Judges on Fire: Bertrand Garé, Editor-in-chief, L’Informaticien

In our Judges on Fire series of podcasts, we aim to let you get to know our judges a little better. They also get the chance to share their wisdom and tips about entering the Tech Trailblazers Awards. For our fifth outing we are connecting with Bertrand Garé, Editor-in-chief of L’Informaticien. Bertrand is one of the judges who’s been with us since the very first edition of the Awards.

In a fascinating chat, find out about Bertrand’s work with the B2B magazine L’Informaticien, what he looks for in an entrant to the Awards, the challenges that French startups face, and what his new plans include. Bertrand shares his excitement about the companies he’s discovered over the years of judging the Tech Trailblazers Awards, a feeling that keeps him coming back for more.

So, over to Rose Ross, Founder of the Tech Trailblazers Awards, as she interviews Bertrand Garé in our fifth Judges on Fire podcast.


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Interview transcript

RR: Hello everybody, welcome to the Tech Trailblazers Judges on Fire podcast series. I am delighted to be joined today by Bertrand Garé, who is in South West of France, and is an editor for L’Informaticien.

BG: Great!

RR: Yeah, I’ve been practicing! Which is an amazing French language publication based in Paris, and Bertrand has been with the Tech Trailblazers as one of our judges since the beginning, which is 2012, and I’ve known Bertrand for a little bit longer, and it’s great to catch up with you, and see you enjoying your regenerative vacation down in the South West of France. Hi, Bertrand.

BG: Hi Rose, how do you do?

RR: Oh, it’s great to see you. What I thought would be wonderful is if we gave our listeners a little bit of an overview about yourself, about the publication, so they understand your background and how you will be coming at the whole judging process. So, tell us a little bit more about yourself.

BG: First, I’m a journalist, I’m an Editor-in-Chief on an IT pro B2B magazine in France, L’Informaticien is really dedicated to technology and IT industry. We’re not speaking about finance, we’re not speaking about CIO’s desire, we are really speaking about technology, what the products are, and all that could help companies and people to use better IT. It’s sometimes straightforward, there is also some humour in it. We are doing serious work without taking ourselves seriously. That’s the trademark of L’Informaticien.

We have always have it in the titles somewhere, we have a joke in the articles, because for us IT is just a means, it’s not a goal, in that you use IT to automate, to have a better visibility on your business, etc. etc. to secure your data, or whatever, but it’s not a goal. It’s just a tool to answer different needs. That’s why when I see some people which are religious on certain technologies, Big Data, containers are better than VM, or mainframe is dead or whatever. It means it answers and it copes with the specific problems of different companies, and all the solutions at the beginning are good. After, it’s the way you use it, the way you manage it, the way you adapt it to your companies that makes a difference. It’s not a technology by itself. I’ve never seen a gun shooting by itself, there is always a guy who clenches the trigger. Technology is the same, AI is not a danger by itself, it’s the way we use AI which could be dangerous. Technology by itself is just a technology, like Cobol versus Java, it’s just language, how you use it. That’s our main interest.

Last year we also launched a dedicated magazine, we call it CyberRisques, dedicating in IT security in the group, the group is PC Press, that’s the only and last independent press group in France on IT information. Then we are now five inside, with plenty of freelancers. I try to catch the best of them in France, because we want to have a really relevant and high level of information. We don’t mind the way they write it or whatever, we want the level of information for our readers. We are not nice guys, when we have to write to say something, we will say it, and sometimes there could be some friction with the people who read our magazine, because they are making gulps when they read the articles!

