Key conference beckons as Paris competes to become Europe’s AI capital

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Key conference beckons as Paris competes to become Europe's AI capital
Key conference beckons as Paris competes to become Europe's AI capital

France will host prominent business people and politicians this week, such as former US Secretary of State John Kerry, EU Industry Chief Thierry Breton, and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, in an attempt to bolster Paris’ standing as a capital for artificial intelligence.

In an effort to solidify Paris’ status as a capital for artificial intelligence, France will host industry leaders and political figures this week, including former US Secretary of State John Kerry, EU Industry Chief Thierry Breton, and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

French inventors will take center stage at the “Viva Technology” conference as attendees discuss important issues pertaining to artificial intelligence (AI), such as how it can affect future elections and climate change.

In an effort to draw in fresh company launches, France has spent the last 18 months trying to establish itself as a pioneer in generative AI, the technology underlying OpenAI’s ChatGPT and related products.

While attempting to resurrect EU plans to better integrate capital markets throughout the continent, President Emmanuel Macron has attracted investments from large American tech companies like Microsoft (MSFT) and Amazon (AMZN). He thinks that will contribute to raising the money required to support nascent AI businesses.

According to the organizers, Paris’ reputation as the world’s center of luxury might also draw in technological investment.

“Innovation and luxury are inextricably linked, as the goal is to offer something that no one else can,” stated Francois Bitouzet, managing director of VivaTech, who attributed France’s expansion to Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

In terms of tech investment, Paris has come in second only to London, but Bitouzet said that there are indications of improvement.

“The ecosystem in Paris is very dynamic, and there has been a lot of investment here in the past few years,” he stated.

According to a recent analysis from venture capital firm Atomico, investors poured nearly $8 billion into French digital startups in 2023, trailing only Britain ($13 billion) but ahead of third-place Germany ($7 billion).

Paris may not instantly threaten London for the top rank, but tech startups are emerging in France more quickly than any other region in Europe. According to Atomico, about 3,000 firms were formed in France in 2023.

Paris-based firms have raised some of the most valuable fundraising rounds in the 18 months since ChatGPT ignited the generative AI boom.

Former researchers at industry heavyweights like Google DeepMind (GOOGL.O) opened a new tab and launched some of the most talked-about startups in Paris, including Mistral AI and Holistic AI.

Julien Launay left Hugging Face, a well-known French-American AI company, in September of last year to create his own business, Adaptive ML. The company employs people in Paris and New York and assists other businesses in creating their own generative AI tools.

Less than six months later, the company received $20 million in a round headed by San Francisco-based Index Ventures and California-based ICONIQ Capital.

“ICONIQ and Index were the two major investors, but if you look at the smaller ones, we tried to get a lot of French backers on board because we thought that was a good move,” Launay stated. “France has a lot of talent and a lot of startups, but in terms of funds, there’s still quite a bit less than the U.S.”

Historically, it has been challenging for European companies to secure the substantial sums of money needed from regional investors. Even though the EU provides a sizable single market for goods and services, the capital markets across all 27 member states are complicated by disparate securities legislation, taxation, and accounting practices, which raises compliance costs and reduces market liquidity.

“The funding that these companies receive is crucial,” stated Hannah Seal, a partner at Index. “What is important is that these companies feel like they can continue to find and recruit the talent to build giants in Europe, and we see that is increasingly the case.”

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