From 2016 Paris will become home to the world’s largest digital business hub. Located in the Halle Freyssinet building in the heart of the city, Paris is following the example of London’s tech city in Old Street and transforming an old train track and truck centre into 33,000 square meters of space for new businesses and startups.
With France being perceived over recent years as a difficult place for startups to emerge, the project aims to attract entrepreneurs and give emerging talent a place to share knowledge, ideas and promote digital innovation.
Press coverage has all too often focused on the negative side of the French startup community. Bureaucracy, excessive paperwork and employment issues have tarnished the country’s image as an exciting place to do business. While there is certainly room for improvement, there’s been some amazing successes over recent years that has laid the foundation for the emerging tech scene.
1. The four founders of the conversational marketing technology provider Neolane, who met and started their business in Paris in 2001, sold their business to Adobe for €600 million.
2. The dating app Happn that’s been widely adopted throughout the UK has just raised £5m to take the app international.
3. Advertising platform Criteo is currently valued at $1.5bn on the US Nasdaq
4. Mobile phone network Iliad is valued at €9.1 billion.
The tech scene has seen significant progress in areas of funding, emerging talent (especially in engineering), improved legislation and the planned developments at Halle Freyssinet. But there’s still a perception – from overseas at least – that investment opportunities within the French startup scene are limited.
For startups looking to expand, raising capital in Paris is certainly more difficult than in London or Silicon Valley, with many looking to venture capitalists from abroad in order to raise the necessary finance.
Last year, in an attempt to try support overseas investment, the French president François Hollande met with GigaOm co-founder Om Malik and a number of renowned venture capitalists from the US for a candid discussion about investment in France.
While the president’s speech was met with much shoulder shrugging and cries of “we’ve heard it all before” from the French, the VCs left with a very positive and surprised view of the French tech scene saying that it was much stronger than they originally thought. Overcoming what’s essentially an image problem will take time and long term commitment, but the government is showing increasing signs that it’s starting to get behind the startup community.
Cisco has recently announced a partnership with the French government to invest $100 million into French startups over the next few years. They’ll also be providing education to 200,000 people on network infrastructure, collaboration on cyber security and the development of smart cities.
The partnerships will also include the development of a Cisco networking academy to ensure French entrepreneurs have the necessary skill set to drive digital innovation forward.
With the French Trade Commission, Ubifrance, stating that there are now 4,000 tech startups in Paris, the funding is an encouraging sign for these emerging companies. While much more needs to be done, the initial signs are encouraging and the government is now more inclined to help startups than in recent years. With a little luck – and the arrival of the Halle Freyssinet hub – the word “entrepreneur” can finally come back home.