All over the country of France, the streets are abuzz with excitement as the men’s football (soccer) team took the highest achievement in the world for the first time in 10 years. It seems all eyes have been on Paris, with stories and images capturing the passion of a generation that exhibits a certain joie de vivre not only for their sports, but also for their country’s growing role in the global tech scene.
France’s leadership put a stake in the ground 10 years ago to make Paris the financial capital of Europe, and with the highest GDP on the European continent, Paris has become an increasingly viable place to launch and develop tech companies. And top titans of tech are taking notice, with icons like Sheryl Sandberg and John Chambers asserting Paris as the place to be in Europe right now, but why is the City of Lights exploding now?
The Funding Flows
Since 2014, Paris has been making a fast and furious run to the top of the list of startup investment deals in Europe, outpacing Germany in 2016 and surpassing the UK last year. The country boasts the highest birth rate of new companies and more money was invested in French startups in the last quarter than anywhere else in Europe.
Last year (2017) also saw a record year for deals made to French tech companies, increasing by nearly 45 percent, and investors are putting in more money than ever. In fact, the average investment rose from €2.4m in 2014 to €4.1m in 2016. [[source?]] And the first generation of French unicorns, BlaBlaCar and Criteo, have not only achieved tremendous success, but are now choosing to invest in other French entrepreneurs, extending the start-up ecosystem.
It’s Cool to Be a Founder
Some have said the French have been slower to accept the cultural shift in career paths for young people. While in the U.S. we’ve grown accustomed to 20-year-old CEO’s, the French have been more reluctant to jump on that bandwagon–choosing to pursue careers in more established industries like banking and management consulting–but times are changing.
Some of this shift is the result of a nudge from the French government, which for the last decade has made a concerted effort to ensure France is seen as a country doubling down on technology and fostering innovation.
The election of President Macron last summer further cemented this commitment, fueling the French Finance Minister to roll out a $13 billion disruptive innovation fund, with special focus on artificial intelligence, data protection, defense, energy, health, telecommunications, transport and water. Experts also point to La French Tech, a publicly funded initiative to promote French startups, as a major factor in bolstering the rise of Paris as a tech hub.
France Is Where the Talent’s At
French tech talent, particularly in engineering, are among the best in the world. French engineering schools have produced top tier innovators for years and the country now graduates as many engineers as their German neighbors. More importantly, that talent is being fostered and mentored by top tier enterprises and collaborating more than ever.
France now houses 450 incubators and accelerators, including Paris’ leading projects Partech Shaker and Station F. These campuses offer the most elite office space for startups in the country and provide founders with unmatched opportunities for networking and mentorship. Among present and past residents of Partech Shaker, which is a Techstars’ partner, are Dropbox, HotelTonight, Hired and Pinterest.
The shift in focus on technology and innovation in France has long been recognized and prioritized as a vital national movement that French citizens are incredibly proud of; however, global recognition is a more recent phenomenon. And with both talent and capital continuing to pour into the country, it’s safe to say that the growth will not just continue but will do so exponentially.