Secondly, it’s been 18 years at L’Informaticien, before I was in 01 which was the leader at this time, before I was in Logiciels et Services which has disappeared, and I began in IT a long, long time ago now, on Content+Technology, which was one of the first magazines to speak just for the big enterprises, larger accounts, and the technology for them. Before I was in the news magazine, a long, long time ago, most of the time as a freelancer I also worked for La Tribune, which was an economics newspaper. I began my career of journalism in FM Radio which was the Asian community radio on the FM band in Paris. I was very young, curly hair, not white! It was in the mid-eighties, and then after because there wasn’t enough work as a chief editor. Last year I had a new entrepreneurship with analyst cabinet in France, dedicated on the French market. Why? Well, to cope with two problems in the French market, first to give visibility and the reality of the French market, because people just study on everywhere, but not really the right feeling in the French market of what is really going on in the enterprises. As a journalist and as an analyst I got the chance to be the receptacle to receive all these things, because more or less enterprises are still in their own world. They believe in their story, they are the best, they are the leaders, and they are focusing on the message, or what they want to develop on the market. But they more or less don’t see what the others are doing, they don’t look, maybe the marketing guys but not the others. It’s the sales guys who want you to sign up, it doesn’t matter what the others are doing, if they are better features, no.

It means that they also need to see what the others are doing, and there is also in France some specific problems or questions. For example, IT sovereignty is a big problem at the moment for the French market. All are looking at how to cope or manage for that, not to be the prisoner of the GAFA or Chinese Huawei, and so-on. Some of this is also the same problem in your case at the moment, it becomes a real problem, a real question, but after that – what to do with that? It not just being a peacock, and just calling, “I’m French, buy me!” Or, I can have the right answers to my market, and not just say I’m French, and that’s the second part of my job as an analyst, it’s also to provide them value-added content, ideas, most of them for the moment for the French market, for the French ISV or editors, for example that doesn’t really integrate customer success, vision.

They love that, customers, they do everything that they want to help them, and to have a good project, but it’s not a process. It’s not a process to have the customer experience, customer success. It’s consulting, when you have a prospect – in fact they receive the RFP and the answers but they don’t really engage in dialogue as the big ones in the IT industry do, to really focus and to find the way to be really relevant to the RFP, and to avoid the small features that will be never used, but that makes a difference in ticking the box.

RR: Yes, RFPs to a degree will always have an element of ticking boxes, won’t they? So, if those boxes aren’t ticked, it won’t go forward as a potential solution. This is very exciting, and this is something I’d definitely like to dive into a little bit deeper, later in our interview. So, looking forward to hearing more about BG [name of the analyst cabinet launched by Bertrand Gare]. Looking at your judging side of things, this why you’re particularly interesting, because you have got that deep-dive knowledge, so do you want to tell us a little bit about your approach to judging, when you have a look at the system online. Because the very nature of your experience, the very nature of your role across all of these various areas means you can effectively judge across pretty much all of our categories, whether it’s AI, whether it’s cybersecurity, whether it’s Fintech, whether it’s storage. You know all of these very, very well, so both a depth and a breadth of knowledge, which is fantastic, so thank you for that.

When you get your entries through, and bearing in mind we’ve got two quite interesting camps. We’ve got the very young, sort of new kids on the blocks, who are under two-years old, haven’t had VC funding yet, so they’ve possibly not got an awful lot of customers, but they’ve certainly got a solid, in their view, product from that perspective. So you’ve got those Firestarters as we call them. And then the ones who have gone a lot further down their startup journey. So perhaps you talk to both of those types. What are you looking for?

BG: First, in the different categories I’m looking at the technologies that I love. For me, the most important is the way the technologies are used to unfurl the problem they’ve identified on the market. So, the equation between the two of them, that interests me, first. For example, I’m not looking very deeply on the funds they raised, or the valuation or whatever, it’s not in my interest when I’m judging. I’m really looking at the technology they have, what they develop, how it’s seen in that equation with the problem they want to solve, that sometimes it’s not so relevant or too basic. I make some difference between Firestarters…

RR: Too much what, sorry?

BG: Because it’s not so relevant, or it’s just trendy, or it’s just the 20th which are doing the same thing. In fact, in every dossier I am looking at, I try to look for the differences they have.

RR: Yes, so their USP.

BG: What is your differentiation from all the others in the market? Why are you the best on this side? For the rest, that’s why sometimes I’m a little bit disappointed because they are just catching a train that 30 of them have already done. Sometimes maybe it has some work, they have to explain the differentiation, why they are different from all the others in AI. It’s not because they tell me that they have machine learning, or AI in their product. If it’s a good product, tell me about the algorithm you use, is it your own? Your own algorithm or not? Is it just an open source that you’ve readapted? Tell me what really makes you different. That for me is the most important point on the Firestarter, for example, why are you totally different from all the other startups? I think that just in the Silicon Valley there are more than 100 startups on storage, I want something different.

