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France investing in its start-ups, launches new visa

The Economist recently had an interesting piece on multiple initiatives (by government and private venture capital investment alike) to encourage a blossoming of start-ups that Paris has not seen in years.

How this impacts you as potential or current expats: “Axelle Lemaire, the (Canadian-born) minister visiting NUMA, has launched a “tech visa” for foreign entrepreneurs.”

To learn more about this visa and the overall project to support French tech start-ups, you can peruse La French Tech.

Also of note: France is embarking on a “Come Back Home” campaign abroad to try to convince accomplished French expats to return to their homeland to help take the start-up economy to the next level.

I’ve included the Economist text below. Have any of my readers attended recent events in France (both Paris and other cities) related to start-up and tech investment?

Reinventing Paris
Start-up city

A capital seen as a museum develops new pockets of high-tech modernity
Jun 13th 2015 | PARIS | From the print edition

THE café is organic, the décor industrial loft-style and the furniture artfully mismatched. This is NUMA, a digital hub in Paris, where facial hair is abundant and ties are non-existent. Perhaps it is insouciance, ignorance or quiet concentration, but when a government minister turns up, nobody notices. A new generation is trying to reinvent how Paris behaves and looks.

It may not be Berlin or London, but something is taking place in the capital’s fringes and deserted industrial spaces. A city with more beauty and heritage than most, Paris is trying to shrug off its staid image. Scarcely a week goes by without an event devoted to start-ups in a converted dock or warehouse in an unfashionable area. On Paris’s eastern edge, Xavier Niel, an entrepreneur who heads a €12 billion ($13.5 billion) communications group, is building a start-up incubator with floor space equivalent to four football pitches. In the first quarter of 2015 a Paris venture-capital firm was joint-top investor in European technology start-ups, with two German companies, according to CB Insights, an American research group.

“There has been a transformation of mentalities in France,” says Mr Niel, who urges young people to take risks, think big and break conventions. “Entrepreneurship is a state of mind” reads a banner at NUMA, also home to Google’s Paris campus. The outlook is anti-hierarchical and anti-conformist. “Our force is cultural chaos,” says Frédéric Oru, a co-director. Another NUMA executive adds: “It’s not very French.”

One reason for change is that the young are no longer drawn to corporate life. Unemployment among graduates is 10%, and one in five of those who create new businesses are jobless. But some just want to do their own thing, away from the strict hierarchies of corporate France. A quarter of recent graduates of HEC, the top business school, have started their own company, up from one in ten a decade ago.

Second, successful entrepreneurs and investors now show what is possible. Mr Niel, who also built a software-development school in Paris, is one. Sigfox, a start-up that runs a cellular network for connected objects, pulled off the third-biggest European tech deal in the first quarter of 2015 when it raised $115m. BlaBlaCar, Europe’s biggest car-sharing service, raised over €100m last year. Incubators with names like TheFamily have grown. Facebook is opening a research centre on artificial intelligence in Paris.

Third, the Socialist government, which once whacked entrepreneurs with taxes, has changed. Instead of lamenting the loss of fine brains, it hopes to lure in foreign ones. Axelle Lemaire, the (Canadian-born) minister visiting NUMA, has launched a “tech visa” for foreign entrepreneurs. A public-investment fund, BPI France, is promoting start-ups. Early efforts to back incubators met “indifference and scepticism”, recalls Jean-Louis Missika, a deputy to the Socialist mayor, because “that wasn’t the image of Paris.” City Hall now wants to show that Paris is not just a living museum.

It is odd that the city lost its reputation for innovation. From avant-garde art to industrial engineering, it used to push the boundaries. The 1878 Paris World’s Fair showcased electric light; in 1889, the Eiffel Tower became the world’s tallest man-made structure. More recently, the urge to preserve has stifled innovation. Yet Paris is learning to reconcile history and modernity. On the edge of the Bois de Boulogne, a park, an elegant glass-and-steel structure designed by Frank Gehry for the Louis Vuitton art collection has met with admiration. Slowly, almost despite itself, Paris is rediscovering an innovative spirit.

EACC conference in Lyon Dec. 17th: Investing in the USA

December 10th, 2013 No comments

The European-American Chamber of Commerce (EACC) has an upcoming conference in Lyon, France on Investing in the USA. The details (and registration information – under “inscriptions”) are below. I worked with some of these professionals before, and I can tell you it’s a great opportunity to learn more about transatlantic business relations, as well as network with like-minded professionals in Lyon.

Presenters will include the US Consul to Lyon, Clayton Stanger.

The Lyon newspaper Le Progrès also published an article on the conference today.

ECONOMIC RECOVERY:
The right time to INVEST IN THE USA
Enjeux | Dispositifs | Clefs de réussite | Supports pratiques

Réussir vos projets aux Etats-Unis: opportunités et moyens à disposition des PME.

