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French Tech stars sing for entrepreneurship

By Alison Hird

A group of highly successful French tech entrepreneurs have set up The Digitals. They sing to unwind, but more importantly to promote and democratise entrepreneurship in France. RFI reports from their first big concert at the recent VivaTech show in Paris.

Back in the mid 80s French comedian Coluche set up a band called Les Enfoirés (The Tossers) along with other French stars from the entertainment world. Members have come and gone, Coluche died in 1986, but ever since they've given an annual concert to raise money and awareness in the fight against exclusion and poverty.

Now a dozen or so stars of the French tech world (Antoine Jouteau (Le Bon Coin), Frederic Bardeau (Simplon), Fany Pechiodat (MyLittleParis) ...)) have taken up a similar initiative and formed The Digitals.

"We try once a year to organise a big concert and to support a cause, an entrepreneur," says Marion Moreau, head of the Sigfox Foundation and the brains behind the band.

Their first good cause is Moussa Camara, founder of Les Determinés: a non-profit that now runs training programmes all over France, but which began in the disadvantaged neighbourhoods north of Paris.

"The Determinés is an intensive training programme, to train a new generation of entrepreneurs," says Camara, "young people who want to succeed whether they have skills or not, whether they have a good idea or not. What matters is the person, not the project."

Having launched his own telecom start-up aged 21, Camara knows only too well how difficult it can be when you don’t have a network to lean on.

"I saw lots of young people around me who didn’t dare launch into it, they hold back because they don’t necessarily have the network, the support or the money," he told RFI. "So this training course helps them put their foot in the door, they tell themselves it is possible."

Moreau admits The Digitals are busy, but several members are already mentoring.

"Some of the entrepreneurs like Ludovic Le Moan or Fany Pechiodat are already coaching in a way […] providing some personal time to train Les Determinés to be in touch with the community and giving advice."

Entrepreneurs Christian Kamtchueng (right) and Robert Williams (founder of Thoth Add) relax after the Digitals/Determinés concert ⒸChristian Kamtchueng

Christian Kamtchueng is one of the budding entrepreneurs performing alongside The Digitals. He took the six-week intensive training course to be able to set up an app called Afrisia.

After 10 years working in the City of London, Kamtchueng returned to France to start a business and “give something back” to the country he grew up in.

"I had no idea about the French eco-system and via Les Determinés I had the opportunity to learn very quickly," he explains. He learnt core skills like media communication, community management, accountancy, taxation and went on to build up two businesses.

"I’m an action man, and I would define myself as an achiever [even though] this term doesn’t exist in France," he says.

Moreau believes there’s a whole new generation of French "achievers" out there.

"Entrepreneurs involved in The Digitals and Les Determinés just want to give back something," she says. "Stars are not really existing in the tech sector […] stars are all the talents of Les Determinés because this is the future, this is tomorrow, the next leaders of France."

"The Digitals" and "Les Déterminés" sing with one voice at ParisTech, June 2017 (c) Christian Kamtchueng

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