La French Tech looks to replicate Silicon Valley success - the French way

Can France use Brexit uncertainty to develop its growing tech ecosystem, La French Tech?

Building the next Silicon Valley is never an easy task, but France is hoping to further develop its growing tech ecosystem, La French Tech, by capitalising on Brexit uncertainty and extending its leadership in fields such as tech for good and AI for humanity. Growth is there: the latest French Tech report card by C.B. Insights found that France's startups raised $3.5 billion in funding in 2018, an increase of 8% over 2017, and more than $11.71 billion has been raised across 2,511 deals since 2014.

"Silicon Valley shouldn't be copied because it is so unique and so advanced that trying to copy something like that would be like trying to recreate Versailles elsewhere," argues Xavier Lazarus, partner and co-founder of Elaia Capital, a venture capital fund based in Paris. "Silicon Valley should be a model but we should use our differences to create something else."

France as a growing tech hub

Philippe Vimard, CTO of Doctolib, a French telemedicine start-up, has worked in the start-up environment in five different countries, and was VP of the Expedia Technology Group in the mid 2000s. Following a new round of funding of $170 million (€150 million) in March, Doctolib's valuation rose to $1.13 billion, earning it unicorn status.

Vimard said that what has made France a good environment for tech investment is two related movements. On the one side, funds have become more available for entrepreneurs to bootstrap their ideas and really invest in changing the ecosystem. "This has really picked up in the last two years and over the last five years, we have seen that the investment in the technical system in France has been larger than in the rest of Europe," he says.

Vimard adds that where you have a growth in funding, it attracts more people and entrepreneurs into the start-up ecosystem. "You need more talent, which is always the essence of success."

Linked to this, then, are what Vimard calls "true measures being taken to favour the arrival of new talent in France." The French tech visa for employees took effect on March 1, 2019 and made it easier for start-ups that qualify for the visa, like Doctolib, to hire people wherever they are and bring them to France through a faster process. Doctolib recently recruited from Mexico through the process, something that would have been more difficult in the past, according to Vimard.

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