“France is among the most tasty locations on the earth proper now.”
You’d anticipate Cedric O, the French junior minister for digital affairs, to cheer for France. In spite of everything, the person has a two-metre neon sculpture of a purple rooster — the symbol of the French tech ecosystem — sitting simply exterior his workplace door, and delivers Twitter kudos day by day to homegrown startups like Mirakl, Voodoo and Alan.
What’s new is France’s technique to rise to the highest as Europe’s tech capital by constructing not simply on its strengths — but additionally on different’s weaknesses: locations like London, slowed down by Brexit.
France is placing within the work to seize the alternatives led to by Brexit and persisting US-China commerce wars, particularly in attracting tech expertise and among the world’s finest entrepreneurs.
After years of pumping cash into startups and making tax reforms within the hope of spawning unicorns, France is now focusing its digital technique on catching up with rival tech hubs it expects might be weakened, together with London.
Taking over London
“There’s extra worldwide expertise coming to France, in addition to extra French expertise coming again, together with from the US,” O tells Sifted in an unique interview. “The following step is making France an actual worldwide hub, as London was in a position to do earlier than.”
“Brexit is a large alternative for us, for immigration causes, to turn out to be the brand new worldwide hub,” says O. France has already overhauled its tech visa to make it straightforward for startups to make use of international expertise — and O hopes that loads of Brexit-weary Brits will benefit from this. “We’re rolling out the purple carpet for UK expertise.”
O argues the celebs are aligned for Paris to overhaul London as a worldwide hub for worldwide tech expertise, but additionally because the European capital for fintechs. (In the mean time, Paris is residence to 1,200 fintechs in keeping with Dealroom information, and London to a few occasions as many.)
“The monetary sector is one the place we are able to benefit from Brexit.”
“The monetary sector is one the place we are able to benefit from Brexit,” says O. “We see the tempo of fintech development in France accelerating. The French high quality of life and the standard of Paris as a finance hub are elements.”
Emmanuel Macron’s authorities is betting that the world’s present main tech hubs — London however to some extent additionally Silicon Valley — are prone to drop the ball due to native or regional challenges. That features London feeling political turbulence from Brexit.
France is on the point of decide up on the alternatives different nations will miss. With London out of the EU, that features turning Paris’ Euronext inventory trade into the go-to for tech inventory market IPOs from throughout Europe, says O.
“Constructing French tech has been a trans-partisan precedence for over 10 years, and we’re reaping the fruits now,” says O — and the federal government continues to plunge billions into building up its tech ecosystem. “There are some things we now have to unlock nonetheless, however the underlying development is de facto good. There aren’t any deal-breaker obstacles.”
UK’s trillion-dollar aim
However for all of France’s ambitions, it’s unlikely the UK will take issues mendacity down.
Final month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief advisor, Dominic Cummings, was reported to be taking a look at methods for the UK to construct tech firms value at least $1tn.
“Getting a trillion-dollar firm, that’s not one thing you’ll be able to simply declare,” says O. “The primary issue for valuing a tech firm is market measurement. The UK was profiting from the one market and it’s getting out of it.”
“Not solely has France been in a position to discuss the discuss, nevertheless it’s additionally strolling the stroll.”
“Not solely has France been in a position to discuss the discuss, nevertheless it’s additionally strolling the stroll,” says O. “We’ve carried out the reforms and we are able to provide stability.”
In September, France unveiled an financial stimulus bundle together with a €7bn budget for digital. Earlier this yr, the nation additionally got here out with considered one of Europe’s extra beneficiant bailout plans for startups amid Covid.
“The facility of huge tech within the US was constructed throughout the 2008 monetary disaster,” says O. Now there’s Covid, and France needs “to make use of the stimulus bundle to construct the French economic system in the long run, to make it extra aggressive in two precedence sectors: setting and digital.”
Extra particularly, synthetic intelligence, quantum computing and biotech are amongst precedence areas. After unveiling a plan about AI final yr, Macron is on the point of current a quantum computing funding technique, presumably as quickly as subsequent week, extra pressing Covid issues allowing.
“10 years in the past French entrepreneurs went to the US to arrange store,” says O. “Now there’s a brand new technology of entrepreneurs: they wish to be decacorns, construct world firms, and so they assume they will do it in France.”
Marie Mawad is Sifted’s French correspondent. She additionally covers AI, and tweets from @Marie_a_Paris