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10 people who mattered in French tech in 2022, from Macron to Exotec’s Moulin

From investors to founders and politicians, meet the 10 people who mattered in Europe's second-largest tech ecosystem in 2022

2022 has been a year of important milestones for French tech, despite the difficult conditions in the last six months.

Those include reaching 25 unicorns, the appointment of a new digital minister, celebrating five years of the world’s largest startup campus (Station F) and promising efforts to channel capital to female founders. The country even overtook Germany in terms of funding — making it Europe’s second-biggest tech ecosystem, behind the UK. 

Sifted has compiled the 10 figures in French tech who have had a key role in the country’s startup ecosystem in 2022.  

Emmanuel Macron, French president

A photo of French President Emmanuel Macron greeting a crowd.

Since becoming president in 2017, Macron has aimed to make France a nation of innovation, unveiling numerous programmes to support startups — from visas for tech workers to financing quantum technology. At the start of the year, France crowned its 25th unicorn, industrial company Exotec, reaching Macron’s target of 25 by 2025 three years ahead of schedule. Now he wants to reach at least 100 by 2030. 

There has been some criticism of the politician’s unicorn pledge, but there’s no doubt that he has been key in keeping la French Tech on the map. 

Jean-Noël Barrot, France’s digital minister

An image of Jean-Noël Barrot, France's digital minister

Following the presidential election in April, digital minister Cédric O announced that he was stepping down from the role after two years. It took a while to appoint his replacement, but Jean-Noël Barrot finally took the reins in July.

His appointment came as a surprise to many in the French tech world. A member of the centrist MoDem party, Barrot recently said he wants to see 10 French unicorn IPOs by 2025. In order to facilitate this, he’s announced a raft of proposals, including the introduction of preferred shares with multiple voting rights, so that founders can raise capital more easily while keeping control of their businesses. 

Clara Chappaz, director, La French Tech

An image of Clara Chappaz, director of La French Tech, on stage Credit: Vivatech

Clara Chappaz ©Vivatech

Chappaz took over as director of La French Tech, the government’s startup promotion initiative, last September, following Kat Borlongan. Previously chief business officer of sustainable fashion unicorn Vestiaire Collective, Chappaz has been given an ambitious roadmap by former digital minister Cédric O, including surpassing the UK as the lead startup nation in Europe and an increased focus on impact.

She’s launched several programmes over the year with those goals in mind, including Agri20 and DeepNum20, focused on supporting the country’s most promising agricultural and deeptech startups respectively. 

Roxanne Varza, director, Station F

A headshot of Station F director Roxanne Varza

Varza is director of startup campus Station F, which was created by billionaire businessman and investor Xavier Niel in 2017. Station F celebrated its five-year anniversary in 2022. In that time it’s supported more than 5,000 startups, raised €1.8bn and created 47.2k jobs. It also got its first unicorn in 2022 — Hugging Face, an open-source platform offering machine learning models.

The accelerator also redesigned its flagship Founders Programme this year, reducing the number of companies accepted from 200 to 25, and dividing the programme into three phases over 15 months. 

Eléonore Crespo, cofounder and co-CEO, Pigment

A close up photo of Eléonore Crespo, cofounder and co-CEO of Pigment

Crespo is cofounder and co-CEO of Pigment, the business planning startup, which raised $65m in capital this year from US investors Meritech and IVP, less than a year after closing a $73m Series B round. Announced in September, it was one of the most high-profile fintech funding rounds in 2022 and a rare bright spot amid a wider funding slowdown.

Before setting up Pigment, 30-year-old Crespo was an investor at Index Ventures and invested in French unicorns Spendesk, Alan and Swile. She is one of the 14 female founders or leaders of a French Tech 120 startup, a group of scaleups specifically chosen by the government to receive support. 

Rachel Delacour, cofounder and CEO, Sweep

An image of Rachel Delacour, cofounder of Sweep

Rachel Delacour

A leading figure not only in French tech but across Europe, Delacour is cofounder and CEO of B2B software platform Sweep. She set up Sweep to help companies manage and reduce their carbon footprint five years after selling her first startup Bime Analytics to Zendesk. Sweep is one of Europe’s fastest-growing climate tech startups by headcount and raised a sizeable $73m Series B in April from investors including Coatue, Balderton Capital, New Wave, La Famiglia and 2050. 

In between working at her two companies, Delacour served as co-president of France Digitale. She is a business angel and board member at multiple French and American startups, as well as Xaviel Niel’s special purpose acquisition vehicle 2MX Organic, which raised €300m in 2020 and recently merged with French agribusiness InVivo Retail.

Romain Moulin, CEO, Exotec

A headshot of Exotec CEO Romain Moulin

Moulin is CEO of Exotec, the warehouse robotics company that helped Macron reach his target of 25 unicorns at the start of this year when it raised $335m at a $2bn valuation. It was also France’s first deeptech and first industrial unicorn — after the ecosystem pushed for many years to find an edge in hardware and connected objects. In December, Exotec officially opened its North American headquarters in Atlanta. 

Tatiana Jama, cofounder and co-president, Sista VC

Photo of the Sista Fund team

The Sista Fund team, including Jama (right)

Jama is cofounder and co-president of Sista, a Paris-based organisation that runs campaigns to funnel more funding to female founders. She founded Sista alongside Station F’s Varza, group payment company Leetchi’s Céline Lazorthes and insurance company Albingia’s CEO Valentine de Lasteyrie. The organisation is supported by other high-profile French tech names, including former digital minister Cédric O.

In October, Sista announced the first close of its first fund at €30m to back pre-revenue startups with at least one woman founder. The fund’s backers include Qonto’s Steve Anavi and La Redoute’s Nathalie Balla, and the team is targeting €100m. 

Stanislas Niox-Chateau, cofounder and CEO, Doctolib

A photo of Doctolib founder and chief executive Stanislas Niox-Chateau

Niox-Chateau is cofounder and CEO of healthtech startup Doctolib, which became France’s most valuable startup in March after raising €500m at a valuation of €5.8bn. The round was led by French investing heavyweights Eurazeo and Bpifrance. Over the next five years, the company is aiming to recruit 3,500 employees as it scales its doctor booking platform.

Xavier Niel and Jean de La Rochebrochard, Kima Ventures

A selfie of investor Jean de la Rochebrochard

Jean de la Rochebrochard

They may have been household names for years in French tech, but billionaire Xavier Niel and investor Jean de La Rochebrochard have certainly kept themselves relevant through their work at Kima Ventures.

Niel’s VC arm Kima Ventures was the most active non-state-owned French investor in startups in 2022, according to Dealroom. The firm participated in 73 rounds in the last 12 months and has backed companies including fintech Alan, credit platform Younited and fantasy football startup Sorare. The investment group has been led by De La Rochebrochard since 2015. 


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