RR: How many did you say there are?

BG: More than 100.

RR: Wow. Well we’re expecting all of those obviously to be going for the Storage Trailblazers. So, if you’re listening, it’s 11th September [Ed: now extended to 25th September], get your entries in now, email us innovate@techtrailblazers.com. I mean if you look at cybersecurity, that’s in the thousands. So we hope to keep you guys very, very busy in the next few months, by the way.

BG: Yeah, whatever! That’s the first point, the second point, I give a prime, people which are not doing in their form a real effort to explain things, and not to cut and paste, Control-C, Control-V, what they have in the marketing or on their own websites. People who are really involved in the competition in fact, that they want to prove something, and not just “well okay there is plenty other consulting prime, some helps and so-on, and maybe we will get something. We just give the elements that we have, in a quarter of hour is done”. No, it’s a serious competition, you need to do some work, certainly one of the main problems I see in the dossier when I judge.

RR: So in the entry forms, yeah?

BG: Yeah, yeah, they’re just repeating the message but they don’t adapt it. They really need to work on that, and to attain/engage the judge for example, especially when they have to describe for example a customer case, or something like that on the entry form. More or less it’s just a list of names. “Hey, explain to us how do you do it? Just choose one, the best one, and explain to us how you solve the problem, and not just a list of names” and they are like “I’ve got plenty of references”. No, no, it’s not the way, for me anyway, it’s not for me. It just tells me the same thing, when they need to answer from some questions on “How do you see the market?” or whatever. More or less there’s not enough depth. They have to really work on that, for my part anyway. I think that’s the main problem I’ve seen with entry forms at the beginning. How to change that!

RR: Well I think it takes time, it’s involvement and ensuring that your marketing team, or PR team are well entrenched into what you’re doing, and what your vision is. I think that’s the way to do that.

BG: Well, because I’ve spoken with some of them, they’re really engage the people. Most of them are not really doing it, but I’m sure because I speak with some former winners and so-on, that when they won they made a real effort to do it, so not just some reputation that they had the things. They really worked on it, it was quite a project for them, not just answering some forms and after I said that, no-no. For most of them, that’s the funny thing when you see their entry form, you see the difference in the dossier because some have the direct mail of the CMO, and the others you have the PR agency there.

RR: Interesting. You’ve got some little tips and tricks there haven’t you?

BG: Yeah.

RR: We’re taping this, who’s actually been involved…?

BG: When sometimes you don’t really understand what they are doing, and so-on, then you can spend five minutes to write an email saying, “I don’t really understand what they add etc. etc.” It’s not strange but when you say you’re a judge at the Tech Trailblazers, CMOs are answering you, especially when they are in the competition. That’s also a point, to engage with the judge. It doesn’t change my advice but I have more precision, I see that the people are engaging in the dossier also. Just to ask precision, “I didn’t understand that, can you explain to me?” Often it could make the difference because it’s better to give the judge a better understanding of your solution that you could have, and not just a contact which is very appreciated, but it means that when you give the PR as a contact, you go to the PR, the PR goes to the CMO, the CMO maybe doesn’t have the bandwidth or the time to answer you, and you get the answer 8 to 10 days after. It doesn’t look as though it’s important for you.

RR: Yes, you need that engagement and prioritisation of it, for sure. Really good insights there, and it’s nice to see, because obviously from us, and as you know me and the rest of the team here are completely hands off in the judging process, apart from going, “There’s the entries, what do you think?” and nagging you!! “Have you read it yet? Have you done it yet?” But apart from that, we don’t get involved with anything. We don’t facilitate any conversations between anybody, you all do it independently so there’s no sort of like… not that anybody would influence your decision, but it’s a solitary thing, although obviously maybe that’s something that we need to bring about that people do get a bit more of a conversation going around it, but obviously something where we would stand back from that, and just say, “Hey, if you guys want to chat about this, go right ahead, but we’re not getting involved with it”.

