Will The Real French Administration Please Stand Up ?

It’s pretty paradoxical what is happening in France’s startup scene at the moment. On one side of the spectrum, the entrepreneurs, investors and the entire ecosystem seems to be gaining momentum. Several new seed funds were created in the beginning of the year – filling a very obvious gap in the local market and visibly fueling the development of quite a few startups. Then came the various mentorship programs, like the Founder Institute. Followed by the sprouting of regular startup events, like StartinParis, or even Startup Weekend – which is conquering the whole country. The infamous Paris-based co-working hub, LaCantine, is also spreading its wings and setting-up outside of Paris, in addition to a new acceleration program they’ve launched as well. And to top it all off, we’ve now got some of the big-name entrepreneurs talking about potential YCombinator-like programs for local startups. Call me crazy but I truly believe something incredible is going on.

And then the government* showed up.

Let me preface this by saying that I am probably the last person to ever critize France (in case this isn’t already obvious). I’ve even been called France’s cheerleader and community manager at times -probably because questions like this make my blood boil. I’ve always been a fan of the stuff people usually find rather ridiculous – the former 35-hour work week, the strikes, the vacation, etc. Yes, it’s true. So even if I love complaining, I’m not just going to start bashing the French state for the hell of it. I actually think France has a hell of a lot going for it, which surprisingly many people often overlook because they love to grab on to stereotypes and focus on the negative aspects.

But Bercy is apparently out to lunch.

If you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, read this. Honestly, it’s something I cannot wrap my head around. If I’m here complaining about it, it’s not at all because I want to bash the government but rather because I want to defend the French entrepreneurs. Plus, wouldn’t the long term effects of such a reform do more harm than good ? I am aware that the deficit is a damn good reason to want to make budget cuts,  but someone needs to wake Bercy up and make it see all the good that the entrepreneurs do for the local economy. The tax breaks that France grants startups – namely the JEI – are probably less well-known abroad but thousands of French startups benefit from them. Startups have been able to put more ressources into hiring and innovation as a result. We’ve already got investors in France that are ever-so-slightly more risk averse than in the US. So in my mind, it should be one of the last things the State should ever want to touch.

Puting Joseph Schumpeter on hold.

Alright, so France wants to ignore Schumpeter for a while, fine. Funny enough, it has also had a positive impact in a way. I have noticed that a majority of the entrepreneurs are really coming together to speak out against it – which is perhaps giving rise to solidarity and bringing them even more together. Some startups and organizations are even offering services for free if it relates to defending the JEI. And this in its turn is also giving more media attention and visibility to certain entrepreneurs and startups. So, France, put Schumpeter on hold all you want, because in the end it’s still producing a positive output – as minimal as it may be…

Shut-up and innovate.

In the end, it may sound a lot like France is telling it’s blossoming entrepreneurial community to shut-up and innovate. And well, that is kind of the case. But France would have to be really disconnected from reality to continue its current path. Once it remembers why it put the JEI in place, I’m sure it’ll come to its senses.

*And as you all know, I’m using “government” to mean “administration“.

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French Animation: A very pretty picture

If anyone is going to give Pixar a run for their money, it’s French animators.

Of course, everyone knows and loves Les Triplettes de Belleville, the French, Belgian and Québecois collaboration feature film that was nominated for 2 Oscars in 2003 .

Two shorter, more recent, no-to-be-missed animations are: French Roast, which won SIGGRAPH’s Best in Show award in August 2009, and Oktapodi, which was nominated for an Oscar in 2009 after winning the SIGGRAPH Best in Show award in 2008.

French Roast

Prior to French Roast, Fabrice Joubert did animation work for features like Wallace & Gromit and the Prince of Egypt.

Oktapodi

And prior to Oktapodi, the animation team was sitting behind desks and raising their hands to answer questions. That’s right, 20-something-year-old French students from Les Gobelins school of image arts went up against Pixar. I’m sure Pixar liked that.

Wondering what Gobelins students got up to in 2009? Check out their projects here (click on the blue eye icon to watch the film).

Save money- make a movie.

The French government helps fund locally-produced animation. The Crédit d’Impôt Audiovisuel (Audiovisual tax credit) will finance up to 20% of certain eligible production expenses, within the limit of €1200/minute for animation (€1150/minute for documentaries/fiction features).

Up next in French animation

French companies Method Animation and MK2 are said to be collaborating with Inidian DQ Entertainment, who recently acquired the animation rights to Charlie Chaplin.