The fall of my darling of French technology and the Internet of things

Sigfox, the former French technology leader, was put into receivership in January 2022, and will be formally taken over by Singaporean Unabiz, the Internet of Things provider, founded by… a former Sigfox employee. This sudden drop illustrates the volatility of the industrial destiny of start-ups, even the most promising, and the somewhat limited growth of the Internet of Things market, presented as El Dorado in the mid-2010s.

flash back. In 2016, Sigfox, a young French company specializing in low-speed networks for the Internet of Things, raised 150 million euros in funding, the largest in French technology at the time. The future looks bright, and the growth prospects for Sigfox’s robust and efficient proprietary technology and IoT seem endless.

Sigfox dream shattered into reality

Six years later, the dream shattered upon a less rosy reality. Sigfox first encountered an Internet of Things market that had not seen the announced explosion. In 2015, Gartner estimated that the number of connected objects in the world will reach 25 billion in 2020. This number did not exceed 6 billion at this date.

But Sigfox failed even more. The company intended to operate 1 billion objects in 2023, but currently only connects 20 million objects in 75 countries. The startup also pays for its choice to develop a proprietary standard, certainly of high quality, but it hampers interoperability with other connected objects.

The questionable choice of IoT technology

So much so that other technologies have proven themselves more widely in the world of IoT connectivity, notably LoRa, which is a low-speed, low-power technology, like Sigfox, but which is open source and allows you to do without a carrier, or NB -IoT, a standard that uses wireless networks for existing telecom operators . 5G is also likely to gain market share.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the global shortage of semiconductors have clouded the picture. In September 2020, Sigfox implemented a plan to surplus 10% of its workforce. In February 2021, its president and co-founder, Ludovic Le Moine, gave way to Jeremy Prince.

Impossible change in strategy

Then the young shoot tried one last blow: to abandon the communications infrastructure, switching exclusively to providing Internet services to businesses. To succeed, this plan required the last two networks operated by Sigfox to be sold directly, in France and the United States (having already sold its German network in 2020).

The economic situation precluded this sale, sending Sigfox into a cliff. Having been in debt of 155 million euros, Sigfox was unable to pay its current expenses, it entered receivership in January 2022.

Sigfox’s activities are handled by Singapore’s UnaBiz

On April 21, 2022, the Toulouse Commercial Court appointed the buyers of Sigfox SA and Sigfox France: the Singaporean operator of IoT networks UnaBiz. The latter was founded by a former employee of Sigfox, and operates the Sigfox network in Singapore.

Among the dozens of buyers who submitted a file, this was the preferred solution for employees, for obvious reasons related to company culture, but also to funding structuring and strategy. Being a foreign investor, the operation had to get the approval of the Ministry of Economy to be carried out.

1 billion to 3.6 million euros: the big discount on Sigfox assets

Of the 174 jobs at parent company Sigfox SA, Unabiz will maintain 110 jobs. 70 employees of the French subsidiary must also keep their jobs.

UnaBiz will definitively guarantee the French technological supremacy of Sigfox. Besides securing Sigfox sales in the next 12 months as new markets emerge in the post-pandemic environment, the new Sigfox will reinvent itself and collaborate with other LPWAN technologies such as Lora, LTE-M and NB- IoT to seize new development opportunities »refers to Henri Bong, co-founder and co-CEO of UnaBiz.

UnaBiz has purchased all of Sigfox’s assets for €3.6 million. Young photography founder, Ludovic Le Moine, confirms that he refused, in 2018, when Where the initial public offering of young photography looked realistic€1 billion bid for a nugget.

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