But it is nice to see that there is engagement, because we don’t get to see that. We don’t get to see that you’re sometimes pinging somebody to clarify something, and I’m sure everybody else does as well, but we don’t get to hear about that. So, it’s really lovely to know that there is that building up of a rapport, and a relationship with the contestants, with the entrants.

BG: Yes, but it’s in a way compulsory. When you see the formal list of the winners you have to take this competition seriously. When you see each other at the beginning, the companies that won, it’s amazing, it’s amazing. When you look for example in storage, all the new big names were there, Rubrik, Cohesity, they’re all here, they were here. You can’t be in this competition just like that, it’s not beach play come on! The competition is tough, there are big guys, big guys in it.

RR: We have been very fortunate, we’ve had PernixData on our winners who were acquired then by one of our other winners, Nutanix. Let’s just have a look at this, actually thinking about this, because I always forget, I do forget sometimes about how amazingly well we’ve done. Our first one was SMART Storage, and they were acquired by SanDisk. SolidFire obviously acquired by Netapp for £870 million. We’ve got some good pedigree, I like to say, got some good pedigree which is lovely. It’s great that we’re seeing this quality of contestant, and apologies to anyone we’ve forgotten, we will go back through that and make sure we cover you as well in future. But that’s the other thing, is alongside the Judges on Fire, we’re also starting to have these conversations with founders, and CXOs, so the CEOs, COOs, CFOs, CMOs, of our winning startups as well. So, we’ve done quite a lot because of RSA taking place, and I was over there in San Francisco, so I had the opportunity to actually meet with three or four of our winners, and we’ve been continuing to do that.

So, yes, it is very humbling to hear you say that Bertrand, it really is because we put a lot of work in behind the scenes, you put a lot of work in, in judging it, and I know that our entrants also put a lot of work in to show the best side of what they’ve all been working very hard on. So, it’s really exciting to hear and to have this conversation about everything. Anyway, aside from the awards, because obviously that’s going to be a bit of a burning the midnight oil for Bertrand, and we really appreciate that, and I know all the people who you’ve reviewed the entries of do too, but you talked about something which I didn’t know you’d actually done, which is this new, new for you, analyst service that you have kicked off, BG. You’ve got to try to really not laugh when I pronounce it, because I’m trying really hard to get my best French accent going, and I’m not doing a brilliant job of it!

Oh well, never mind, it works a lot better in the South of France with a glass of Rosé and some lovely nibbles, and then I speak amazing French, the rest of the time not so great! So, tell us what you’ve been up to. Last year you kicked off this new enterprise, this new endeavour, tell us about what you’re doing, and help us get a little bit of a deep dive into the French startup space, which, interestingly enough French startups are still in third position in our entrants so far, so well done, trés bien, merci beaucoup Francais. So les startup Francais have done a fantastic job, so hopefully that can continue. You’re beating the UK, Israel, Germany, doing very well, so keep up the good work. Not quite caught up with the US, but then they usually do steal a bit of a march on us all, but that’s the joy of having a global competition.

So, tell us about what’s happening in France. You identified some challenges for French startups, for ISVs in France, so tell us about what you’re doing.

BG: In fact there is two main problems, first is around how to be recognised on the global market. They could be great guys in the French market, but unknown for the rest of the world, for different reasons. There is some bias on the analyst side which always favours the big ones which are the big installed based companies. Second, if we become a startup nation, as our President wants it to become, we don’t have enough marketing culture. Today in France we are still relying on if we have a good product we will sell it. They don’t understand these new ways that you have to be seen, you have to be known, you have to speak loud to be chosen, they don’t have it. They always have the problem that when they decide to do it, they don’t have the bandwidth to do it, which means they don’t have the marketing team to do it, they don’t have the people and the resource to do it.

