Stéphane Distinguin (EY Fabernovel): "Today's Internet is comfortable, but not viable".
For the founder of the consultancy specialising in digital transformation (acquired by EY in 2022), Web3 and its tools will give a new dynamic to the Web, even if the challenges, particularly in terms of adoption, remain significant.
The Big Whale: You advise many large companies. What is their vision of Web3?
Stéphane Distinguin: I've noticed, and this is excellent news, that they haven't all thrown the baby out with the bathwater because of scandals like Terra-Luna and FTX.
Most of them differentiate between certain scams and the technological underpinning, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, which are not involved. There's still a real interest around the new models that this new Internet makes it possible to create.
What do businesses particularly like?
I think it's this idea of decentralisation, or more precisely deconcentration, with an Internet that doesn't just belong to a few large platforms.
Web3 carries another philosophy, other values and there's still everything to build. Companies are aware that this is a new space to conquer 🚀.
Do you have any specific examples?
For example, there's the DAO (decentralised autonomous organisation) model, which is very intriguing. This new, decentralised form of organisation is of interest to some of our customers insofar as it allows new parties to be involved in the management of a project or even a company.
NFTs used in CRM tools are also attracting interest. I also think that Web3 has shown that it can be a lever for certain companies on the subject of the environment with more transparent traceability and reporting tools.
Is the issue of holding cryptocurrencies still a hot topic for companies?
It used to be, but today it's clearly less the case. When Elon Musk and Tesla made their announcement in 2021 (Tesla put cryptocurrencies in treasury 💸 ), everyone talked about it a lot.
At the time, it was almost a mistake not to ask the question, but with the sharp fall in the markets things have changed. You can be sure that when the markets go back up, companies will be asking themselves the question again.
Have many companies approached you on this subject?
I wouldn't say that many companies have come to us on this subject, but there have been some. And I'm talking about CAC40 companies.
Despite its controversial environmental reputation, do you think bitcoin has a future with businesses?
I think it has a future at all, because it has unique characteristics like being in limited supply. And once you understand that, it's in everyone's interest to grab it.
It's certainly no longer at €60,000 like it was in November 2021, but its price hasn't fallen much lower than €20,000. You still have to realise what that means, when listening to some people, everything has collapsed.
Which sectors do you think are most ripe for adopting Web3?
I think the most ripe are art, design and luxury, i.e. sectors that convey intangible value and need authentication and secondary markets.
I also hope, but this is really a personal wish, that everything to do with sustainable development will also be able to seize it. I'm thinking in particular of the tokenisation of certain practices, and therefore of valued use, such as recycling or consigning things.
Do you think that all businesses should take an interest in Web3?
Of course, there's no doubt about that, but the challenge of Web3 is really that of adoption. And when I say adoption, I mean everyday use. Many people still don't know how to use a wallet and may never do...
It was the same with computers or smartphones...
Yes, except that the speed of evolution of web3 technologies is much greater, so the time it takes to get the hang of it is shorter, which complicates overall adoption.
So how do we go about it?
That's the challenge facing the sector. We're going to have to massify the uses of Web3 without losing its technical advantages, which include decentralisation and security.
It's not easy to manage. We're paying for decades of laziness during which we didn't educate ourselves enough about digital issues. Today's internet is comfortable, but not viable.
Do the big companies have a role to play in the development of Web3?
I went through a blessed period in the early 2000s when mobile operators provided a lot of funding for start-ups and innovation. Twenty years on, I still think it's up to the big companies to fund these start-ups and innovation.
Take Nike, for example: did they pay the right price when they acquired the RTFKT studio? I'm not sure they did. But did Nike do a good job? I'm sure of it.
In my opinion, the best companies don't hesitate to test early, even if it means paying a high price, and they know how to make the most of it. And even if it doesn't work, this pioneering spirit is part of their standing.
Do you still see any interest in metaverses?
Regardless of Meta's difficulties, companies are still interested in it, and Apple's new virtual reality headset is the best example.
Whether it's Fortnite or Roblox, today's kids are developing practices and uses that are going to have a huge impact. Except that it takes time.
Are you personally a cryptocurrency holder?
Yes, I have bitcoin (BTC) and ether (ETH), as well as SOL and AVAX. I also have a few NFTs.
I'm lucky enough to know a few digital artists personally, such as Albertine Meunier, which has prompted me to take a close interest. Unfortunately, I don't have any CryptoPunks even though I would have loved to have one! I also played Sorare with my son. I think it really is the future of trading cards.