Four questions on digital technology for Pierre Reboul, founder of Electronic Business Group (EBG)

Pierre Reboul, the founder of Electronic Business Group (EBG), explores the new challenges and opportunities that digital technologies create for SMEs, from the digital transformation of companies to market globalisation to new investment niches.

Do you think SME can successfully execute a digital transformation?

Pierre Reboul: “Digital transformation” is how traditional brands and large groups react to the intrusion of new, disruptive market participants. These “intruders” are revolutionising service, cutting out the middleman or offering the same product or service at a much lower price. So by definition, digital transformation is imposed by small players, and the smaller you are, the better are your chances for succeeding.

What should an SME do to ensure the success of its digital transformation?

P.R.: The skills of the person to be hired and the CEO’s degree of openness are the keys to success. The CEO must understand that all he or she has built, often with established processes and stable prices, is potentially in danger. I believe that budgeting is secondary. You cannot run a successful transformation by buying software or retaining IT development subcontractors. Rather, you must understand how technology is capable of turning your line of business and its value chain upside down.

Will digital technology globalise all markets?

P.R.: Yes, and that’s the crux of the problem. It was not a French company that bought the rights to the French Ligue 1 out from under Canal Plus, but a Spanish broker, who will resell them on the global market. It isn’t yet another French channel but rather Netflix that represents Canal Plus’s biggest threat in the area of cinema and TV series. And it’s a Qatari company that has been challenging Canal Plus for the last six years, offering subscription plans for 60% less. The same thing is happening in many markets: holiday rentals, pet boarding, scooter sharing, food delivery, second-hand cellphone sales, etc. Everything is becoming global, with between one and three main market participants.

Which are the most promising sectors for an investor?

P.R.: I can think of two in particular. Artificial intelligence, firstly, whose performance is very far from the dreams you can read about in certain media articles. AI can be separated into core technologies –artificial intelligence engines – and applications such as conversational agents. The second is blockchain, while keeping in mind to steer clear of ICOs (Initial Coin Offerings), whose legal status is virtually non-existant. It makes more sense to focus on the software that uses blockchain as a date and time stamping system or a certification service for law firms, for example.


Apax Talks


Apax Talks is a digital magazine aimed at company managers. It presents growth levers for SMEs, with a focus on TMT, consumer, healthcare and services sectors.