That’s one of the reasons I did BG Etudes et Conseils to give them ideas to provide content to help them to construct the marketing side. On the other side, I also help companies or enterprises with the choice of the product, except if you want to save your budget on your big teams because you are a great company, why do you have to buy the most expensive product? Because it’s the right eye on a quadrant wave or whatever. Because they don’t know the other products, they need to have help to choose the products that fit with them, and they don’t know they need some help, because during the last two years, in fact all of this becomes very confusing for them. They all engage on what they call digital transformation, oh digital transformation, all have a plan, small, big, cosmic ones, they all have a digital transformation plan, but what does it mean for them, how to do it.

They are very confused, “How do I buy cloud?”. When you go to a sourcing service, even in a big company, and ask them, “How do you buy a cloud service?” they don’t know, they are very confused. “What are the right metrics to do it, what are the right things I have to look at?” It’s not just to manage services in an old-fashion, that’s not the same problem, that’s not the same way, you really need to adapt everything to this new topic, these new ways to say these are new architectures. It’s not the same resources, it’s not the same people, it’s not the same products, it’s not the same way to manage it. They are very confused, they need to have this possibility to have a visibility on that, to help them just to understand what it is, and that’s why because of the structure of the analyst French market that I decided to do… for the moment it’s in an early stage,

I’ve made some notes, but I have chosen to do these notes just for one customer, I don’t give them to everyone like that. If they ask me for a note, I’ll write down the note and give it to them, and they use it. It’s like the work of tailor. It’s a product for just one, it’s not a big analysis, big trends or whatever.

RR: No, it’s kind of a bespoke for individual organisations, versus sort of a big market overview, like the likes of IDC, or Gartner. So, it’s kind of looking at some of the stuff that perhaps the likes of the 451 do, Omdia which is formally Ovum.

BG: Which I appreciate a lot, 451 is certainly one of the most relevant, and best in the market, they are very deep and very interesting studies, much more than just more known cabinet. No, no, I’m really a fan of 451.

RR: Likewise, and as they say, imitation is the best flattery, they also have a Firestarter Awards, but then again they are the 451, the temperature that paper burns in fahrenheit! So I’ll give them the Ray Bradbury stuff, although I may have been a fan before they were. So, yeah, we’re big fans of 451, so there’s lots of exciting stuff there. So, you’re doing the, quatre, cinq, un, version for France, right! That was very bad.

BG: Yes, yeah that’s it. As an analyst you will always intervene as a third-party, in fact you’re always outside. You have to give them new ideas, and better ways. I don’t believe in one size fits all, because of contracts and the way the enterprise is doing, it’s not the same the enterprise. You really need to adapt. I don’t believe in the percentage in the market etc. etc. It changes every quarter and it’s always declarative which means that’s people on the street, people just saying, “I’ve done that”. And that’s all.

By the way, I’m not so interested in the business side, but really purely on the technology side that companies are developing, of course somewhere it’s still a point to the business, because it’s always saying that you sell your product to companies, and so-on. But that’s not the main point I’m looking at. Most of the companies I have seen, or I work with, have enough to show that they have the perennity and the wellbeing. They will be there in 1, 2, 3, 5-years, it’s not a problem, it’s not a problem. And what we see for example on the French market, it’s a huge, huge utilisation of open source, which is really booming everywhere.

RR: Do you think that’s fueled to a degree by the whole sort of Kubernetes, and that sort of Cloud Native?

BG: Not only, it’s also a way to regain independence.

RR: And you mean regain independence in what respect?

BG: To avoid any kind of lock-in.

RR: Ah, okay I see, so it’s being pulled, it’s being driven by the users…

BG: You see you can have, for example, Big Data, it could be on Hadoop or Spark or whatever, but I will give an example; say tomorrow Cloudera dies, or goes bankrupt, it doesn’t matter because Spark is open source, you will find a community and other people which are able to manage it, and to help you to improve it. You are not dependent on a specific guy on the market, it’s the same with databases, it’s the same with every technology now. Not to be open source will certainly be the most irrelevant thing in the market.

RR: Yes. Obviously, you’re talking about the French market, do you think that’s a European trend?

BG: Yes, yes, it’s a worldwide trend, even California, whatever, most of the new products from IBM, HP, RedHat, all the big ones know they rely on open source.

