The French at the forefront of the crypto and NFT revolution

While China is putting the finishing touches on its digital yuan and the US is actively working to do the same with the dollar, the European Central Bank is taking its time. Its dematerialized euro is not expected to see the light before 2025. Without waiting, start-up Angle Labs followed suit by launching a “stablecoin” based on the euro and on the blockchain last November. The two founders, Pablo Veyrat and Guillaume Nerfvo, both of Polytechnique and Stanford University, immediately caught the eye, raising € 5 million from international venture capital funds.

A stablecoin, for the uninitiated, is the digital replica 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 proliferation of French ventures in what is commonly referred to as fintech. “They publish! At the moment many companies are created but they are still under the radar,” explains Frédéric Montagnon, one of the French pioneers of the blockchain. We have a very strong competitive advantage with our engineers, who are very good at math and finance. Those who left yesterday for New York, London or Hong Kong are now finalizing their own projects. “

A revolution is underway that we are still struggling to fully measure. Because behind the concepts of blockchain, cryptocurrency, NFT (non-fungible token) or Web3, a new Internet philosophy is being born. A decentralized and open source network (open access platforms and technologies) in which users, individuals and companies take back control of their data.

“Philosophy is transforming what has been captured by the Gafam into the common good”, continues Frédéric Mongagnon. An example: today the holder of a Facebook account cannot retrieve the data of his followers to transport them to another platform. It is Facebook that holds this treasure. In Web3, on the other hand, everyone has their own data. Potentially, this revolution heralds the collapse of the first social network which, by changing its name (Meta now), wanted to send a reassuring message to the markets as well.

The banking and insurance world is also seriously concerned. The blockchain allows you to carry out many banking services without intermediaries (Visa card, banks), in an immediate and secure way. In the United States, the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, created ten years ago, already has a market capitalization of 33 billion euros. BNP Paribas the bicentenary, the first bank in the euro zone, is worth 58.

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In France, the unicorn Ledger, worth 1.5 billion, is the leader of this new finance. Created in 2014, it designs and manages cryptocurrency portfolios for individuals and a hundred companies … 85% abroad. Its flagship product, the Ledger Nano, sold several million units every year, allows you to store your assets in some sort of ultra-secure USB key. The capitalization of cryptocurrencies is estimated at nearly $ 2 trillion, which suggests significant potential for Ledger protecting 15% of all cryptocurrencies in the world. “The growth pit ahead of us is phenomenal, confides its CEO Pascal Gauthier. We are in a time similar to 1998, when the number of Internet users was only 300 million.”

Among the stocks on the rise is Coinhouse, which was spun off from Ledger in 2017. Initially a cryptocurrency broker, it has since created a cryptocurrency savings account and has been making payments. The ambition of its boss Nicolas Louvet: to become the first European cryptobank. Another nugget, Parisian start-up Kaiko, dubbed the “Bloomberg of cryptocurrencies,” does 50% of its business in the United States. It provides cryptographic price indices and real-time exchange rate from the billions of transactions made every day. “The blockchain will serve the industrial applications of finance of tomorrow, I am very confident,” explains founder Ambre Soubiran, a former derivatives specialist at HSBC.

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

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

The idea? Allowing 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 NFT certifying that you own it. This digital passport is also intended to certify purely virtual creations. Finally, through this NFT, brands can establish a direct dialogue with their owners, freeing themselves from Google and others. It remains to be hoped that regulators and politicians understand the problems. “The environment is not reassuring”, regrets Frédéric Montagnon.

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