The crisis has speeded up the economy's digitalisation. Whatever their business sector or size, the companies that have fared best in times of crisis have undergone a digital transformation or were born out of digital technology. They are now reaping the benefits.
As a growth driver for the most advanced companies in this area, digital appears to be a lever for physical sales in the retail sector. It also serves as a shield for organisations caught short by the pandemic...
Such are the initial findings of the 2020 edition of the Growth and Digital Barometer of Acsel (the digital economy association). "This crisis only reinforces existing trends. Before Covid, we were already in a process of drastically accelerating the digital transformation of uses in society, but today it gives tremendous strength to those who had already positioned themselves. On the other hand, it weakens the others", comments Laurent Nizri, President of Acsel, organiser of the Paris Fintech Forum and President of Altéir Consulting. In short, he explains, "Covid appears to be the disease of socialisation, yet the economy is based on links, and transactions on interaction. Companies that have given themselves the means to digitalise this interaction have an advantage. The others are lagging behind and the gap between the two is growing. "
Fundraising and growth
At the top of the list are the unicorns. Their communications testify to their meteoric rise on the market and demonstrate their rise, which the crisis has not altered. In September 2020, Mirakl, a market place solutions provider, announced a $300 million Series D round of funding to finance its international development, while Doctolib has just been chosen as the official government partner for the French vaccination campaign.
Following in their footsteps, digital start-ups are performing well (like Phenix, Back Market, etc.). These companies are not experiencing a crisis. On the contrary. They are even attracting investors. With 828.2 million euros raised in 2020 via 63 operations, the French fintech sector, for example, is doing better than resisting, according to the indications of the annual barometer of the France FinTech association published on 29 December 2020. This sector has indeed experienced a strong start to the year - Qonto (neo-banking for professionals) raises €104 million, Lydia (banking) €40 million - then, after a slowdown during the first confinement, 2020 ended as it had begun on a positive trend that signs the maturity of the ecosystem.
Commenting on the publication by France Digitale and EY in September of the 9th annual Barometer of the economic and social performance of digital start-ups in France, Frédéric Mazzella, co-chairman of France Digitale, notes: "This study reveals the strength of our start-up ecosystem, in spite of the crisis that has weakened some of them: our start-ups are growing and exporting their made-in-France services internationally. Above all, our start-ups are creating sustainable, high-quality jobs - almost 90% on permanent contracts - located in France... "
This barometer also shows that these companies have been able to use the measures implemented by the State to ensure the continuity of their activity (83% have subscribed to an EMP, 52% have used partial unemployment during the confinement).
Missions that generate business
Moreover, start-ups that work towards a positive impact on their environment are meeting their audience, as an echo of the times. This is the case of Murfy, a circular economy start-up that advocates repairing household appliances rather than replacing them with new ones. With 10% annual growth, the company is expanding - in two years a hundred people have joined it - and it raised €8 million in October 2020 to support its territorial expansion. "Our organisation is highly digitalised, our tools have been developed by our in-house teams, but Murfy operates in the physical world, right up to the homes of its customers," explains Guy Pezaku, its CEO. Murfy is not just a market place, it has workshops, employs repairers and has even opened a training centre.
Somewhere between the digital world and the physical world, these companies that give meaning to their approach are doing well. "Between 2019 and 2020 we have multiplied our turnover by 4", says Philippe Chevalier, CEO of Kipsum, a young company launched at the end of 2017, specialising in the energy optimisation of systems. This start-up has set itself the goal of helping cities and companies reduce their ecological footprint and make savings through better management of transport, lighting, etc. "We create digital twins of systems in order to reproduce and optimise them," says the director. During the initial confinement, instead of being stunned by the stationary targets, the team uses this time to refine its thoughts and sharpen its points. Having conquered the cities (Rouen, Bordeaux, Rueil Malmaison use its services) and companies (Renault, Dalkia), Kipsum transformed the trial in the autumn and deployed its solutions. "We enable them to achieve energy savings of between 12 and 25%, and we are now seeking to build their loyalty and extend our field of action," says Philippe Chevalier.