RR: Open source has been around for such a long time, I kind of feel like it’s.. not that it’s had its day on any level, but it’s just like…

BG: Maybe except on Workspace, and even there – no, open source is everywhere.

RR: Yeah, true, I guess it’s just become such a part of the normal…

BG: Yes, it becomes the new normal.

RR: Another new normal! How many new normals are we going to get? I want some old normal. Well, that’s fascinating, and I’m sure it would be great to maybe find a way to – I don’t know, just thinking off the top of my head, obviously we’ve captured a lot of your thoughts, but if you ever want to share anything through the blog about what you’re seeing so that you can inform the wider startup community, both within the startups or within the ecosystems then feel free, don’t hold back. Obviously, you write primarily in French, but I know you can write very well in English as you communicate very well in English as well, so we’d love to have your thoughts.

BG: Do you remember it? Do you see that? [shows Rose something via webcam]

RR: [Laughs] Yes, you were also our runner-up in the early days! All good stuff! So yes we do share a lot of storage tales I suppose. So, we’ve talked about your work life a lot, but obviously you’re sitting in your country, or seaside retreat, tell us a little bit more about what you get up to outside of working very hard on all of the editorial responsibilities, and this new analyst advisory capacity that you’ve got. What do you enjoy doing outside of the working day?

BG: Oh, outside the working day? First, walking, I love walking because that’s the time for me to think, to plan, to dream, to be creative, and I’m an ambulatory person! In fact I do it when I walk, not when I’m sitting. Second, I like swimming that’s why we came to the South West of France, it’s not just for the sun and the rest, it’s because the sea is just near, a 10 minute walk. I play some casual games, role-playing game also, Neverwinter, online. What else do I do? Reading, playing chess, I love playing chess. I do some blitz (rapid game) but I was first category when I was a youngster, I played at quite a good level, and I’m still enjoying it.

RR: Brilliant, that’s quite nice to have a lifetime enjoyment of something that you did when you were a child.

BG: Yes, and I have new plans. I want to write a novel.

RR: Wow wonderful, aspiring novelist. You heard it here first people!

BG: Yeah, but now I have to take the priority on this list.

RR: Yes, there’s a lot on there at the moment, you’re going to have to find a bit more time perhaps for that. It was interesting, we were talking before we started recording the podcast about what you were seeing in the French marketplace about the point that a lot of people have, it did remind me…

BG: But you know, the French market at the beginning of the year changed so quickly, for example for a long time French startups have the problem to go to the C or D rounds, to break this glass ceiling they have on financing, and we saw last year that the round are becoming higher and higher, they are leveraging, there are more possibilities for French startups to be financed by our French friends, and to go up. That’s why we don’t call it startups, but now we have scale-up people, scale-up companies. It becomes interesting because we see that all of this is going, some companies could be in the first league and no more in the second division, will be in Premier League and not in Championship, because for a long time French companies were in the Championship and were picked up by Americans, Israeli, and all the others to become.

Today we see that they can by themselves become big companies. Recently a French startup was bought back by a Chinese one, and now it’s valued as a unicorn quite near $2 billion. It was interesting, it was in gaming, and they did pretty well and were quite a secret unicorn in the French market. Most people discovered them when they were bought back.

RR: Really, so nobody knew until they were bought back.

BG: Yeah. That’s a true thing, and today we also see that even when they are financed, the dilution rate is less important, it means that the founders stay at the head of the companies. It’s very interesting, in fact when you see… it’s never a number that is given to the journalist and the people, but the most important is not the valuation when there is an acquisition. Most important is what was the dilution rate of the founder of the people that are selling. That means how is the CEO is keeping on the valuation to go on this project, or if the firm’s made the law in the company. So, it’s the dilution rate which is important.

RR: It’s effectively who is really going be in control of it moving forward.

BG: That’s it. That’s the point which is the most interesting in merger and acquisition. You’re valued 1-billion, but you just sell 10 percent of your company, you are king of the petroleum.

