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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A Penny For Your Thoughts?

This is a really quick post regarding this week’s upcoming TechCrunch Paris event at LaCantine on March 24th. The event is currently sold out.

Huh?

As I’m moderating the women’s panel, I thought I would take the opportunity to get any lingering questions/comments prior to the event. Take a look at who is on the panel:

Céline Lazorthes

The 27-year-old behind Leetchi.com, who recently raised a round with Xavier Niel and Jérémie Berrebi’s Kima Ventures.

Béatrice Jauffrineau

The founder of Femmes Business Angels, an organization which has helped women invest in companies like Jiwa and Alenty – as well as women-founded companies.

Marie Ekeland

The only lady partner on Elaia Partners team, a French VC firm which has made killer investments including Goojet, Criteo and Wyplay.

Olivier Billon

The 26-year-old male co-founder behind online female fashion guide, Ykone. Oh, and also one of the first success stories to come out of the Sciences Po incubator.

Questions. Comments. Concerns.

Wonder what problems female entrepreneurs and investors run into in a male-dominated tech space? Or maybe what issues a male entrepreneur may run into in a women’s fashion market?  Perhaps being of a minority gender presents secret strengths? If there is something you’d like our panel to share or discuss, feel free to slip in a comment or shoot me an email – my contact details can be found here.

Paris is so (not) expensive

For start-ups, that is. Here’s one quick example…

Yes, Free Internet.

If you’re passing through Paris for business and need internet to work, LaCantine is an incubator/co-working space that offers FREE internet (and coffee!). Last I checked, that means it’s cheaper than working at Starbucks. And if you need actual très short-term office space, it’s only €7 for a half-day and €10 for a whole. While it may be a little hidden, it’s well worth the hunt.

151 rue Montmartre, Passage des Panoramas

12 Galérie Montmartre, 75002 Paris (Metro: Grands Boulevards, lines 8,9)

Open Monday-Friday 9am-6pm

More info (terrific start-up events and such) @ lacantine.org – I just wish they had their website available in English…

France, meet Twitter.

LeWeb came and left Paris and we couldn’t even get President Sarkozy – or Baby Sarkozy (Jean), for that matter – a verified Twitter account. Sad.

Especially after Robert Scoble’s post-LeWeb rant (which made me cringe because it seemed so Silicon Valley-centric and arrogant), I would’ve thought French companies would’ve tuned into the need to get on Twitter ASAP.

 A decent number of French start-ups actually were on Twitter prior to LeWeb.

Some (about 160) of which are included in Goojet’s Cedric Giorgi’s Twitter List. Still, I’ve been coming across more and more French start-ups sans Twitter account recently.

This doesn’t mean that US start-ups have mastered the art of tweeting, however.

Soon-to-go-public Solyndra, for example, is one Silicon Valley company without a Twitter account. But it looks like someone is already squatting their name, which brings me to my next point: even if you’re not going to tweet, get on Twitter and claim your account name ASAP.  I am more than certain that someone is going to come along and snatch it up if I don’t get there first (yes, Twitter squatting is one of the less original and more lamentable business ideas I’ve had recently).

What makes Silicon Valley unique is the quick adoption of different technologies.

Therefore, from a professional standpoint, being slow to adopt these new means of communication may send the wrong message. I’ve been particularly disappointed to see Invest in France (and other French governmental organizations) MIA from Twitter, while Ireland, Canada, the UK and even Spain have already registered their accounts (Spain is yet to tweet, but still). Germany, contrary to what I would’ve thought, seems to be in the same slow boat with France. 

Now, the only other finger I’m going to point is at French VCs, mainly Sofinnova, Innovacom and Partech. 

If you have an office in Silicon Valley and encourage new technology growth and adoption, I would have thought you’d be that much more inclined to get on Twitter just to try it out. And you may not care about Twitter but I bet some of your portfolio companies wouldn’t mind. That being said, I’d also love to see tweets from the CIA’s Silicon Valley-based venture group, In-Q-Tel.

Nonetheless, there are a few French organizations that I would like to commend for their Twitter accounts:

 Innovation Cluster Cap Digital, SME Support Organization OSEO (wouldn’t hurt to tweet a bit more), Paris-based Incubator and Coworking space LaCantine and Networking group Open Coffee Paris. I’m also rather proud of business school, HEC  and Paris’s public transportation account.

There. Now that I’ve got that out of my system, to the rest of France, please meet Twitter.