Europe’s startup scene looked great at Tech Crunch Disrupt Berlin

Samantha Jérusalmy (Elaia Partners), Frédéric Mazzella (BlaBlaCar) and Mounia Rkha (Isai Ventures) discussing the French startup environment at Tech Crunch Disrupt Berlin 2017.

On December 4–5, Tech Crunch held its Disrupt Event in Berlin, the “world’s leading authority in debuting revolutionary startups, introducing game-changing technologies and discussing what’s top of mind for the tech industry’s key innovators” as Tech Crunch describes it.

At Botfuel, we were lucky enough to be selected as one of the 7 startups to participate in the French Pavilion. As a startup, in its early stage of internationalization, TCDisrupt has been great for meeting prospects, partners and investors — but also to gain a good overview of the state of Tech in Europe today.

And from what we’ve seen and heard, the European tech ecosystem is doing pretty fine right now, though some challenges need to be tackled for it to keep on thriving.

Europe’s Tech has awakened

Of course the Startup Alley was filled with European startups showcasing tech in various sectors, predominantly in blockchain, AR/VR and AI. As underlined by Martin Mignot from Index Ventures during his talk, it’s now clear that Europe has made huge progress in the past 20 years, and we are finally seeing the results.

As the European Union grew, mobility of talents and markets’ size have increased allowing entrepreneurs to think about their startups at a very different scale: from local and regional business targeting markets of a few million individuals or a few thousand companies, European startups now have access to markets of more than 510 million people and 20 million companies.

Among all the companies showcasing, here are some great EU startups we’ve met:

  • Hypelabs (Portugal) provides an SDK that brings connectivity to devices without Internet access.
  • Wandelbot (Germany) lets anyone train robots using “demonstration-based teaching” by letting robots replicate and learn human-like movement.
  • Blik (Germany) builds smart IoT sensors for real-time logistics tracking.

France is aiming at taking the lead

Within the European tech ecosystem, France has been on a fascinating trajectory for the past few years. As highlighted by Blablacar’s Frédéric Mazzella during his panel, 13 years ago “when you said you wanted to start a website, people looked at you with compassion” in France. This era is clearly over.

Being a tech entrepreneur in France is now trendy (even “too trendy” some will argue) and the country has become leader in Europe in terms of number of funding rounds in 2016, and second in value after the UK.

A renewed international image and a new mindset have led to the creation of lots of great startups, 7 of which were with us in the French Tech Pavilion:

  • Brennus Analytics offers an intelligent pricing solution that helps companies optimize their sales prices.
  • Quantmetry offers data valorization solution using machine learning, AI and Big data technologies. They were showcasing their Lymphometry project that brings lymphedema detection to a new level.
  • Adok has built a portable computer using tactile projection technologies to turn any table or wall into a tablet screen.
  • Comet connects freelancers and companies to build the future of tech using powerful scoring algorithms and NLP technologies to process companies’ requests.
  • Team8 that builds connected watch to tackle childhood obesity through sport and gamification.
  • Wyker: the app offers you a daily selection of concert that matches your musical profile and your friends’.
  • Botfuel: we offer a chatbot development platform for developers and large companies that want to build highly conversational services using AI and NLP technologies.

It’s not the end of the road:

Though progress has been made, some hurdles still lay in the way of Europe of catching up with the US.

Index Ventures highlights in its book Rewarding Talents that Europe is still way behind when dealing with employee options plans, which according to the authors is one of the main reason why there is no $100B+ startups in Europe. On average, European employees own half the equity US employees own, this half being taxed twice as much as their US counterparts’. Rewarding talents should become a priority for entrepreneurs but tax policies also need to adjust to allow employee investment to be interesting.

As for France, the country still suffers from miscommunication made a couple of years ago on taxation: “France is a normal country” strongly insisted Frédéric Mazzella on the issue of taxation. But according to the entrepreneur, the most urgent issues France needs to deal with is how to attract new talents from around the world and bring in more investment.