RR: Yes, but those are decisions that are made quite often very early-on in the lifetime of a startup, and everybody can look back and go, “Well, if only”, “If only I’d known”, but then if you’d have known then possibly, if you had that kind of vision to be able to see into the future, then you wouldn’t actually need any VC funding to start off with, right? If you knew exactly the way the world was going to work, you would have all of that pat down. So, it’s an interesting thing.

This is one of my little bug bears, so I’m going to use this opportunity to have a chat about it. There is a fixation I feel, and rightly so, it’s very important that if you want to scale up your business, your startup, and put enough fuel in the tank, and make sure it’s the right kind of fuel and you’ve got enough of it, not to just propel you forward, but to really blast forward to achieve your potential as an organisation, as a business, but in startup land, in the perception of startups, the whole conversation about funding, about VCs, about how you get funding, how you deal with the investor side of being in a startup, is very much, I almost feel, like a fixation.

I’m not saying it’s an unhealthy one, because obviously it is very, very important, but I do wish – and I think this is something that you sound like you’re working with startups on – is looking at making sure you’ve got your product right, making sure you’re actually able to unlock what I consider one of the most important investment partners for any organisation, is your customers. So, if you can get a good sales pipeline, if you can get ambassadors for your brand in big companies that…

BG: Yeah, but the problem with the French startups that they don’t know stealth mode, because they need money quickly. It means that compared to the US or Israeli companies they don’t use enough stealth mode. To have this minimal viable product to show to the customers, you sometimes need two or three years of stealth mode to develop the right product. Then after you can have something to show, next step to catch-up a big customer, a big reference. It’s always the same process, you need to have this minimal viable product, second – big reference, third – you go to financing, you raise up, and from your minimal viable product, with your customers, you develop the right features for them.

The problem today is that they work on their product, I’ve seen startups which have product version zero, and never goes to version one, because they don’t follow this process, you need to have a minimal viable product to show. It means that for one or two years, maybe six months if you are very clever, if they have good resources and genius in development, but you need to have a minimal viable product to show, and not looking at all the financing rounds, and just showing slides, you need to really show something.

The problem with the French startups is that they are more in the hype ways, and not enough on the stealth mode to develop good products, for the moment anyway. It’s so easy to raise that money for the moment, there is liquidity everywhere, people who are looking to invest in everything. Even on Facebook or LinkedIn you’ve got advertising asking you to invest in the next unicorns! It’s amazing, it becomes just a business as any other.

RR: So, you don’t think that funding’s an issue for tech startups in France?

BG: No more, no more because we are more and more funding, we have quite a dedicated BPI, which is a bank for investments, BPI France which is specialised to invest in the startups.

RR: Is that a government led thing, or is that private?

BG: No, no, it’s from government, it’s public. You’ve also got Next40 which is a market for the most promising start-ups and French Tech 120 but for 131 startups which are on the market today. And there is plenty of it. No, no, there’s no more problem to find the money, after it’s a way you depend on the products, the trends, the people you know etc. etc. and the work you have to do, but it’s not as much of a problem to raise money, for the moment I would think, because I think that inflation in the startup market will have certainly some drawbacks. Not all the companies will know success, I would say.

RR: Well, there’s always going to be those that don’t.

BG: Yes, but there could be some disappointment, and to have a contra-wave, and think, “Ohh, too dangerous, ohh too dangerous”!

RR: Well that’s my view, that’s like decentralised and centralised IT, it’s like mini-skirts and maxi-skirts, it’s almost like a fashion, “Oh, you really want a mini-skirt, that looks great”, and then the next thing, “Oh, it’s a maxi it’s great”. Nothing is perfect, so you go to one thing, it isn’t perfect, so you go back to the previous thing and that’s not perfect. So it’s almost like you move back and forth between them; the appetite for investment to then looking over to, “Oh, actually that’s a bit risky”.

BG: But it’s somewhat also a social problem, Rose. How do you make progress in a company? It’s to become a manager. When you don’t progress in a company and you think you deserve it, what are you doing? Entrepreneurship? And today with entrepreneurship and so on, you have all the possibilities to become an entrepreneur tomorrow. That’s why there is a system, trendy wave or hype around entrepreneurship, I don’t think that old people, even me, are made for that. It’s a different way of mind than when you are in the company working 9 to 5, or maybe more, whenever it’s always more. Another legend that we have in France it’s 35 hours that I want, because everybody says that the French are lazy.

