15 years of consulting in niche markets
France, has been working overtime for the last four years to open both its economy and its borders to tech startups.
It’s not just that France is offering easy-to-access French Tech visas to founders, employees, and investors alike, so that it’s never been easier for techies to live and work in France — which, as a former Paris resident myself, I can tell you is pretty great.
It’s not just access to a sizable pool of relatively inexpensive engineers. It’s not just openness across academia as well as the private sector (41% of France’s 75,000 Ph.D students are not French.) It’s not just Paris beginning to surpass London in investor interest generally, not just in technology.
It’s also the transformation of the French population as well as the government. 50% of French youth aged 18-24, and 70% of students at the École Polytechnique, France’s flagship technical university, want to go work for startups rather than enterprises — and their ambitions are now European and/or global, not merely French. There’s strength in depth there, too; Chambers compares the raw engineering talent at the Polytechnique to that at Stanford, and France is one Fields Medal away from overtaking the USA in total numbers won.
All this is beginning to have a measurable effect. There were 274 French companies at the latest CES, up from 13 less than a decade ago. There were more than 700 VC investments in French tech companies last year, which rivals the UK, and more than 50 had American VC involvement.
France’s transformation into Europe’s primary technology power is real and ongoing, among all of government, academia, big business, and startups; but what they really need is a big hit and a cohort of successful entrepreneurs, a French equivalent of what the PayPal Mafia became. (Xavier Niel is having an enormous effect — see Ecole 42 and Station F, “the world’s largest startup facility” in southeast Paris — but he can’t do it alone.) If and when that happens, though, France will lead Europe for the foreseeable future … and help lead the globe, too.
Author: Jon Evans
Monday Jul 16, 2018