Denis Jacquet is a French tech pioneer and entrepreneur. Over 15 years ago, he initiated an online education business, and the company he created in 2000—EduFactory—is now one of the most experienced e-learning companies in Europe, offering tailor-made innovative learning solutions by combining cutting edge technologies with pedagogical expertise. Being in the tech ecosystem throughout his professional career, he became the moving force behind important initiatives in France and worldwide. One of them is a non-profit organisation called L’Observatoire de l’Ubérisation, which focuses on how the digital economy will impact the future of our day-to-day lives. The regular think tank debate hosted by this organisation, united business people and politicians to discuss important issues concerning the future of economic, financial, regulatory (law), social and technological aspects.
Following the success of this think tank, Denis was approached by a publisher to write a book, which was published in 2016, Ubérisation: Un ennemi qui vous veut du bien? (Available in French only). The book focuses on the service economy, exploring the transition of consumers from being passive to engaged actors in the new economy. The book’s success led to Denis speaking at over 300 business conferences since its launch and fostered further discussion and interest globally. As a result of his speaking engagements, he realised that many people are not completely aware of what is happening on the government level globally, and that there is a gap between what companies do and what the government does, with both ‘not speaking to each other’. While the US and China are at the forefront of supporting regulations that allow conducting business easily, Europe is behind on this front, with excessive regulations which make it difficult for businesses to grow rapidly and compete globally. Despite regulatory challenges, there are companies that succeed at being agile and able to do more than governments with respect to issues such as implementing sustainable practices, corporate social responsibility and digital transformation. At the same time, other large companies struggle to keep pace and adapt quickly to the new economy. What is the solution?
Day One: a movement
To narrow this gap between the various actors in the economy, and there are many: politicians, small and medium businesses, start-ups, education and science institutions, multinationals and non-profit organisations, it is necessary to get everyone together, so they can collectively work on developing a vision and help the world to adapt.
By seeking a solution, an idea was born: to bring decision-makers to share the vision for digital transformation and develop an action plan. To make it happen, it is necessary to get decision-makers from across sectors together in one room for an event. However, this event will not only be a conference, but more importantly a ‘movement’ where decisions will take place and finally lead to real implementation on the ground. That’s how, 1.5 years ago, Day One was born.
Denis is a public figure in France where he is based, and is well known and respected through his speaking engagements, radio interviews and TV appearances. Following the launch of his book and sharing this vision, by chance he discussed the vision with Jean Castellini, Minister of Finance and Economy of Monaco—both men happened to have studied at the same cohort and the same business school programme. At this time, Denis was looking for the right destination to launch the event. Jean Castellini introduced Denis to the Monaco Convention Bureau, who welcomed the conference with supportive feedback to go ahead, and introduced him to further local actors for subsequent event planning.
I will attend Day One from 28 – 30 November 2018 at the Grimaldi Forum in Monaco, and to gain further insight into this ambitious vision, I interviewed the founder, Denis Jacquet, about the journey of making his vision reality very soon. It was a very inspiring and honest interview, that touched on many of the topics that will be covered on Day One, and that every business can identify with. I am sure that this interview will inspire you to think about the impacts of technology on humans, organisations and companies, leading to many more interesting discussions and challenging your thinking.
Can you define Day One in one sentence?
Day One is a movement, not a conference. It will lead to action to do something, take decisions and help the world to adapt.
Why did you choose to launch this event in Monaco? What makes Monaco the perfect destination for the Day One event?
Several factors played a role in selecting Monaco for Day One, beyond the initial introduction and seeding the first idea to host it there. The excellent hospitality, kindness and prompt feedback and support that put me in touch with local actors, easy access from major international hubs, high level of security and excellent infrastructure ticked the basic requirements.
Another important aspect was the global image of Monaco that will create a desire to travel there for the event. Additionally, I wanted this event to be international in scope, an aspect in which Monaco stands out and thus fulfils this very important requirement. At the same time, hosting an international event, I wanted to keep it ‘close to home’ (i.e. Paris, where Denis is based) because as the organiser, I will need to travel there frequently to allow smooth planning and execution.
Lastly, the event received ‘Patronage’ from the Prince of Monaco Albert II. Such Patronage provides event organisers with official approval of support and permission to use this status on event documentation and communication.
