Point : How did the idea for your club come about and why did you devote it to the cultural sector?
Eric Newton: The cultural and creative industries (CCI) weigh heavily in the economy of France. It is estimated that they contribute 110 billion euros to the gross domestic product of our country. Their weight continues to grow and in terms of employment, the companies that participate in these activities offer many opportunities for young graduates. However, the actors of this universe had until then no place to meet. Our idea was to create a place where they could meet, discuss their experiences, but also, why not, forge partnerships to develop.
When you arrive at your place and discover this beautiful private mansion and its garden, where thirty-year-olds in jeans and sneakers work, you have the impression of finding yourself in a sort of Interallied circle of the 21st century.e century. That was the project: a club for millennials?
Not really a “club” in the strict sense of the term, because we want to be open to the world and anyone can come to us, invited by a member, or organize a conference, an event without necessarily being. If I had to mention a model, it would rather be Anglo-Saxon. I wanted something like Hospital Club, founded in London in 2004 by Paul Allen and Dave Stewart (respectively co-creator of Microsoft and ex-musician of the group Eurythmics, editor’s note). I dreamed of a place that also had to do with the San Francisco club The Battery which unites hundreds of Silicon Valley start-up leaders around climate issues and corporate social responsibility.Finally, your project is quite similar to the one carried by Le Silencio, the club opened by David Lynch, rue Montmartre, ten years ago, and recently in Saint-Germain-des-Prés?
We are, I believe, very different. Our place is very business and especially open during the day…
Who comes to your house?
Our audience is quite diverse. Our members work for music labels, TV channels, movie studios. They are in communication, audiovisual or fashion and more broadly decision-makers passionate about creation. These are people who would not meet elsewhere and who, thanks to the intermingling that takes place here, can envisage surprising partnerships.
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An example ?
A video game production company that meets, through us, the management of a major Parisian museum. I was told that today they are working on a very promising project…
Finally, you are a matchmaker, your job is the same as that of the matchmakers of yesteryear?
Yes, we create short circuits between decision-makers and talents. We are allows all the cultural actors of our country to meet and talk to each other. The very meaning of our project is to break down silos, blast verticals and help boost creativity. In France, our society is too compartmentalised. The talents who join us have a lot to share. Their skills can be expressed across many sectors.
What is your small business business model?
It’s pretty classic. Like any club, each member must pay an annual fee (around 1,500 euros, editor’s note). 40% of our turnover is generated by the events we organize and by the rental of spaces. 20% comes from our activityhospitality : our restaurant, our bar and our caterers. The rest is generated by our TV program production activity, for the M6 group, in particular but also music.
Creating an old-fashioned meeting place at the time of the metaverse, isn’t that counter-intuitive?
The experience of confinement that we have lived through has shown us that all-digital is not a panacea. The virtual world like social networks denies humanity. A human needs to see, to touch, to look, to feel… A real meeting must necessarily be physical – this is valid in all types of relationship: romantic, friendly or professional.
Which sectors are the most represented in your company? And conversely, which cultural sectors have not yet joined you?
Traditional audiovisual and media professionals understood the usefulness of our club very early on. The world of consulting and communication is very well represented there. We have many representatives from the world of tech and digital, fashion and luxury. We have a lot of leading technology players because of our shareholding (the funding round includes several business angel very present in the Net-economy, Ed) and partnerships with VivaTech for example. It remains to seduce the publishing sector. I am convinced that book professionals would have much to learn from the exchanges they could establish with us.
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How do these meetings actually take place?
We have a rich program. On Monday evenings, we organize “talks” with personalities. Tuesdays are cinema meetings. On Wednesdays, we alternate piano-bar and comedy-club. On Thursday, labels organize showcases. On weekends, it’s quieter. We seek to highlight, every day, young talents. This is the whole purpose of one of our programs called “We are young leaders” and which allows young and old to pitch their project in front of investors. We are committed to presenting our partners with personalities who will create the unicorns of tomorrow. I tell myself that if We are had existed earlier, Netflix might be French! I would add that we place particular emphasis on supporting women who have a business project, in particular with the creation of specific meeting formats such as “Bright & Bold” with Laura Lesueur and Fatou Ndiaye. We received, 15 days ago, three women with exceptional backgrounds, Kat Borlongan, Maud Bailly and Marina Chiche.
On this subject, is parity respected in your country?
We are close. Our members are still predominantly male. But the male to female ratio is 60/40, which is much better than in many other circles.
You were talking about helping start-ups emerge. How do you contribute to it?
We organize two types of events that are dedicated to this mission. The first is entitled “We are challenges” within the framework of VivaTech. It aims to find and reward talented entrepreneurs. Ten days ago, we rewarded three start-ups, selected from 165 applications received, which will become members of We are and benefit, with the help of Bpifrance, from structural support for their development. The second is called “We are French Touch” and, as its name suggests, it is entirely dedicated to reflecting together on the impact of new French technologies: it is the first totally cross-functional event that honors everything this ecosystem! Created with the “French Touch” movement, it will take place on November 23 in various places, in Paris and in the Provinces.
To hear you speak, one would swear that your mission is to help give birth to the “start-up nation” described by the Élysée! Are you supported by the public power?
We have no ties with the state even though we work closely together. We are a strictly private project and if we settled in the 8e district of the capital, it is not to be close to the Presidency of the Republic, but more simply to be close to the decision-makers of our industries. We rely heavily on the idea of reciprocal generosity between our members. Our members have things to share: it can be experience, expertise, know-how. The goal we are pursuing by welcoming all these talents is to allow them to mutually enrich each other and to promote our French genius. And so much the better if it benefits the country.
*More information on the “We are” website.