For five days, imec. istart brought a dynamic mix of portfolio companies including Bingli, Deo.Care, Myelin-H, Neuroventis, HippoDX, FixForm, IntelliProve, Tiro.Health, Geriatro, Creative Therapy as well as LynxCare (exited) and program partner UCB to Paris. The goal? Network, learn and better understand what opportunities but also what challenges lay ahead when expanding into Paris and rest of France.
Why Paris you might wonder? Paris is a remarkable city full of opportunity. It’s the epic-centre for the entire French startup ecosystem and home to leading health-tech companies like Alan, a health-tech insurance company which has raised nearly 500million USD as well as Doctolib, France’s largest unicorn. It’s not just startups and scale-ups transforming the health system and French way of life, the French Government is an enabler of the health-tech revolution, with 650 million EUR being directed to accelerate its national digital health strategy, of which much is being directed to the Paris region.
Before testing the French waters, it is key to have a good view on what it means to do business in Paris as well as to understand the health-tech trends and hotspots across the city. That is why we kicked off our week in Paris with learning sessions accommodated by Flanders Investment & Trade as well as local business enablers Choose Paris and Digital Pharma Lab.
Next on the program: a visit to one of France’s oldest hospitals, Hôtel-Dieu. This hospital is a frontrunner in health-tech innovation: innovation teams and startups are based within the hospital itself, giving these organisations immediate access to doctors, hospital leaders and in the future, patients. At Hôtel-Dieu we also engaged with the AP-HP Innovation team, BioLabs and Digital Medical Hub, all which are playing critical roles to help the hospital transform to better serve its community.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, we attended France’s largest healthcare conference, SantExpo. The imec.istart booth enabled our startups to showcase themselves to 30,000 attendees as well as engage with potential partners, distributors and customers on the exhibition floor. As SantExpo is organised by the French hospital association, what stood out for us was the ability to connect with key decision makers and budget-holders, going well-beyond the typical conference engagement.
Our HealthTech mission included a formal networking event. The Belgian Ambassador to France hosted our ‘Belgian Health-Tech Night’ at his residency. This evening dedicated to networking enabled our companies to pitch their businesses to more than 50 stakeholders from Belgium and France, followed by dinner and drinks in the residence’s beautiful garden. Next to the formal networking, our imec.istart international missions are brilliant opportunities to connect with fellow portfolio companies and share contacts, experiences, and ideas. During many dinners, drinks and walks all over Paris, there was plenty of time for informal knowledge sharing and a chance to kickstart collaborations and setup projects between the startups themselves.
The second half of the week included several in-person sessions with regulatory experts, the influential medical cluster organisation Medicen and a visit to Future4Care, a new but important player in developing the French and European health-tech ecosystems.
A highlight for many was the afternoon session hosted by AXA Venture Partners, a leading investor who is on track to raise Europe’s largest VC fund. They presented their view on health-tech trends, set out their investment strategy and focus, and introduced one of their portfolio companies, Incepto to us. Incepto is a fast-growing French health-tech scale-up, and their CEO sat down with us to share his professional and personal journey. Talking us through the highs and lows of building a business in France and across Europe, he left our group truly inspired. It’s always great to learn from those who truly ‘walk the talk.’
As we reflect on the week that was, it became clear that the French healthcare system is going through significant developments now and will in the years to come. While innovation hubs, investors and startups are leading the way, the national government as well as the French public sector investment bank are making commitments in terms of policy and financing to make this transformation possible. It will be interesting to follow the advances over the coming years and see where our portfolio companies can and hopefully will play a role in the digitalization of the French health-ecosystem.
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