What were the challenges of launching a high-profile conference for the first time? How did you get key stakeholders and decision-makers on board and become involved as co-organisers, speakers, sponsors?
First and foremost, it is important to create trust in the people around you. Even if successful in other business areas, people will not automatically place their trust in you with respect to a new venture, and they may even challenge you and question your ability to hold an event of this scale without previous experience. Thus, you need to convince everyone, and that is no easy task.
Secondly, you must get 2–3 high level partners/sponsors on board, the early adopters, who will then attract subsequent people. My previous public appearances on TV, radio, newspapers and the book definitely helped to create this initial trust and win a headline sponsor, Allianz.
The second challenge was to invite speakers from overseas, who it can be reasonably assumed neither know myself nor the Day One event. In this regard, I had to rely on my network to introduce myself to the right people, who are far away but will be appropriate speakers at the event. Here, the concept of ‘Six degrees of separation’ originally established by Frigyes Karinthy in 1929, applies—we are a maximum of six steps away from the person we want to connect with, and this connection can be established by ‘a friend of a friend’ introduction.
I, the event organisers and supporters all pooled their forces, and the event will have an impressive speaker line-up from all over the world. Not everyone said yes this year, but the connection was established which will lead to further opportunities next year.
Finally, the financial aspect. As an organiser, you need money to make it happen. The event world is a new venture for me, with its own rules and environment. Previous success does not guarantee future success, and therefore I understood that I need to surround myself with top professionals, which I did. Organising a high-profile event is similar to building a luxury watch: it requires precision, attention to detail, exceptional organisation skills and top-level expertise. And this is the approach I take.
What’s your vision for this conference for the next five years?
We are building a movement. Therefore, we need to differentiate ourselves from other conferences. Hence, everything to be discussed and debated at the conference will also need to be implemented. We must find ways to finance the decisions and make them happen. If we are able to take decisions together and ensure that these decisions are implemented successfully, in five years we will be able to prove that these decisions were good and impactful. If that is the case, in five years, Day One will become the largest and most important movement in the world that will bridge the gap between jobs and the economy.
What can event participants look forward to the most when attending Day One?
Every business owner, CEO, entrepreneur, HR professional, and anyone who works on digital transformation, if they want to understand what is going on, they need to be there. It will bring them up to speed and provide a steep learning curve regarding digital transformation.
When we say learning, it is not related to technical skills, but rather the vision, objectives and understanding what is happening across sectors. Additionally, this event will provide access to pioneers who are transforming their organisations. Attendees will understand how they do it, as well as what the challenges and best practices of digital transformation are. Most importantly, attending Day One will be a participative experience instead of providing passive learning. The emphasis will be on acting rather than talking.
What are the key digital trends/ challenges that any business today, big or small, cannot ignore?
There are several key challenges that affect companies of all sizes. Many companies that we all know and use their products and services have a lack of diversity at their top management level and a specific mindset that prevents them from keeping pace with digital transformation. They are not able to adapt at the same speed, and do not see the world in the same way, or do not have a vision for the next generations.
Secondly, the size of the company can create challenges. For small companies, it is hard to be competitive in the international economy. They lack the skills, the right people and money. On the other hand, very large companies are not able to move quickly because they are complex, very heavy, work under old rules and would like to resist to changes or purchase people who change them. This issue creates a third challenge, the regulations, and today new companies have a new set of regulations that make employment laws, to take one example, different. New tech companies are disrupting the current employment model—they do not have full-time staff anymore, no inventory and employ ‘on-demand’. Traditional companies are bound to strict employment rules and cannot easily dismiss staff if they do not require them anymore without facing major financial and legal consequences.
This event is open to corporates, SMEs, start-ups and NGOs. Why do you think it is important to get everyone involved in this vital discussion?
We mostly hear about the ‘big guys’ in the news (Google, Facebook etc.), but they are not the ones who create most jobs. The job creators are the multinationals but most importantly the small and medium-size businesses. We therefore need to get them all together. Then, we also require scientists, who work on innovation and medicine, and must further involve intellectuals who have a vision for the ideal world and conceptualise a new form of society. Everyone who works alone are wrong at some point. Together, it is hard to fail.