Excellent interview with Jean-Pierre Lach, CEO and founder of Private Discuss by Piman Group. A new French digital player in video conferencing and secure communications.
[Emmanuel M]: Hello Jean-Pierre, thank you for accepting this invitation. Before talking more specifically about Private Discuss, can you tell us a little about your background?
[Jean-Pierre Lach]: Hello Emmanuel! I am a graduate engineer from Mines de Saint-Etienne and I created a consulting group in 2009, PIMAN Group, after a ten-year career in the industry and then in consulting. And it is within the PIMAN Group’s Innovation Center, composed of 50 experts in Digital, AI and Cybersecurity, that PRIVATE DISCUSS was born.
[EM]: Private Discuss belongs to the Piman Group. What are the activities of Piman Group?
[JPL]: Specialized in risk anticipation and digital transformation, the Group focuses on the management of large industrial projects and digital transformation, through its 400 employees engineers, lawyers and specialists in AI and Cybersecurity.
[EM]: Where did the idea of Private Discuss come from, and what was the observation?
[JPL]: Not trusting any existing solution on the market, my digital teams and cyber experts explained to me in 2017 that they had designed an internal encrypted messaging system to share ultra-confidential Data entrusted by our clients in the Pharmaceutical and Nuclear sectors.
PRIVATE DISCUSS was born.
Then came the observation related to the US extraterritorial laws and their strict incompatibility with the RGPD. (Confirmed in 2020 by the CJEU and the invalidation of the Privacy Shield).
Presented as early as January 2019 at CES in Vegas, first as a white label and On Premise instant messaging, we then added the collaborative features of a “Slack” during 2019, then video conferencing and Webinar in 2020, then the Cloud in 2021…
Now at the level of the best solutions in the world functionally, and with 100% proprietary technology (just like the financing), PRIVATE DISCUSS offers its free and paying customers a true End2End encryption and guarantees that no back door exists among the 2 million lines of code.
[EM]: Quelle est la proposition de valeur de Private Discuss ?
[JPL]: To offer our customers a communication and videoconferencing system that strictly protects their written and oral communications, both in transport and in storage.
We address organizations that are aware of the absolute necessity to protect their data and metadata from the risks of espionage and eavesdropping.
A true nomadic virtual office (messaging, videoconferencing, webinar, cloud, internal social network), available on all mobile platforms (iOS, Android, Huawei), Web, Linux, Mac, Windows, our solution is ultra-secure via proprietary encryption algorithms in AES256, working with dynamic key generation, on the cryptographic fundamentals of Messrs Diffie and Hellman awarded in 2015 with the Turing prize for their work.
And we are the only solution in the world that does not decrypt audio and video streams on servers during video conferences, guaranteeing strict end-to-end encryption! All available in SaaS (OVH) or On-Premise.
[EM]: Could you give us a vision of Private Discuss in a few figures?
[JPL]: Private Discuss is currently composed of 20 people: web and mobile developers, cybersecurity and AI experts, and customer experience. PRIVATE DISCUSS is also more than 100,000 video conferences, more than 1,000 webinars, several million chats and 100% of the features of the US market leaders.
[EM]: In what competitive environment does Private Discuss operate?
[JPL]: We offer an alternative or a complement to 100% Anglo-Saxon players such as ZOOM, TEAMS, WEBEX for customers who want a sovereign, secure and made in France solution. But also, a crisis management tool for COMEX as an alternative to WHATSAPP, SIGNAL or TELEGRAM.
We position ourselves more globally in the world of Telework and Mobility solutions, but also recently in the world of technological bricks through our API PRIVATE DISCUSS for developers looking for alternatives to VONAGE or TWILIO.
More globally, we wish to accompany all the actors aware of the danger of extra-European solutions who wish to (re)find a digital sovereignty and to make tailor-made solutions.
[EM]: If I understood you correctly, you are committed to Digital Sovereignty and Private Discuss is part of that commitment. What is your vision of the state of our digital sovereignty?
[JPL]: It can exist, solutions are available, and it is just waiting to explode! More confidence in French and European solutions, and probably a more proactive legislator and public power, to enforce the law, knowing that since the invalidation of the Privacy Shield by the CJEU in 2020, 100% of US solutions are illegal… because they do not comply with the RGPD…
[EM]: Since 2020, it seems that the lines are moving, and that there is at least in words an awareness of the importance of digital sovereignty among a number of decision makers. I want to believe that the PlayFranceDigital collective has played a role in this awareness. What is your feeling on the real consideration of this dimension in the future choices of the next 5 years?
[JPL]: The health, economic and social crisis we have been through has taught us a lot, individually and collectively, about the need to be autonomous and resilient. And I am convinced that after these events, with France at the head of the European Presidency and Europe’s digital sovereignty as the main focus of the French President’s second term, a profound change will take place in the coming months! We will be there.
[EM]: Anecdotally, why did you choose an Anglo-Saxon name for your application? Isn’t it a form of vassalage to the American hegemony??
[JPL]: You should know that this is the question we are most often asked! So, let’s say that our ambition is global and that our promise is clear through this name. As for “private discussions”, the subtlety of the French language could suggest a reductive use of our solution…
[EM]: What impact will the arrival of metavers have on your field of activity?
[JPL]: “Private Discuss, the metavers’ first cyber-secure instant messaging, video conferencing and webinar solution and CSR”. Sounds good, right ?
Let’s say we’re ready.
[EM]: What is your vision of the disruptions in digital for the next 3 to 5 years?
[JPL]: I think they revolve around two major inseparable axes: technology and the environment. The objective for tomorrow is therefore to find a consensus for eco-responsible technological development, which also takes into account and promotes the well-being of employees. Here again, we are ready with a “Green Code” approach, green servers, a wellness area in the solution or even virtual coffee machines to recreate social links between employees.
[EM]: What vision for Private Discuss in this 3-5 year projection?
[JPL]: Without any doubt, we will accelerate our efforts in the field of Health, by proposing a collaborative telework solution that actively participates in the prevention of occupational diseases, mental health in particular, and in the well-being at work.
We were at CES in Las Vegas in January 2022, with a version of PRIVATE DISCUSS that we called DISCUSS&CARE to present these major innovations that we will bring to the market in 2023.
In terms of figures, we are aiming for 5 million euros in sales, with 50% of our solutions on premise and in white label, to offer our customers a solution that reflects their image, on their servers, serving their economic performance and the well-being of their employees.
[EM]: We are coming to the end of this interview, what would be your conclusion, a vision that you would like to share with our listeners?
[JPL]: First of all, I would like to thank all the people who work every day to create French and European digital sovereignty. Change can happen today if we are all aware of it and take action: let’s act together for a greener, more responsible, better future, quite simply!