Earlier this month, ActuIA spoke with Eytan, one of our Venture Catalysts, about Artificial Intelligence, how we’re applying it at OneRagtime, and what’s coming next for this incredible technology. Click here to see the article in its original French, or read on for our translation into English.
Interview with Eytan Messika, Venture Catalyst at OneRagtime
Supporting start-ups in their development and making investment easier for investors is OneRagtime’s mission. This next generation investment fund was created by Jean-Marie Messier, former boss of Vivendi, and Stephanie Hospital, former executive Vice President of Orange Digital. OneRagtime was designed to be a new kind of platform linking start-ups and investors.
Always in search of new golden nuggets, this digital venture fund is fascinated by artificial intelligence. Eytan Messika, Venture Catalyst in the investment fund, answered our questions.
ActuIA: Could you explain about your activity within OneRagtime?
Eytan Messika: I joined the OneRagtime team in 2017. My mission is to find and analyse potential investment targets, especially on automation and AI topics, in Europe and Israel, then to accompany them as best as possible.
OneRagtime is a company created by Stéphanie Hospital – former executive Vice President of Orange Digital – and Jean-Marie Messier, which aims to re-think the codes of venture capital.
At the genesis of this creation, there is a double statement. First of all, the venture capital industry, along with the others, must include digital tools in its development strategy. Secondly, the current fundraising process can be optimised for investors by making them their investment more transparent and for entrepreneurs who will benefit from real support.
Based on these findings, Stéphanie Hospital and Jean-Marie Messier decided to create a different model of investment fund, accessed through a digital platform. This model is inspired by both crowdfunding and venture capital, allowing start-up financing through an exclusive community of 500+ investors and support for companies through the provision of resources, mentors, operational support and an extensive network.
ActuIA: How does OneRagtime work within the AI ecosystem in France and Europe?
Eytan Messika: There are multiple ways in which OneRagtime contributes to the AI ecosystem in France and Europe. First of all, we invest directly in companies with a strong technological component and therefore in this way feed the ecosystem. Then, we also support many large corporates with their digital transformation and their acquisition of potential technological targets especially in AI, which leads, on the one hand, to the permanent exposure of European start-ups to these corporates, and on the other, the sharing of both technology and talent between these groups.
We are also building our own platform-based analytics and automation tool in-house that uses some machine learning bricks to increase our performance. This is the differentiation and the real benefit of having a “platform approach”.
Finally, we also contribute to the ecosystem by staying very close to training institutions, incubators and accelerators in Europe that can offer companies that support, for example on topics such as recruitment.
ActuIA: In your opinion, are there any French distinctions in terms of new technologies and AI?
Eytan Messika: Of course!
The first distinction in France is about training. France has a unique know-how in statistics, mathematics and engineering. Our researchers are probably among the best in the world and this know-how allows the development of artificial intelligence. For example, Yann LeCun, Director of FAIR, practically invented deep learning, the AI technology that allows image recognition, a little over 20 years ago.
The second distinction is cultural. New technologies, and in particular AI, raise ethical and social questions that are very important in France. Data confidentiality, for example, is a subject that determines the development of new technologies. For example, the rise of “privacy by design”, that is to say, to think and design a product that protects the privacy of users in essence in its architecture is a practice increasingly widespread.
ActuIA: What do you think are the most dynamic ecosystems internationally, as far as AI is concerned?
Eytan Messika: Obviously, the United States and China are currently the most active ecosystems. The culture of web entrepreneurs, GAFAMI and BATX, provide global services and collect much more data than any other company. Culturally, venture capital and entrepreneurship are rooted in their values and create a virtuous circle that instils this dynamism. Canada is also an ecosystem that I particularly like with researchers like Yoshua Bengio who is accelerating the rise of social AI around the world. Finally, Israel and the United Kingdom are also very dynamic ecosystems in two different registers, the first transfer and export, the second invests and imports.
And finally, let’s not forget France. It is an important piece in the global chessboard of artificial intelligence. Not a single week passes without a large foreign group wanting to install its research center in Paris. Google, Facebook, IBM, Rakuten, have all installed their AI resources in France, for the most part headed by French researchers François Pachet for Spotify, for example. In addition to this, France excels in the formation of many hotshots like Gregory Renard or Luc Julia, the founder of Siri, with prestigious organisations such as INRIA or CNRS. It is also the first nation in Europe to create scientific papers in AI. We are the raw material of innovation in artificial intelligence.
ActuIA: What would be your advice to entrepreneurs who want to build a start-up in artificial intelligence?
Eytan Messika: Artificial intelligence remains a means and not a goal in itself. It is a technology that allows entrepreneurs to provide a more efficient service. So, the advice is the same as for any entrepreneur, cautiously choose your team, develop what Reid Hoffman (the founder of LinkedIn) calls flexible persistence – the art of being persistent while remaining open-minded – then obviously having your finger on the market while understanding your competitive advantage.
