VivaTech: Why Does Emmanuel Macron Flirt so much with Elon Musk?

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Elon Musk, the boss of SpaceX, Twitter and Tesla in particular, met his French fans at VivaTech

ELON MANIA:  3,600 people, handpicked, waited a long time on Friday in the Parisian heat to attend the Elon Musk show, at the VivaTech show

  • VivaTech hit hard this year: the famous American entrepreneur put on the show for an hour in front of 3,600 handpicked people, after talking to Emmanuel Macron.
  • While he came to France twice in one month, the American multi-billionaire has not yet made any announcement about setting up on French soil.
  • “He is a controversial personality, but he remains a huge economic player, in multiple sectors of activity and who, at the moment, is in the process of reorienting himself at the geopolitical level”, affirmed Catherine Delahaye, expert in economic intelligence, in ahead of the billionaire’s visit to the tech fair.

“He’s not even friendly”, says a colleague in the long queue reserved for the media on Friday afternoon at the VivaTech show, Porte de Versailles in Paris. And yet, he had to go through controls and stressed reception and security agents, and in fact not very pleasant, to almost approach one of the richest men on the planet: Elon Musk. “He is a controversial personality, but he remains a huge economic player, in multiple sectors of activity and who, at the moment, is in the process of reorienting himself at the geopolitical level”, affirmed Catherine Delahaye, expert in economic intelligence, in ahead of the billionaire’s visit to the tech fair.

With a media square that gave pride of place to a number of influencers under the Paris dome and 3,600 people almost all rallied to his cause, Elon Musk was acclaimed for a long time upon his arrival on stage, alongside Maurice Lévy, co-organizer of VivaTech and chairman of the supervisory board of the Publicis group. ”  We love you Elon  ” rang out as the particularly heavy applause gave the impression of a daring mix between a political meeting and an American -style talk show. After a succinct introduction where Elon Musk mischievously launched that he was not a hologram and introduced his mother, present in the room, the two businessmen attacked their private jokes, in an overheated room.

No major announcement on investments in France

Everyone believed in it hard as iron and yet: Elon Musk did not announce the establishment of a Tesla factory in France. While Emmanuel Macron met him for the second time in a month, first inviting him to the sixth edition of “Choose France”, where he had received in Versailles more than 200 big bosses of foreign multinationals in the mid-May, then for an interview at the Elysee Palace on Friday, the American multi-billionaire did not seem to decide to promise anything to the French president, nor to the 4,000 people who cheered him on at VivaTech.

“He is a very advanced entrepreneur on multiple technologies. Take his company Neuralink, or his Tesla cars, enthuses Catherine Delahaye. I still imagine that he will not be insensitive to what France can bring him: all the plans and funding announced recently, including part of VivaTech, are a financial windfall, which he may not have needed, but he is above all a businessman”, she further analyzes. A businessman who also clearly told VivaTech that he had paid “way too much for the acquisition of Twitter  ”.

Pro-freedom and pro-regulation, how to choose?

“Devil or genius, can’t I be both?” joked Elon Musk in front of an audience of attentive students and young start-ups, while reaffirming his desire to free speech on Twitter and to… regulate artificial intelligence. A particularly important point for Catherine Delahaye at a time when the European Union, after the DSA, tackles the regulation of AI. “Under very libertarian cover, he is in fact very aware of the risks of artificial intelligence drifts and prefers to anticipate and supervise them, rather than act a posteriori”. He had also been one of the signatories, alongside scientists and experts, of an open letter, published in March, which called for the development of AI to be put on hold, in particular, because of the extremely fast from ChatGPT.

The American boss, with extreme political positions, has become the darling of conservatives across the Atlantic for his fight against censorship and for having restored the account of ex-President Donald Trump. He nevertheless represents an asset for the French head of state, who hopes to rebalance his sphere of influence in the European Union. “Elon Musk already set up a Tesla factory in Germany four years ago. However, to rebalance the Franco-German couple, which is in fact a rivalry, Emmanuel Macron needs him, and his investments on the national territory, ”notes Catherine Delahaye again.

But the interest of Elon Musk, who accepted a few questions at the end of the conference and put in his pocket the business card of a start-up, sitting in the front row, for France, and Europe is also a reality. For the expert in economic intelligence, “he must increase his economic relations with the EU, he who has been established in China for a very long time”. However, Sino-American tensions could eventually get the better of the billionaire’s investments in the Democratic Republic of China. “Not only are the Chinese putting more and more obstacles in his way, for Tesla or his other activities, but his own country as well, since the American government and Joe Biden believe that the somewhat close ties he has maintained for years with China, could cause damage geopolitically speaking, and deserve to be restricted”.

When are the announcements?

To conclude, Emmanuel Macron needs Elon Musk and vice versa. But the mountain has so far given birth to a mouse. Have we really “lost two hours of our time”, as a colleague said, struck by the heat and emptiness of the experience on Friday afternoon? “A character of his ilk does not travel innocently to a month apart in France, if not to complete contracts or intentions of contracts”, assured Catherine Delahaye.

The “Elon mania” won VivaTech on Friday, “we saw Elon, we saw him”, exclaimed Ninon, a 19-year-old student, who after two hours of queuing, was able to breathe the same air as her idol. “We were a bit far, adds her friend Alma, we didn’t see her face too much, which was full of light, but still! “. We did not really taste this annoying excitement for such a divisive personality and we therefore wanted to know more. “Why was it so important to be there? But because he’s a star, ”concluded Ninon energetically. We understand better why influencers had priority!

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