Mardi 17 Décembre 2013 | 12h – 14h
OnlyLyon – Skyroom – Tour Oxygène
10-12 bvd Vivier Merle 69003 LYON
27ème étage
Conférence en français et en anglais

Les États-Unis représentent toujours la première économie du monde et le premier consommateur de la planète. À l’heure où les contours d’un traité de libre échange entre les États-Unis et l’Union Européenne se dessinent, il est impératif de comprendre les enjeux qui y sont liés et de tirer avantage au plus tôt de ces futures opportunités d’affaires. C’est également l’un des marchés les plus difficiles à pénétrer car l’implantation commerciale ou industrielle est souvent recommandée pour gagner en proximité et répondre à une très grande exigence en matière de services.

Quelles opportunités et quels moyens sont à disposition des PME désireuses de conquérir le marché américain ? C’est ce que vont vous présenter nos Experts, spécialistes de l’implantation et de l’accueil d’investisseurs étrangers aux États-Unis.

    Intervenants

Clayton STANGER :
Monsieur le Consul des États-Unis | Lyon

Julie-Capucine HOURS :
Responsable Amérique du Nord | CCI de Lyon

Tom THORELLI :
Avocat au barreau de Chicago | Paris

François HECHINGER :
Parner – West Region Venture & Private Equity Tax Practice Leader | BDO U.S.A.

Nicolas BERNARD-MASSON :
FDI manager de l’Etat de Pennsylvanie en Europe francophone | Lyon

Témoignage d’une entreprise (à confirmer)

    Modérateurs

Johann SPONAR :
Représentant Officiel de l’Etat de Pennsylvanie en Europe francophone et Directeur Général de SALVEO

Bradley STOCK :
Président de l’European American Chamber of Commerce Rhône-Alpes

    Programme

11h40 – Accueil + Cocktail de bienvenue
12h15 – Séminaire
13h30 – Questions | Cocktail networking | Rendez-vous B to B

Inscriptions
L’inscription est gratuite mais obligatoire : natacha.lalande@eaccfrance.eu

How attractive is France’s investment environment?

December 17th, 2012 1 comment

The French-American Chamber of Commerce (FACC) posted the following summary of a report recently carried out by consulting and accounting firm KPMG.

The full report is available here, entitled “Facts & Figures on France’s Investment Attractiveness”.

Probably a good idea to check out other resources as well.

There is an interesting report by The Economist in their “The World in 2013” edition that highlights the likely challenges facing President Hollande’s administration in the next year including the difficulty in encouraging business growth and more investment.

While France remains a country that retains an attractive profile, there is a real risk that increasing taxes and a morose business climate could take hold and hamper growth in 2013. So although France has a lot to offer, it must make progress to improve the business climate and decrease unemployment. It’s not an easy time for Europe, and France will not be an exception. But as the adage goes, “no pain, no gain”.

From: Invest in France Agency

In the competition with other European countries to attract inward investment projects, France boasts a number of key strengths underpinning its investment attractiveness.

These advantages include:
– A large, dynamic market in Europe.
– A skilled, productive workforce.
– Recognized support to foster innovation.
– A plentiful supply of commercial real estate.
– Dense, high-quality transport infrastructure.
– High-quality energy and telecommunications at competitive rates.
– Renowned quality of life.

According to KPMG’s “Competitive Alternatives” biennial guide to business costs in over 100 cities in nine different countries, France stands out for having particularly attractive business setup costs, comprising labor costs, facility costs, transport, utility costs (electricity, natural gas, telecommunications) and corporate tax. In the 2012 edition, France was ranked fourth among the countries compared, up two places from sixth in the previous rankings (2010).

Again in innovation, French companies score high marks

November 16th, 2011 No comments

It must be innovation week…

In another poll on innovation (Thomson Reuters Top 100 Global Innovators), France has 11 companies on the list (the 3rd most behind Japan with 27 and America with 40). The brilliant chaps over at The Economist have a nice article on this, below here for easy reading (France boldfaced for emphasis on my part).

Where innovation lies
Nov 16th 2011, 16:54 by The Economist online

Where are the world’s most innovative companies and what do they do?

Companies that make semiconductors and other electronic components are collectively the most innovative industry, according to an analysis of patents carried out by Thomson Reuters, an information-services provider. Its “Top 100 Global Innovators” report rates companies by the proportion of their patent applications that are granted; the number of “quadrilateral” patents (those granted in China, Europe, Japan and America); how often patents are cited by other companies; and whether patents relate to new techniques or inventions or are refinements of existing ones. This approach is intended to overcome the limitations of using the number of patents filed or granted as a measure of innovation. Of the 100 companies in the list, which is not ranked and relates to patent activity from 2005-2010, 40 are from America, 27 from Japan and 11 from France. No Chinese companies qualified. The report says this “underscores the fact that although China is leading the world in patent volume, quantity does not equate to influence and quality.”

