The French at the forefront of the crypto and NFT revolutions

While China is putting the finishing touches on its digital yuan and the United States is actively working to do the same for the dollar, the European Central Bank is taking its time. Its dematerialized euro should not see the light of day until 2025. Without waiting, the start-up Angle Labs held on by launching a “stablecoin” based on the euro and blockchain last November. The two founders, Pablo Veyrat and Guillaume Nerfvo, both from Polytechnique and Stanford University, immediately caught the attention and raised 5 million euros from international venture capital funds.

A stablecoin, for the uninitiated, is the digital copy of an existing currency and whose value is guaranteed, regardless of changes in exchange rates. In other words, it is a stable cryptocurrency, based on underlying physical assets. This financial product illustrates the prevalence of French initiatives in what is commonly called fintech. “There are a lot of companies being created at the moment, but they are still under the radar,” explains Frédéric Montagnon, one of the French pioneers in blockchain. We have a very strong competitive advantage with our engineers, who are very good at math and finance. Those who traveled to New York, London or Hong Kong yesterday are now setting up their own projects. “

A revolution is under way, which we are still struggling to take full advantage of. For behind the concepts of blockchain, cryptocurrency, NFT (non-fungible token) or Web3 a new internet philosophy is born. A decentralized and open source network (platforms and technologies are free to access), where users, individuals and companies regain control of their data.

“The philosophy is to transform what was conquered by Gafam into the common good,” Frédéric Mongagnon continues. An example: today, the holder of a Facebook account can not recover the data of his followers to transfer them to another platform. It is Facebook that guards this treasure. In Web3, on the contrary, everyone owns their data. Potentially, this revolution announces the collapse of the first social network, which by changing its name (Meta now) also wanted to send a reassuring message to the markets.

The banking and insurance world also has serious concerns. The blockchain makes it possible to perform many banking services without intermediaries (Visa cards, banks), in an instant and secure way. In the United States, the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, which was established ten years ago, already has a market capitalization of 33 billion euros. BNP Paribas’ 200th anniversary, the first bank in the euro area, worth 58.

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In France, the unicorn Ledger, valued at 1.5 billion, is the leader of this new finance. It was set up in 2014 and designs and manages portfolios of cryptocurrencies for individuals and around one hundred companies … 85% abroad. Its flagship product, Ledger Nano, which sells millions of units each year, allows you to store your assets in a kind of ultra-secure USB key. The capitalization of cryptocurrencies is estimated at nearly $ 2 trillion, indicating a significant potential for Ledger, which secures 15% of all cryptocurrencies in the world. “The growth well ahead of us is phenomenal, says its CEO Pascal Gauthier. We are at a time similar to 1998, when the number of Internet users was only 300 million.”

Among the rising values ​​is Coinhouse, as a result of the division in 2017 from Ledger. Originally a cryptocurrency broker, she has since set up a crypto savings account and is in the process of making payments. The ambition of its boss Nicolas Louvet: to become the first European crypto bank. Another nugget of gold, the Parisian start-up Kaiko, described as “the Bloomberg of the crypt”, does 50% of its business in the United States. It provides real-time cryptocurrency and exchange rate indices from the billions of transactions made every day. “The blockchain will serve the industrial applications of tomorrow’s financing, I’m very sure,” explains founder Ambre Soubiran, a former derivatives specialist at HSBC.

It is not Bpifrance who will deny it. “We have funded almost 150 start-ups in blockchain and cryptocurrencies with our traditional lending, grant or innovation competition mechanisms, and we plan to strengthen this support,” confirms Ivan de Lastours, head of the public bank blockchain.

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Finance is not the only sector affected. With NFTs, this authentication tool also based on blockchain, all brands are destined to use these tools. It is, for example, the belief of Pierre Nicolas Hurstel, co-founder of Arianee, a start-up that has created a platform for the luxury and fashion industry in collaboration with Richemont, Ba & sh and Thierry Mugler.

The idea? Enables brands, through proof of authenticity and ownership of their products, to regain control of counterfeiting or the second-hand market. Impossible to resell a Breitling watch without the NFT certification that you are the owner. This digital passport is also intended to certify purely virtual creations. Finally, through this NFT, brands can establish a direct dialogue with their proprietors and free themselves from Google and others. It remains to be hoped that regulators and politicians will understand the problems. “The environment is not reassuring,” regrets Frédéric Montagnon.

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