Publicis Groupe invests €10m into 90 startups during first Viva Technology conference while CEO Maurice Levy calls for EU reform no matter referendum result

Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy has revealed that the company will invest a sum of €10m into 90 startups during its first Viva Technology conference in Paris next week, while also issuing a call for change in the running of the EU no matter what the outcome of the British referendum on Thursday 23 June.

Speaking to The Drum, Levy explained that following his promise and subsequent "pressure" to create the technology event, agreed having organised the E-G8 Forum before the G8 meeting in 2011 of world leaders, he was determined to follow through.

"Based on what we know today, it is going to be an exciting moment and will be extremely successful," he stated, adding that the conference would be made up of three elements, the Hall of Tech which will feature the self-driving car from Google, the launch of the new Playstation VR and presentations from major tech companies including Facebook. The second will be the co-working space where 17 large companies will work with startups on challenges. Those successful in overcoming the challenges will receive funding from a pool of €1m. Over 1,000 start-ups will participate in the co-working element while others will be given the opportunity to present to attending venture capitalists.

Levy also revealed that the budget for the event itself is €10m.

There will also be over 300 keynote speakers, panel discussions and interviews which will include 20th Century Fox's studio head Jim Gianopulos, Google chairman Eric Schmidt, Tencent's president Martin Lau and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales among many more tech influencers and entrepreneurs.

The final day of the three-day event will be opened to the public with 30,000 visitors expected in total.

"It is impressive to see that all of these people have trusted us and are coming because of the position that we have had in the market and the respiration that have had and I believe that after this they will return for next year," said Levy.

The 90 winners of its startup investment initiative will also be revealed during the three days, with each receiving investment as the group's way of celebrating its 90th anniversary, with an investment total of €10m. A quarter of those startups will emanate from entrants within the group itself.

"We decided that instead of being selfish and looking at our own past or building elsewhere, we had this idea instead," he explained. "We should give a chance to help them achieve their dream and hopefully some will become unicorns and I hope to have at least one Unicorn."

The process for selection involved an initial 700 proposals which were analysed by Levy and a jury as well as a venture capitalist before reaching the final 90 applicants.

On the UK's referendum on Europe taking place this week, Levy was not forthcoming when asked what plan he had in place should Britain vote to leave the European Union but reiterated his support for Britain to remain.

"We have signed the appeal of the French business to say we respect your vote and we don't want to interfere but it is also very important that Britain remains in Europe.

"I still hope that it will be positive and that the remain vote will prevail. Whatever happens this will call for transformation of the way we are operating in Europe. We have wasted too much energy, time, money and spirit on the way that the commission has been handling Europe. We should be much less about directives, much less about regulation and much more about spirit and culture. I do hope that even if Britain remains in Europe, I feel sure that the Brits will help us in revisiting how we are operating and play a bigger role in Europe as our co-habits."

Levy was speaking ahead of attending the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity where he will interview Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Stephen Lepitak

Stephen Lepitak is editor of The Drum, with responsibility for overseeing the day-to-day running of the content produced for the various platforms run by the publication. Over the years he has interviewed agency network bosses such as Sir Martin Sorrell, Maurice Lévy and Arthur Sadoun, as well as Cindy Gallop, Kim Kardashian, film directors James Cameron, Spike Jonze, Richard Curtis and Lord David Puttnam. With a keen interest in media and breaking news, Lepitak has been with The Drum since 2005 and is based across its UK, US and Asia operations.

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