Of course, artificial intelligence offers additional challenges. First of all, we must understand the different needs in terms of recruitment for a project, a data-scientist is not necessarily a good engineer architect and an engineer is not a researcher. All three are key. Finally, it is important to think about building privileged access to useful data so that it will serve us. By definition, open source is a necessary but not sufficient condition to differentiate yourself.
ActuIA: Can you tell us about the projects that OneRagtime has been supporting since its creation?
Eytan Messika: For over a year and a half, OneRagtime has been supporting 11 companies, including 1 unannounced, and we are finalizing our analysis on three other very promising projects at the moment. We only invest in projects with a very strong technological component, usually with 2 to 3 years of R&D. We think of this as a barrier to entry:
- Our first investment was Zenly, acquired by Snapchat in June 2017
- Keli Network, a new creator of social content, has developed a unique technology that can detect topics that appeal to users and then generate and distribute thematic videos on social networks. Keli Network generates more than 2 billion video views per month and has double-digit growth while being profitable
- +Simple: a new digital insurance broker created by Eric Mignot, the former CEO of Boursorama, which revolutionises the experience of VSEs, SMEs and Freelancers when they want to take out an insurance policy for any type of risk
- Gestoos, a Spanish and American company, which has designed a unique artificial intelligence, able to recognize in real time the movements and behaviours of an individual in front of a camera. Gestoos has signed more than twenty contracts including with Adidas and HP
- Make.org: A company in the field of civictech, created by Axel Dauchez, the former CEO of Deezer France, who has developed a technological platform able to engage citizens and businesses in new collaborative actions by collecting proposals and establishing awareness-raising operations.
- onoff: The company created by Taïg Khris, who built a hybrid telecom operator backed by a mobile application allowing anyone to benefit from the services of an operator hosted in the cloud. Thus, a phone with a single SIM card can receive and make calls with several different numbers. To date, the start-up has 7 patents, operates in more than 20 countries worldwide and claims more than 2 million downloads for its mobile application.
- Marie Quantier: A French company, which has created an artificial intelligence technology capable of analysing thousands of macroeconomic indices, with a platform to provide personalised advice to anyone wishing to invest in financial markets
- Glose: in the world of education, Glose is rethinking learning by creating a new infrastructure and interface that can engage readers online in all types of content
- Muzeek: has designed a technology platform that can automatically generate music content from real, royalty-free, synchronisable and video-friendly songs. Muzeek was born from two years of R&D and has almost 15 patents
- We are also investing in projects related to APIs and Blockchain
ActuIA: What is the main goal of OneRagtime for this second semester and/or the year to come?
Eytan Messika: Our primary goal is to enable our investors to finance the best start-ups and to support more entrepreneurs and large groups in France, Europe and Israel.
To do this, we must continue to improve our internal analysis tool by recruiting very good technical profiles, increasing the different types of media dedicated to entrepreneurs and investors and working with even more key accounts.
ActuIA: Artificial intelligence is currently a hot topic, do you think it’s an ‘artificial intelligence’ bubble like the internet bubble of the ’90s?
Eytan Messika: There are, in fact, many similarities between the dot-com bubble and AI. At the time, low interest rates contributed to the massive investment in the margin (money costs relatively little compared to the potential gain). Today, we also see a sudden and significant number of AI start-ups hatching offering horizontal services as in 1998 for internet services. Also, as for the internet at the time of the dot.com bubble, AI is a technology that most people do not understand well. All you need to do is inject that you use AI into your deck to be considered an AI business by the majority of the public.
But it is difficult to call it a bubble for two main reasons:
Although most people do not understand what AI is, most investors analyse it quite well and correctly value this technology compared to cryptocurrencies for example or the Internet of the time. Everyone agrees that AI is revolutionary, and in this sense it’s hard to talk about the bubble.
The second reason is more pragmatic. In 98, the Internet was overvalued for the promise of a future value, on the contrary, AI is already doing miracles today.
ActuIA: Are you in favour of regulating AI?
Eytan Messika: It all depends on what is meant by regulation. I think that we need to establish a framework to define the ethical and moral laws subject to AI, particularly on the ownership of data. Our president, Emmanuel Macron, in his interview on Wired, says it very clearly: “So if you don’t want to block innovation, it is better to frame it by design within ethical and philosophical boundaries.”
ActuIA: What is the latest news or news about AI that grabbed your attention?
Eytan Messika: It’s a piece of news that made me laugh a lot. The AI of the FIFA game that predicts the French team winning with a fairly impressive accuracy rate. When we know that sport is played with details…
A big thank you to Eytan Messika and OneRagtime!
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