Maurice Lévy, the outgoing chief executive of Publicis Groupe, has voiced an optimistic view of Brexit’s implications on UK startups, calling on new business owners to “dream without borders” at the launch of Viva Technology 2017.
This morning (7 March) saw Lévy announce Publicis’ startup event will return to the French capital for a second year on 15-17 June (“Cannes [Lions] starts in Paris,” he declared). The experience aims to be a “micro-CES”-cum-Davos summit, offering talks, exhibitions and startup-investor pitch meetings, before opening its doors to the general public on the final day.
It’s the first time that Publicis and its partner host – Groupe Les Echos – have held the event since the Brexit vote last June. However with a launch in London, it’s clear the group is still targeting UK startups despite an impending EU departure.
“The UK is still in Europe,” said Lévy. “Maybe no longer part of the EU in two or three years’ time but the continent is no longer isolated from the UK. I think our collaboration is much stronger than any political barrier.”
He continued: “It’s too bad that that the UK has decide to leave Europe – it’s sad for the future because I believe that we need to be united and be stronger together – but I believe for the entrepreneurs there is no difference. Entrepreneurs can grow [their businesses] anywhere and they will find their way, Brexit or no Brexit.
“The startups with small dreams barely succeed. I think having a limitless dream is extremely important because it opens perspective. The ones that succeed, they dream big. They dream without borders.”
Lévy himself is a self-proclaimed dreamer. When The Drum asked him what Publicis gets out of hosting Viva Technology, he said: “It’s got nothing to do with the business – it has to do with a dream.
“I wanted to create something that’s different to anything I had seen. A combination of conference, panels, discovery, innovations, big corporations mixing with startups and students. The first year was a success, and I hope the second year will be a great one.”
And although Arthur Sadoun will step in as CEO on 1 June, this will not be the last event we will see Lévy attend.
“I will be handing over to Arthur the operational decisions and the day-to-day running of the business, but I will still be the chairman of the supervisory board so l will still be involved in the business, I will still be reacting,” he said. “I’m not yet about to go fishing. And as I hate fishing, that’s good.”