Interview Antoine Bourgeois, the founding boss of 4MP and of the B2B network, BizoverBiz and the Chain4Wallet payment infrastructure. It is with pleasure that we will tackle the hot topic of digital sovereignty, but also talk about his entrepreneurial adventures and his future projects …
[Emmanuel M] : Hello Antoine, I am delighted to be able to conduct this interview with you. To get started, could you quickly tell us who you are and your background?
[Antoine Bourgeois] : I am what we call an “innovative entrepreneur”, the two words being for me inseparable. I created a 1st JEI (Young Innovative Company) in 2009 in Hauts-de-France to develop a TPE* (payment terminal) based on smartphones. At the time, we were 3 companies in the world on this type of product, including a Swedish company bought for $ 2.2 billion, and an American company recently listed on the stock exchange with a valuation of $ 6 billion. As for my JEI, it failed because it was unable to find sufficient funding in the host region. It is for this reason that in 2016, I have my 2nd JEI in Ile-de-France.
*TPE : Très Petite Entreprise (Very Small Entreprise)
[EM] : Can you explain to us in more detail the activities of 4MP, but especially the B to B network: BizoverBiz that you created?
[AB] : The B2B network set up under the BizOverBiz brand is fairly classic : it allows VSEs – SMEs to edit invoices, quotes or purchase orders, to sign them electronically, to place them in an electronic safe, and ultimately to them. make available to their recipients. What is not classic, however, is to allow the payment of these same invoices thanks to the infrastructure that we have created from scratch: the Chain4Wallet, which is completely independent of Visa – MasterCard, SEPA, banks, and which has the ambition to preserve our sovereignty in this area, even in the face of GAFAM !
[EM] : We have already had the opportunity to briefly discuss topics related to digital sovereignty. What is your position, understanding of the topic?
[AB] : Our digital sovereignty depends on our ability to store and manage all our sensitive data thanks to European infrastructures that we control from end to end. We are obviously not obliged to act in this way for all types of data, but as soon as they are considered “sensitive” they must absolutely be managed in this way.
[EM] : Following the turmoil caused by the Health Data Hub affair, digital players have come together as a PlayFrance.Digital. What do you think of this?
[AB] : It is a great satisfaction for me that French entrepreneurs have launched this “PlayFrance Digital” initiative. We obviously immediately feel less alone in this necessary fight for the preservation of our data, be it health data (the case of the mysterious call for tenders for the benefit of Microsoft), commercial data and or payment data (fintechs financed by the BPI and / or French investment funds with data in American clouds), corporate financial data (the business of the EMP managed by the BPI in an American cloud) , etc… Because the list does not end there. We are now even talking about commercial banks that would also be tempted to use an American Cloud (a German bank!). Without forgetting the Olympic Games of Paris 2024 which will be managed by a cloud … Chinese!
[EM] : We have also seen a beginning of awareness of French politicians, but apart from the words, are you starting to see actions going in the right direction ?
[AB] : For the moment (we are at the end of August 2020) I still do not see anything concrete in France beyond the discussions, reports and other declarations of intent. For example, my company is currently fundraising to launch the Chain4Wallet in Europe and then in Africa, no one has contacted me yet to say “I understood that we had to protect our data. How much do we need to invest to keep our payment data? “. While we have investors ready to invest in the United Arab Emirates. While African funds are ready to finance us for the deployment in Africa as soon as the launch in Europe is effective.
[EM] : At the European level it seems that there is a similar awareness, perhaps more structured, thanks to the European Commissioner Thierry Breton, probably due to his past as digital industrialist. What do you think?
[AB] : It is certain that Thierry Breton (former boss of a major player in the IT world, former Minister of the Economy) is the ideal person at European level to understand all these issues. But what is his real power to impose changes on his position? That is the question.
[EM] : It is true that we cannot expect everything from the government, but what to think of our major French economic players, are they playing the game ? Can they?
[AB] : Yes they can ! I have expressed myself several times on social networks on this subject: there is “great laziness” and “excessive fear” at the level of IT departments of mid-sized companies and large companies as to the choice of external service providers. It’s so easy to tell your management “Here is the service provider I chose: it’s the No. 1 in the world”. It takes 5 Mn at most, this makes any future reproach impossible, and everything is completed quickly without the slightest risk: it doesn’t matter if you choose a bazooka when you need a simple spear. And as very often, the environmental aspect is also the least of the concerns of these same decision-makers.
[EM] : Is this a subject really taken head on by the Medef? It does not seem to me that I heard a firm position taken on the subject by Geoffroy Roux de Bezieux ?
[AB] : Medef is an employers’ union. It makes declarations, studies, gives opinions, influences political power, but can in no way constrain its members. But whatever, the important thing is that everyone, economists, unions, political powers, entrepreneurs go in the same direction, that is to say that of the preservation of our technological and digital sovereignty.
[EM] : I know that the subject of sovereignty that concerns you concerns the means of payment. What can you tell us?
[AB] : Sovereignty over data and means of payment concerns me no more or less than that linked to other areas. It just happens to be the one I have a few skills for and the one I put myself to work for every day.
[EM] : To answer this problem, it seems to me that you have a project in the pipeline that is at an advanced stage, can you tell us more ?
[AB] : The Chain4Wallet is a great project of which I am very proud. This is what I already wanted to implement with my 1st JEI in 2009 as an extension of TPE on smartphones.
What a great concept to say “My bank account is a secure space in which there is only change. Worse, only one currency! It would be nice, useful and ecological if I could also put in a dematerialized version all the elements contained in my wallet, and so that they become exchangeable from digital wallets to digital wallets, from wallets to wallets in English, in other words from smartphones to smartphones ”.
For me, it is so obvious, that I always wonder why I do not receive dozens of requests every week to participate in this challenge.
[EM] : For you within 5 years, where will you be on all of your projects ?
[AB] : Within 5 years, we must have 10 million active wallets in the Chain4Wallet. It may seem like a lot, but on 2 continents, by multiplying the number of wallets by 10 each year it is quite achievable: 1000 in 2020, 10,000 in 2021, 100,000 in 2022, 1 million in 2023, 10 million in 2024. In addition, the invoices, quotes and dematerialized purchase orders of the BizOverBiz platform will also follow an ascending curve, even if it will be less spectacular.
[EM] : Dear Antoine, we are coming to the end of this interview, can you give your conclusion ?
[AB] : Let’s try to see the current situation as positively as possible : this damn Covid-19 virus, even if it will forever remain detestable in many respects, may have positive effects despite everything : increased awareness of our health weaknesses, increased awareness of our industrial, environmental and economic weaknesses, and of course also in terms of sovereignty. However, behind this last point are in fact hiding our “freedoms” but also our “creation of wealth” without which our society will never be able to become peaceful again. And this brings us back to the beginning of this interview: the failure of my first JEI causing us to lose between 2 and 6 billion French and European “creation of wealth”. But it seems that we learn from our failures and mistakes: can we do the same with our sovereignty!