Sophia : on the road to success as the Silicon Valley

Posté mer 22/03/2000 - 00:00
Par admin

Some first success stories (Echo, Odisei, SIP) had opened the road. But for three months, it has been a real turmoil, with the coming up of about twenty start-ups, an almost volcanic overflow in the economic set-up of the French Riviera. A real phenomenon, very new, that has not been estimated before. Because since the middle of summer, the influence of the Silicon Valley and of the new enterprise is very strong on Sophia Antipolis and on the French Riviera. In three months, the number of start-ups has almost increased twofold, for the successful conclusion of which there are new success stories and especially fantastic prospects if we consider the quality of the plans and the professionalism of the teams that lead them.The first success stories : at the end of last August, on the occasion of a 'start-up' report that the CCI (Chamber of Commerce and Industry) made for Azur Economie, one of its publications inserted in Nice Matin, a regional daily, the DPCT (Direction des Pôles de Compétences Technologiques, i.e Direction of the Poles of Technological Skills) had established a census. On the standard of a firm with high growth potential, aiming at taking a part of the global market, there were only about twenty companies that came up to this very precise profile. We found there the 'success stories' of those eighteen past months : Echo, the operating system into which France Telecom went in April 1998 and with which 'Voilà' was made; Odisei (telephony on IP) that had just been taken over by the American 8x8 for 70 million francs; SIP, the first French editor of bank softwares, taken over for 60 million francs by ACT, the subsidiary of Mysis, the British giant; Dust SA, on the restoring of old films by digital process, which easily won the Tremplin Prize of the Senate, in Paris, about the growing firms; Realviz, that just succeeded in three successive surveys (around the table) and had taken up 25 million francs to develop softwares that made the special effects of the cinema reachable for the single video maker.The brilliant feat of Aucland : behind, some firms were growing (some were fastly going to get talked about). According to E-bay, the American example,, Aucland (Fabrice Grinda's firm) launched out onto the attractive market of the bidding on Internet. The very new firm (only six months) succeeded on a brilliant feat in September : Europe@web, the basis of investment of the Arnaud group, took over 50.1% of the shares for 115 million francs. Such a massive investment had never been made until then, in a French start-up, that became estimated at 230 million francs! Metrix, a firm from Luxembourg and that became French when it set up in Sophia Antipolis in 1997, made dazzling growth plans from its softwares specialized in the management of networks under Windows and Unix (Win Watch standard). From a turnover of 2 million dollars in 1998, it aimed at 45 million dollars and it gave itself the means to reach this result. Among those that were coming up three months ago, and that were going to take shape in the meantime : on the niche of biotechnologies, Nicox gave a new lease of life to medicines, already known, thanks to the adding of nitric oxide, a technic validated by a Nobel Prize of medicine. In November, Nicox was floated on the New Market and it took up almost 200 million francs. Respublica, launched by Christophe Dupont, who had already initiated the Echo business, got in the 'community' usesrs of Internet. Its strategy was to take shares of the market. The company succeeded in a breakthrough, at the end of November, by integrating the Liberty Surf group, one of the firms of the Arnault galaxy, that took a majority part of the shares. Also in this first wave : international World Trading (on-line publication of folders of advertising items), Balease (operation of the SMS coat of the mobiles), Kast Telecom (Telecom operator), ASK (transport paying card without contact), VTDIM (specialized in technological scanning and in competitive scanning by smart agents of new generation), etc...The great autumnal wave : however, in three monhs, from the end of August to early Deccember of 1999, the list was still extended definitely. About twenty start-ups came up in the set-up of the French Riviera. The report of 'the nicest start-ups in the French Riviera', which will go on filling out, gives some examples, taken in this new generation of firms. Among those start-ups, we can quote Etexx in Nice, that revives the 'marketplace' concept and applies it to the textile industry, an area where Europe is well-placed. Opt(e)way, that won the first prize for innovation of the Telecom Valley, set up on an hyper-growth market : the market of cartography for the 'light-cyber customers' (mobile type, PDA, embarked data process, etc.). Other firms have to come up in this list : E-acute that made a new writing system for mobile phones, Infobject made by searchers on the INRIA and of the Cermics, who created a software allowing the murger of data basis from different sources, Right Vision, founded by former executives from Cegetel that is going to launch 'Internet appliances', a magic box making easier the Internet uses as a whole, reserved for the small business. And, still on this niche of the new wave of start-ups, Surf Design and its process allowing to win the loyalty of the Internet users, Techtonic for the marketing on Internet, Webtime Medias, an editor firm of, for the on-line publications (it lately got the innovation label of the Telecom Valley), 7Ways for the virtual business centre, dBTech that offers digital, interactive and multimedia products for the consumers in the whole world, Wimba from the Eurecom Institute, which makes the e-mails, vocal. Sekoya that makes very sophisticated communication softwares (as Outlook), etc.The finest present for the thirty years : the list is far from being exaustive. All the less because schools and research centres make the transition from the research to the creation of firms faster. The INRIA, that has already supplied with some of the finest start-ups on the French Riviera, is an example, as Eurecom (moreover, one of the searchers of the Institute has to present a revolutionary process of video server, on Tuesday 7th of December, in the premises of the SAEM of Sophia Antipolis). The trend is launched. And it is supported by the DPCT (Direction of the Poles of the Technological Skills) which is relieved by the Ceram, and which has decided to play the start-ups and the enterprise thoroughly. Pierre Laffite launched a 'Start-up Club' on Friday 10th of December. As he has wished for years, the founder of the technopole has called the creation of innovating firms 'the gooses that laid the golden eggs'of economy. Through the CICA (International Centre of Advanced Communication), a breeding ground of firms, a real cradle of the successful start-ups of Sophia Antipolis, the regional Council can pride itself on 'hatching' a few of these future big firms of the French Riviera. This time, the 'budding' from Sophia Antipolis seems to be definitely successful (at the beginning, Sophia was built thanks to a setting up of big firms coming from outside). The year 1999 will remain the year of a new growth : the endogeneous growth. This is the finest birthday present the technopole could dream of, for its thirty years.

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