French Pres. Emmanuel Macron: We Want To Be A “Startup Nation”

french president emmanuel macron
Written by Gina Smith

French Pres. Macron opened Paris’ VivaTech 2017 today, unveiling a four-year visa program for international entrepreneurs and a 10B Euro innovation fund. BY GINA SMITH

aNewDomain — France’s destiny is to become the world’s “startup nation,” French President Emmanuel Macron told conference attendees here at the’ VivaTech 2017 convention in Paris today.

“I want France to be a startup notation — a nation that thinks and moves like a startup,” Macron said, adding that the term “entrepreneur” characterizes what he called “the new France.” Government should “act as a platform, not as a restraint,” Macron said.

“We are at the beginning of a new momentum, of a new wave,” said Macron. As for France, “it  is the place to come, to innovate.”

Also in his address Macron unveiled a €10 billion innovation fund and announced the official start of a long-anticipated program to help international science and technology entrepreneurs get four-year visas to live and work in France.

Applications for the four-year visa program are now available at the La French Tech website.

La French Tech

La French Tech, a publicly funded initiative here in France, was launched in 2014 with the aim of  promoting French and international startups under a single brand in France and abroad, investors in the initiative told reporters (including this writer) here this week for a sponsored tour of some of the participating companies, investors, accelerators and initiatives.

Its ultimate goal, they told us, is to position France as a main tech driver and leader on the global stage. Despite what some have characterized as a somewhat bumpy start, the last 18 months have seen a marked increase in startup investment, the emergence of several high-profile incubators and emergence of programs welcoming entrepreneurs from the US, Canada, UK and elsewhere in the world.

The French Tech Visa program unveiled today by Macron is one of those programs.

According to representatives, French tech deals and VC funding grew 115 percent in 2016 from the year before, amounting to some 486 venture-backed investments, they said. More than $2 billion U.S. flowed into those companies last year alone.

Corporate investment was up, too, increasing to 29 percent of total deals in the last quarter of 2016 over the previous quarter, according to the data they shared with us this week.

Next stop: Station F

station f vivatech macron la french techLa French Tech representatives brought a dozen journalists from Wired, aNewDomain, The New York Times, Forbes and other American, British and Asian publications on a tour of the much-anticipated Station F, which they claim will be the largest single startup campus in the world when it opens in July 2017.

The tour revealed some 3,000 desks available for startups, including an enormous conferences space and a retail zone. Anchor tenants include Facebook, rising accelerators like NUMA, Usine IO, The Box, Partech Shaker and several others.

On this week’s tour, execs from such high-flying French companies as the French long-distance ridesharing platform BlaBlaCar, the IoT leader Sigfox and high-end audio hardware maker Devialet were on hand.

Some serious money is making the rounds, they pointed out. BlaBlaCar, for instance, has made seven acquisitions in its short lifespan, and has raised more than $310M U.S.

Sigfox, a firm that has raised some $309 million in five rounds and partnered with Texas Instruments and Silicon Labs, told a similar story. For its part, Devialet just completed a round topping $100 million, which its CEO told us was one of the biggest Series C funding rounds in French startup history.

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For aNewDomain, I’m Gina Smith reporting from Paris.

Images: Courtesy, All Rights Reserved; StationF via Challenges.FR, All Rights Reserved.