Euros.
From the beginning, VizEat selected the hosts by checking their IDs, and sending professional photographers to hosts in the biggest cities to ensure everything is fine. Hosts can choose their own menus to put on the platform, but VizEat advises on the right price. Furthermore, VizEast has an insurance that covers up to 1 million pounds for guests and hosts.
VizEat delivers authentic MICE experience
For corporate groups the process is different, so the organiser should contact the partnership team at VizEat directly or fill out the “special events” request form. As a result, VizEat can check all the specific requirements and look for the best hosts who can correspond to company’s request. The biggest group was in November 2015 for the Airbnb Open. Viz Eat organised a dinner for 1000 people in 200 homes in Paris. Big events can be organised by splitting the groups into smaller ones. This way attendees can experience an immersive, authentic and unique experience with locals. VizEat offers added value to client proposals with their corporate service. This is certainly not for spontaneous group booking and might take few weeks to select the most suitable hosts.
My Jome – digital name badge
Then the discussion moved on to Florian who introduced his start-up My Jomo. Based in Angers, they offer a smart badge on which event organisers can show any picture from a smart phone or computer with the goal to display a message to your surroundings and constantly update this message. This is with the aim to engage people with the product or service – to do, understand and start building a relationship. Their target audience is only B2B. My Jomo uses RFID, NFC, Bluetooth and wifi technologies.
According to Florian, it’s particularly useful at conventions. The badge can be given to all exhibitors and they can stream different messages about their product or service throughout the day.
The idea was born seven months ago and My Jomo already has more than 150 clients and over 1000 users. The idea was born after Florian visited many conventions. He realised that there could be a different way to use the traditional badge and target potential customers more efficiently.
Areas that need more start-ups support
According to Florian, the biggest challenge is to keep in touch with people you meet at conventions. The volume of business cards exchanged can be overwhelming at times, so it’s difficult to remember the people. Event goers should be able to keep in touch in a “smart way” – to know when and where they met and why you talked to them.
Start-ups vs. long term corporate organisation reputation
Florian told an anecdote about one of his clients, Airbus. He came to them to present a product, and after the presentation they said that they have an event on the same night and asked whether he could build a badge for them, which of course he did. As a result they were impressed by the speed of execution. This is a USP start-ups have over more established companies.
Business France – supporting start-ups in France and abroad
Next, Violaine presented what Business France does in the start-up field. Business France is a national agency supporting the international development of the French economy. It’s three key responsibilities are: to support French and foreign companies with their international development, promote France’s attractiveness to business and facilitate job creation for investment in France. Business France has strong networks in 85 countries with 120 offices.
The French Government started La French Tech to represent everyone working in or for a start-up in France or abroad. Fast they realised that there were more than 9,000 start-ups in France, with one third based in the Paris area. Furthermore, there are few start-up clusters, such as Toulouse, Angers, Paris and Lyon supporting different industries. CES, for example, shows how big the French tech network is. In 2014 there were only 44 start-ups, two years later 179 start-ups. Business France supports start-ups to find investors, to meet big companies abroad and find new customers.
My Jomo is one of the start-ups that worked with French Tech. Through this network they met many people who helped them to attend important international events, assisted to meet journalists, Venture Capitalists and customers.
Now, it’s very exciting time for the events industry and French start-up scene. New start-ups are stimulating innovation, challenging the industry, offering new and authentic experience, increasing attendee engagement, finding new solutions to old problems and disrupting the industry. Furthermore, France, and especially Paris, is establishing itself as a new and international player in the start-up scene, fast leveling with London and Berlin.