Today, many agree to say and demonstrate the major role of start-ups in the economy. However, it should be noted that support for start-ups is not unanimous. The impact of start-ups is sometimes perceived as destroying value. However, considering the Schumpeterian process of creative destruction, one can consider that start-ups can destroy value in this or that area, but can also create at least as much value in other areas. The result would then be positive in the end, even if the debate remains unresolved. Besides, what is the point of this debate: start-ups exist and their actions are irremediable. We have to deal with them, because it is not incantations for or against start-ups that will change a state of affairs: ICTs give latitude to create without precedent in human history.
Why and how are start-ups important? To answer this question, I retain three criteria that seem to me more than sufficient.
Firstly, is start-up as a vector for growth innovations? Start-ups have risk written into their DNA. Start-ups have risk written into their DNA. This singular character of start-ups leads us to perceive them as vectors of innovation. For many authors, perception is akin to reality. In his 1997 book, « The innovator’s dilemma. Why new technologies cause great firms to fail », Clayton M. Christensen supports the idea that disruptive innovations (or breakthrough innovations, i.e. those based on non-existent technologies) cannot be initiated by the largest firms because their mode of development is too costly. For the author, a disruptive technology is a new technology, whose economic potential is still unknown, but which is costly at every stage of its development (research, launch, industrialization and commercialization). Start-ups, by their capacity to develop such disruptive innovations, can then be considered as vectors of growth innovation.
Secondly, the start-up as a vector of jobs? Let’s reason for a moment on the scale of a country larger than France: The United States. Three million jobs: that’s the figure put forward by the Kauffman Foundation in 2010 when analysing the impact of start-ups on the American economy between 1992 and 2005. This foundation also concludes that this compensates for the net job losses of existing companies. To quote another institution, the OECD in its report “Innovation for Growth” of 2013, confirms this trend for the USA, as for Europe. According to this body, it is the newly created companies that create jobs and the old ones that destroy them. This observation is verified over 10 years: before, during and after the financial crisis, from 2001 to 2011. The interested reader may wish to supplement this analysis with numerous other studies that point in the same direction.
Thirdly, the start-up as a vector of transformation? Two aspects of “transformation” can be put forward. Firstly, that of society (in the sense of the country) itself, and for this it is appropriate to return to the point “start-up as a vector of innovation”. All these innovations that are intended for us find their legitimacy only in the fact that we appropriate them. In other words, they change our relationship with the environment by modifying our uses. Another aspect of « transformation » is that which concerns the major groups in terms of new management methods. It is agreed that the activism of start-ups is leading large groups to be much more concerned with innovation, in short, not to rest on their laurels, i.e. their core business, as one would enjoy an income. Start-ups act as agents that propagate their ideas and lead large groups to be more active in innovation.
For my part, as you may have guessed, I am a fervent defender of the value brought by start-ups and too bad for those who do not yet consider them…