What the new French President means for startups

Yes, that’s right, over the weekend France elected a new President, François Hollande. It came as a bit of a surprise to many, as the country has not has a Socialist President since François Mitterrand in 1995 – nor has a President only served 1 term since Valéry Giscard-d’Estaing left office in 1981. Still, clearly France made the decision to move on and turn a new page.

Um…what does this mean for startups?

I published a post on The Kernel earlier today with some of my thoughts on what the new President could mean for startups. Overall, it actually is pretty unclear, as neither candidate really had a strong program for innovation and the development of the digital economy. While they were both very active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the likes, neither of them really stopped and asked why those types of companies were not being bred in their backyard.

Not so black and white.

Still, regardless of the fact that the entrepreneurial crowd may be somewhat in the dark as to what to expect, I think many publications have been quick to jump to the conclusion that François Hollande and a Socialist President naturally mean that the country is going to slow down.

Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman was one of the first to point fingers at some of the publications, namely The Economist, which called him a “rather dangerous Mister Hollande.” Even The Guardian – which definitely didn’t seem too supportive of the President-elect, affirmed that this still “doesn’t mean that a Socialist presidency is as dangerous as too many like to say.” Though I think that the journalist, Frédéric Filloux, goes a little overboard in his criticism and ignores that some of the problems he mentions are not specific to France nor to a Socialist President. For example, VCs around the world would likely agree that the industry hasn’t performed well as a whole – it is not necessarily specific to France.

More than Carla Bruni.

Sarkozy definitely didn’t have the highest ratings, but I do think that he should be credited for some of the improvements he made, which include everything from softening the famous 35-hour workweek to raising the retirement age to developing the famous auto-entrepreneur scheme for individual entrepreneurs. While it’s easy to point fingers and say that the administration has done very little for innovation, there was more to his presidency than Carla Bruni.

E-health and video games.

It’s definitely unclear how things will play out for the entrepreneurial crowd, especially since Hollande became increasingly pro-innovation and investment towards the end of the campaign. Let’s just hope it’s not a coincidence and that there is actually some truth to the story. And while it’s difficult to distinguish the political jargon from actual promise, his digital advisor, Fleur Pellerin, did make it clear that the priority sectors would be e-health and video games should he be elected. Regardless, the local tech crowd, while optimistic, seems a bit blasé. Rather than putting their hope in the new administration, many entrepreneurs say they’d rather focus on simply building great products. And who can blame them?

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