Women-led digital tech start-ups take center stage at La Poste France

Despite certain advances in the scope of women entrepreneurship in France, the latter remains far from the ideals of gender parity. To accelerate the progress, La Poste France breaks the silos and lends its hand to the most creative and impactful start-ups across the country.

According to a 2021 report by French firms EY and France Digitale, just 12% of digital start-up founders in France are women. The report, Social and Economic Performance of French Digital Start-ups Barometer 2021, surveyed more than 780 participants in France in 2020 and 2021. It also found that only 11% of respondents’ CEOs are women – up from 9% in 2018.

The reported noted that even with this upward trend for women CEOs as well as an increase in the overall parity among employees – 43% were women, versus 36% in the previous edition – more still needs to be done to support female digital entrepreneurs in France. One company seeking to do just that is the French postal operator, La Poste.

For the past three years, La Poste, along with its key partners, has run the #FemmesduNumérique Coups de Coeur awards, which are aimed at women entrepreneurs who have an innovative digital project or a digital service solution.

According to Vanessa Chocteau, Director of Transformation and Start-up Co-Innovation at La Poste, the awards “encourage women to realize their projects, by making them visible and by obtaining the first financing.”  They also act as “a first step towards entrepreneurship,” she added.  

La Poste’s communications department launches and monitors the award campaign each year. Women entrepreneurs are encouraged to put forward their ideas, after which La Poste’s innovation team brings in its expertise and works with its ecosystem of more than 100 partners to go through all the entrants. A shortlist is then drawn up, which includes two entrants from each region in France. The public is then asked to vote for the overall winner – the “Coups de Coeur”.

“Finally, KissKissBankBank [a collaborative platform for funding innovative projects] assists in setting up the financing campaign on its crowdfunding platform,” Chocteau added.

This year, there were 13 award winners and one “Coups de Coeur,” which went to Laurence Havé, who created the Stand Me App. This application helps patients with cancer to practice physical and cognitive activities, according to Chocteau. Every award winner received €2,000 and the “Coups de Coeur” received €4,000.
Looking at the reasons behind the selection of these particular winners this year, Chocteau explained, “They are impact-driven innovations – all the chosen digital solutions have a positive impact on society, economy, and the environment.”

For La Poste, one of the key benefits of running such an awards programme is that the winning start-ups could end up being future partners of the company. “If detected and supported at the earliest opportunity, the projects can turn into solid companies and future partners of our Group,” said Chocteau. “They can then be supported by our other programmes for entrepreneurs and open innovation.”

One of those other programmes is La Poste’s business accelerator project, French IoT. French IoT supports start-ups at a more advanced level of maturity than those in the Coups de Coeur awards. The programme assists them with market launch and growth.

“Every year since 2015, we have selected around 15 start-ups for the French IoT programme,” Chocteau said. “They then follow a six-month programme meant to boost their project alongside experts with bootcamps, coaching and workshops. They develop business and investor connections to help develop their business and create more value. They also take part in the most popular innovation events within our Group.”

According to Chocteau, the French IoT project is a win-win for both La Poste and the start-ups. “Our ambition is to co-develop with the start-ups new digital useful services to answer the challenges of our society. The Group brings in its power and the start-ups – their agility. Together, we create value. Since 2015, we have had more than 30 active partnerships, with 14 projects currently under test, from around 110 accelerated start-ups. There have been more than 260 workshops led by experts and 180 hours of individual coaching and mentoring. Furthermore, today there are more than 300 start-ups who are part of the French IoT community, a pool of innovation for La Poste Group and its partners.”

The French IoT programme is also focused on economic empowerment of women, just like the Coups de Coeur awards are. “For the past three years, we have selected as many start-ups created by women as by men [within French IoT]. Thanks to the implementation of this parity goal, we have gone from 9% of start-ups created by women to 50%. We are proud of this progress, which promotes the leadership of women in the digital sector,” concluded Chocteau.