RR: Not everybody.

BG: 35 hours is the basis, I will just say that 35 hours is the basis on what you are paid every month. It’s 35 hours per week, that is the basis to be paid. But as a chief editor, and all my colleagues, and when you become manager you’re much more at 50 or 60 hours a week, than 35. Let’s say we are paid for 35, but we work 60.

RR: That’s what’s very good for business, isn’t it? You only pay people for 35 hours but they’re doing double that. That’s not worked out the way it was supposed to, has it?

BG: Yes, but that’s why in their statistics French are still the best productivity per hour in the world. It’s not because we are so magic in 35 hours, no. We are doing 60, but are just paid for 35.

RR: You’re paid for 35 of it.

BG: Yes, that’s all, that’s why I wanted to say it. No, no don’t worry, French people are working a lot.

RR: Absolutely, but I know that you work very hard. Thank you so much for sharing all of this, it’s been fascinating. We’ve known each other for [coughs!] years, but it’s always nice to have an excuse to chat, and to find out about some of the new stuff that you’re doing, and share some insights with our potential entrants about what you’re going to be looking out for. And because you could be in any of our categories, everybody has to listen to you, everybody.

BG: I’m speaking with some French companies to be sure that they’re… “Please go-on, go-on”. Because to go to this competition is not the possibilities that you have with consulting, or whatever, the prize that they kind of win. It’s the best way and the quickest way to have a global and worldwide recognition of your company, to enter this competition. When you see the panel of judges and so-on, you will see that it’s amazing, the possibility that you can be known, in every part of the world, because you’re just doing a competition to show off your technology, to show off your references, and so on and so on, it’s an amazing possibility for every company.

RR: We very much like to hope so, that’s our endeavour.

BG: For example, in a former edition I discovered some people, some ISV from South Africa which was specific on the mobile payment and so on, which were really amazing people, amazing companies, amazing technologies, or from Brazil, from Israel, from every part of the world. I also remember an IoT company from Austria, Germany, which have done an amazing technology for IoT. It’s really, really a good opportunity, fantastic opportunity for all companies and startups. And when you are five years old it’s a fabulous way to show how you have done in five years, really. That’s why I’m so faithful to be a judge because every year I discover new gold nuggets and new gold things, really it’s amazing.

RR: Brilliant, well we love having you to be part of the Tech Trailblazers tribe Bertrand, we really do, and it’s a pleasure to speak with you. Thank you so much for joining us from the South West of France, and testimony that we really, really are a global platform, and a global competition, because we do want to attract those that are doing amazing stuff wherever they’re based, wherever they’re from, if they’re doing stuff in enterprise tech, from AI through to storage, we’d like to know about them. So thank you Bertrand, a pleasure. Thank you everybody for joining us again for the Tech Trailblazers Judges on Fire, it was Bertrand Garé from L’Informaticien.

BG: Yeah! You got it now.

RR: I will get there in the end, I’ve been practicing that. So, thank you very much, and again, thank you for joining us, we’ve covered some amazing topics, we’ve taken a deep-dive into Bertrand’s thinking around how he judges, got a great insight into the man himself, and also got some really interesting insights into what’s happening in the French startup systems, so that’s brilliant.

So, let us know what you think, we’ll make sure that the transcript includes who Bertrand is, where he is, so you can check that out in a bit more detail. Also, if you have enjoyed what you’ve heard, then please leave us a wonderful review, and subscribe to the newsletter so you keep up to date with the podcasts as we’re doing them. So you can sign up on the techtrailblazers.com website for that, and follow us on social media @techtrailblaze on Twitter, and you’ll find us as Tech Trailblazers on LinkedIn.

BG: I think I’m already a subscriber on Twitter.

RR: I hope you are Bertrand! Thank you and enjoy the rest of your vacances down in the South West of France, and hopefully we’ll see you either in the States, or in London, or in Paris very soon. Thanks again Bertrand.

BG: I hope so, take care. Bye all.