Viva Tech and Publicis90: Putting Paris on the global tech and innovation map

Viva Tech: event launched by Maurice Lévy (left) and Groupe Les Echos’ Francis Morel
Viva Tech: event launched by Maurice Lévy (left) and Groupe Les Echos’ Francis Morel

With more than 45,000 visitors, 300 seminars featuring the world's major players in digital transformation and 5,000 participating start-ups, last week's inaugural Viva Technology Paris (Viva Tech) positively delivered its promise to be the largest event dedicated to technology, innovation and start-ups in Europe.

Viva Tech also played host to an awards ceremony to announce and celebrate the winners of the Publicis90 competition to find startups and employees that are to receive Groupe investment, support and mentoring.

As Maurice Lévy told the audience, the vision behind the competition was to mark the fact that 90 years ago, Publicis Groupe was a start-up and that innovation and new partnerships will always be a critical part of company’s long term strategy.

It is fair to say that Publicis90 was a huge undertaking for the company in terms of organisational commitment and funding as the total prize money totaled €10 million. It all started in January with a call for entries to the start-up community and all Publicis Groupe employees from across the world.

The aim was for 1000 entries – in the end we received more than 3,500 submissions from individuals and companies from 141 countries, 70% of which came from start-ups and the rest from staff and universities.

The first stage was to go through the thousands of applications and whittle them down to a shortlist of 320. This was achieved by an open call to all 76,000 Publics Groupe employees inviting them to vote against a random set of entries.

This was supported by an expert panel of 70 "ambassadors" drawn from people across the Groupe who have direct dealings with innovation, start-ups and running intrepreneur programmes like the NextTechNow capability I run for Publicis Media.

I can honestly say that the standard of the submissions was extremely high with the vast majority demonstrating incredible passion, self-belief and beautiful storytelling. It was no easy feat reducing the entries down.

In the end the impartial criteria I used in my scoring covered 4 elements – the proposition had to be easy to understand, I wanted to see demonstrable proof that the invention works, I had to believe in the management team and finally, it had to be a solution that could scale outside its home market. The next stage saw a global jury of some of the industry’s top leading executives reduce the shortlist to the winning 90 applicants.

Additionally, the investment arm of Publics Group, Iris Capital interviewed applicants and thoroughly inspected business plans, team structures and revenue projections. And on Friday the winners were announced.

Testament to the entrepreneurial spirit very much alive in the Groupe, 25 of the winning applicants were internal. And I’m proud to say that of the internal winners 10 were from within Publicis Media. Each of the 90 winning applicants were awarded investment of between €10,000 to €200,000, the Grand Prix prize of €500,000 being awarded to Emerald Medical Applications, an Israeli startup that specializes in using start-of- art image recognition technology for faster, easier detection of skin cancers.

But Publicis90 does not end with an award and the investments. Each winning employee and start-up has an assigned mentor whose task is to navigate resources and opportunities within Groupe agencies.

If this non-financial support can help turn employee ideas into businesses and start-ups to globally scaled client solutions this component of Publicis90 could be worth more to the entrepreneurs than the original investments.

It is for this reason Publicis90 is unlike any other accelerator programme. It’s about making things happen. It’s about changing the way we work. It’s about forming new mutually beneficial partnerships. And above all it’s about giving our clients an unfair advantage in their own business transformation.

Jim Kite is global head of partnerships at Publicis Media.

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