EuroTrip // A journey through Europe’s Startup Scene: France

By Sophie Cohen

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I would like you to join me as I take you on a European Startup tour. As I am French, let’s start with France - more specifically Paris - with the aim to understand what is going on there; what the landscape looks like and most of all where would be the best place for a start up to be created, incubated, accelerated, funded and put on a sky rocket.

In future instalments we will continue the startup journey to Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Amsterdam, Madrid, Lisbon and Bucharest.

France

Number of Startups

Today, greater Paris is home to 12,000 startups; a number that actually exceeds London or Berlin as it happens. In addition, the largest incubator in the world - aiming for 1,000 startups - will open its doors at la Halle Freyssinet this year, thanks to Free’s CEO, Xavier Niel. Further afield you also have cities like Bordeaux, Montpellier, Lyon, where a significant number of startups have recently emerged. Already, the digital industry accounts for 1.5mill jobs in France.

French Unicorns

BlaBlaCar connects car owners and co-travellers to share city-to-city journeys through the largest rideshare service in the world.
Criteo, performance marketing.
Sigfox, builds wireless networks to connect low-energy objects such as electricity meters.
Deezer a web-based music streaming service.
Vente-Privee, fashion ecommerce platform.
The one to watch: Withings who designs internet-connected devices and describes its products as part of internet of things.

Funds?

France has over 100 VCs (Kima Ventures, Partech, Alven Capital, Serena Capital, Avolta Partners...) who last year invested EUR 1.2bn. It is the second largest fund investment in Europe just behind the UK. bpifrance - the public bank - is also injecting capital into French startups. In 2014, they helped 150 of them with a total of EUR 645m. In 2015, they injected EUR 200m.

Who are the biggest VCs?

Kima Ventures, the most active angel investor in the world, was founded in 2010 by Xavier Niel and Jérémie Berrebi with the goal to support and finance innovative companies with seed capital all over the world. Since founding, they have backed over 200 startups in 23 countries and on average continue to make two new investments every week.

ID invest With €4 billion under management, LD Invest Partners is a European leader in private equity specialised in the low and middle market segments. LD Invest is managed by Christophe Bavière and Benoist Grossmann.
Portfolio: Criteo, Sarenza, Talend, Viadeo

Elaia Partners Co founded by Philippe Gire and Xavier Lazarus in 2002, Elaia Partners is an independent private equity boutique focused on Digital Economy. Elaia Partners currently manages more than €125 million mainly through Elaia Ventures. In addition they created Elaia Alpha, focusing on seed stage startup with a total fund of €45m fund.
Portfolio: 1001 Menus, AllMyApps, Carnets de mode, Criteo, ScoopIt, Goomeo, Mirakl

Partech Ventures is an International Venture Capital firm with offices in San Francisco, Paris and Berlin. It was founded in 1982 and has since invested in companies both in consumer internet and information technology. For example, Partech Ventures has invested in Sigfox and Scoop.it

Isai is an entrepreneur’s fund for early stage internet startups. It was founded in 2008 by Pierre Kosciusko Morizet, Stephane Treppoz, Geoffroy Roux de Bezieux, Tariq Krim and Ouriel Ohayon. ISAI’s portfolio includes Blablacar, Tinyclues and 360 Learning.

Newfund Founded in 2008 by Patrick Malka and François Veron, Newfund is a french Venture Capital firm investing in tech startups, especially in the medical & health sector.

Alven Capital is a venture capital specialised in internet, media & IT activities. It was founded in 2000 and invests now in its fourth generation fund. Companies like Mailjet, Novapost and Open Classrooms are part of Alven’s portfolio.

Education?

Apparently France is short by over 50,000 software developers. The government has announced the creation of a “digital school” to help supporting this industry. In the meantime schools like Simplon, Webacademy, Webforce3, School 42, are able to train developers within a few months.

School 42, founded by Xavier Niel is free for students and will be able to train between 800 to 1,000 students at a time.

Tax?

The tax schemes currently available in France also provide strong opportunities to reduce the corporate tax and the global effective tax rate. I won’t go into too much details as it would be zzz… however to summarise, for a foreign company, setting a business as an innovative and doing R&D gives you a lot of tax reduction and could be beneficial. Below is a list of the various tax advantages available in France. The downside of it is that France admin system is so damn complicated…

  • Refundable tax credit for research and development
  • Tax credit for encouraging competitiveness and employment
  • Tax incentive on intellectual property
  • Tax-exempt share savings plans
  • Temporary business local tax exemptions
  • Innovative startup status

In summary, pros and cons:

Pros

  • France is one of the biggest business angels in the world.
  • Great schools and qualified people for a lower cost than an engineer in the valley.
  • Less turnover.
  • Great infrastructure in terms of speed of internet connection (optic fibre).
  • France is under the employment law of 35h a week and 25 days annual leave.
  • France has Med Sea, Ocean, Ski resorts, Mickey, Paris, Champagne and wine, beautiful food, French CanCan.

Cons

  • Paperwork and admin are endless and complicated; it can take away lots of energy in a startup…
  • Regulations are different than other countries and it can be sometime difficult for foreign companies to adapt.
  • Employment regulations are extremely heavy and non flexible and again it can put off lots of businesses hiring in France. The Employment Law book comprise of 3000 pages (...zzz…)
  • Scaling up can be difficult, due to the lack of trust from the banks in terms of helping companies to grow…
  • France has got strong Unions with demonstrations happening almost weekly.
  • Sadly, recent past history of terrorist attacks…
What do you know about the European Startup scene? We’d love to hear from you on Twitter @MitchelLake

Sources
Kreston
France Info
La French Tech
Economie
Capital

MitchelLake is the world's leading executive search and talent acquisition firm for startup, scale up and digital transformation ventures. Established in 2001 we have established operations in North America, Asia, Europe and Oceania.