From The Metaverse Hype To Green Tech Solutions: VivaTech 2022

Paris was the center of innovation and technology last week.

The 2022 edition of VivaTech in Paris was a great success with more than 90,000 in-person visitors and 300,000 digital connections. It has become the largest technology and innovation event in Europe with CEOs, C-leaders, VCs, and startups attending from all over the world.

If I had summed up my key takeaways from the event in two themes:

  • The metaverse was all over the place and overhyped. There were lots of great VR demos, especially when it comes to training with Uptale or Reality Academy. Meta’s booth was unsurprisingly all about the metaverse with demos of Horizon Workrooms. LVMH has started to share some perspectives on how they want to invite their VIP clients to exclusive experiences in the metaverse. Even the Ukrainian president’s hologram appeared at VivaTech. NFTs were getting buzz via Binance, not to mention lots of conference discussions about Web3. After Bloomberg claimed the metaverse will reach $ 400 billion by 2024 (in two years ?!), McKinsey announced during VivaTech its prediction that metaverse spending will total $ 5 trillion in 2030. To me, such stats are just fueling the hype because it truly depends on what exactly we are counting. Or, the metaverse, NFTs, and Web3 are not the same thing. And yes, there is no doubt that, moving forward, experiences will be more immersive and more invisible. But as my colleagues have explained, the metaverse does not yet exist and will emerge in three phases over the next decade.
  • Sustainability was THE buzzword, but green tech is not THE solution. Most booths, starting with Google’s, were showcasing what they do for the planet. Let’s be honest: There was a lot of greenwashing – even if most players are greenwashing without even knowing it. A recent survey of 1,100 C-level leaders showed that sustainability / climate change is the number one most disruptive factor for business in Europe – The good news though is that there were a lot of innovative startups promoting sustainable solutions. The French Tech association promoted the Green20. There are lots of hope that technology will help identify new carbon capture solutions or innovate for the low-carbon economy, but let’s be realistic: High-tech isn’t the solution; it is just one of them. Firms will have to redeem their innovation ecosystem to make it sustainable, considering the impact of limited resources, the economics of the circular economy, and the principles of frugality when innovating. A global consumption paradigm and a deep sustainability transformation among firms are required to truly move the needle.

Interestingly enough, EcoVadis, the sustainability rating company, raised $ 500M to bring more supply chain and became the 27th French unicorn. French President Macron visited the VivaTech show and had 25% of green unicorns by 2030. More than a year ago, I published a blog post explaining that the French Tech ecosystem was booming but that political and business leaders in Europe boldly in the next five years; otherwise the European digital economy would die slowly. I am insisted in particular on the fact that:

  • European startups still rely too often on US investors or end up being acquired by US firms. This is still the case, and more than ever a European Nasdaq would help.
  • European entrepreneurs have to be bolder – take more risks and shoot for global leadership.
  • European leaders at larger firms struggle to drive enterprisewide transformation.

Fast forward, a lot of progress had been made. According to GP Bullhound’s “Titans of Tech” report, there are now 283 unicorns (10 times more than in 2014) and 37 decacorns like Klarna and Revolut in Europe. European industrial leaders are starting to embrace disruptive technologies and aim at becoming B2B platforms, even though Europe is still missing a cloud-based solution. With the Digital Markets Act, the European Commission has made the bold move to regulate the digital competitive landscape, even though the antitrust regulation must move faster from protectionism to innovation.

Once again, let’s try to step back. There are lots of hype and fascination for unicorns and decacorns. Don’t get me wrong: It matters for Europe to finance innovation and to accelerate faster, but this is not the panacea. The key challenge remains to accelerate simultaneously three business transformations around clients, digital, and sustainability.

This post was written by VP, Principal Analyst Thomas Husson and it originally appeared here.

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