Paris-based tech show Viva Technology, now in its second edition, already ranks alongside other leading events such as Munich’s DLD, Helsinki’s Slush and the Web Summit as a must-attend.
VivaTech CEO Maxime Baffert says France’s digital eco-system is crucial to its success. “Over the last five years, France has changed dramatically,” Baffert says. “The amount of money raised by French tech startups is now higher than London or Berlin. The number of startups is skyrocketing.”
Co-organized by France’s Publicis Groupe and Groupe Les Echos, VivaTech, which runs June 15-17, has doubled its exhibition space this year and expects to receive 50,000 visitors, 5,000 startups and 1,000 investors.
There are more than 350 guest speakers, including Eric Schmidt (Google), John Chambers (Cisco), John Collison (Stripe), Ambarish Mitra (Blippar), Jeff Immelt (GE), Tim Armstrong (AOL), Daniel Zhang (Alibaba) and Yang Yuanqing (Lenovo).
Baffert says he also hopes that France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, will attend this year’s event, after he spoke to a packed audience at last year’s edition.
Some 40% of the event’s speakers will be women. “We take diversity in the tech industry very seriously,” says Baffert. “As a big tech conference we can show the value of having a major presence of female experts.”
Baffert aims to extend the show’s international footprint this year.
“VivaTech isn’t just a French event. It’s truly global,” Baffert says. “We have strong international delegations from many countries including China, Israel, Germany, the U.K., the U.S. and Africa, and representatives from all the world’s major innovation hubs.”
VivaTech includes talks, roundtables and workshops: key topics include artificial intelligence, robotics, virtual reality, augmented reality, cybersecurity, financial services tech and 3D printing.
The exhibition space will host demos by enterprises such as Hanson Robotics and Laval Virtual, and by 70 startup companies operating in the fields of VR, AR, robots and drones.
“There will be lot of robots wandering around the event,” says Baffert, “Visitors will be able to touch and experiment with disruptive new technologies.”
An exclusive report from McKinsey & Co. on the impact of AI will be presented in the opening conference.
One of the event’s core goals is to bring startups, large enterprises and venture capitalists together, including an accelerator summit that will feature presentations by leading international accelerators, incubators and venture capitalists.
In March, VivaTech launched hundreds of open innovation challenges, sponsored by companies such as Ericsson, Motorola, Cisco, Bouygues, TF1, Orange and Air France. Baffert says that the response has been tremendous, including submissions from more than 1,000 startups. Shortlisted projects will be discussed during the Viva-Tech Labs, where they will be presented to large enterprises and investors.
French luxury products group LVMH has launched an Innovation Award for start-ups, and the 32 companies on the shortlist will be invited to the LVMH Lab, where their projects will be appraised by a jury.
A special competition for projects from non-profit startups related to work issues, the environment and social issues will award €200,000 ($224,348) in media space to winning projects.
One of the novelties of this year’s edition is a 25-hour “hackathon” dedicated to four topics, sponsored by AXA, Cisco, Microsoft and Sodexo. Baffert expects more than 300 participants from 10 European countries, who will be guided by 30 experts — designers, tech mentors and entrepreneurs — from the Hack40 collective. The four winning teams will each receive a prize of $11,000, at an award ceremony attended by Stack Overflow founder Joel Spolsky.
The VivaTech Unleashed section, offering networking and entertainment events, including drinks on the river Seine, rooftop parties and exhibitions, extends the show’s reach throughout Paris.
Baffert expects a record attendance: “Visitors will see or hear things they never even dreamed could exist.”