French venture capital at record levels

According to the the March 22 edition of French financial daily La Tribune, venture capital in France in 2010 reached its highest levels since 2000. For those of you who cannot read the article (due to subscription restrictions), I have summed it up in English below.

An interesting linguistic note that reveals a lot about cultural differences is the expression in French for “venture capital”: capital-risque, or “risk capital”. So whereas the risk-taking “Anglo-Saxon” cultures positively think of investing in businesses as “ventures”, the actual French term emphasizes the traditional risk-averse culture of France (that is gradually evolving, as the article illustrates).

Another example of this difference is that more Americans and British invest in stocks for their pensions whereas it is less of a natural option for French workers. But this too is changing.

I have some venture capital links on my business in France page.

Do you have any views of venture capital and investments in France?

“Le capital-risque en France retrouve des niveaux record”

Venture capital funds invested about €1.05 billion in 2010 (compared to €910 million in 2009). This is the highest amount since 2000, when VC reached €1.14 billion.

Investment over the past six semesters (notice the dip 2nd half of 2009)

2008: €470 mil (1st semester), €556 mil (2nd semester)
2009: €503 mil (1st semester), €407 mil (2nd semester)
2010: €515 mil (1st semester), €532 mil (2nd semester)

Most capital came from local investment funds, or FIP (Fonds d’investissement de proximité) and innovation mutual funds, or FCPI (Fonds commun de placement dans l’innovation). In fact, the second half of 2010, FIP’s and FCPI’s represented 62.5% of investments.

N.B. you can learn more about these and other French investment terminology here. See below for explanation of FCPI from that link.

Another trend is that most venture capital firms invest in the last stage, or second rounds, instead of early stage investments. Early stage made up only 7% of VC investments in the last ten months of 2010.

One last note is that the health, life sciences and pharmaceutical industries make up almost 25% of venture capital investments.

FCPI: French type of mutual funds, created in 1997, intended to support the development of innovating firms.

The capital collected by a FCPI is invested at least up to 60 % in the capital of non listed companies, or of limited liability companies, to which the Agence nationale de la valorisation de la recherche (ANVAR) gives the label “innovating”.

Subject to keep the FCPI shares during at least five years, the subscriber profits from tax advantages at the time of the subscription (tax cut) and at the time of the resale (possible exemption of the cashed products and the appreciations in certain cases)

Financial Times “Business in France” special features Lyon, others

January 27th, 2011 1 comment

Perusing the Financial Times, I came across a business special on France that features articles on Lyon as a growing business center, Lille and other subjects of interest (project for Paris Silicon Valley, technology sector, etc).

You can download the PDF here. I’ve also made it available here, in case FT takes it down or there is a technical website problem.

Some excerpts below are taken from the article about the city I hold dear, Lyon.

Thriving business region that is answer to Rhineland: Good transport and skills are a draw, says Ross Tieman

A great location in the Rhône valley, where it acts as a gateway between France and central and southern Europe, has underpinned Lyon’s prosperity ever since the Romans marched in 2,000 years ago.

But in recent centuries, technology took over the relay, with hydroelectric power contributing to a regional heritage of chemicals, pharmaceuticals and manufacturing. The city preserved its charms, however. Now classified as a Unesco world heritage site, it sustains a vibrant culture that extends from a renowned opera company to contemporary music and the kitchen of chef Paul Bocuse.

Lyon’s high-speed train connections to Paris and Marseille, and location on France’s main north-south motorway make it an attractive location for both business and pleasureseekers.

Back-office operations for financial services and logistics are important contributors to France’s second-largest regional economy. Yet to think of Lyon as a city is to miss the point. With a population of 1.7m it is the heart of a business region that is France’s answer to the Rhineland, and which, with 10,000 researchers, spends as much on innovation as Finland or Denmark….

French CAC 40 stock market up on US Fed news

November 4th, 2010 No comments

The CAC 40 stock market rose above 3900 points Thursday morning, its highest point in six months. This represents nearly a 2% rise. For background on the Federal Reserve’s decision to inject a further $600 billion into the US economy in a second round of “Quantitative Easing”, you can check out BBC’s special report and their Q&A feature. The Economist also presents sound analysis of the Fed’s move.

For further analysis in French, you can read this article from Les Echos, the French equivalent of the Wall Street Journal, which itself features in-depth coverage of the Fed’s move.

Europe’s “austerity measures” hitting some hard

September 24th, 2010 No comments

In this New York Times special report, Europeans speak out on government plans across the continent to bring public finances under control amid corruption and suspicion of governments not doing enough for the common man. Well this currently in France amid protests against raising the retirement age as part of a larger pension reform package to help control spending. Those who are protesting see bankers getting large bonuses while they are forced to work longer. But France’s retirement age is the lowest in Europe and many French know that their social safety net cannot remain the same for future generations.

You can see a series of insightful video interviews from Athens, Madrid, Paris, London and Frankfurt here.

Also, an interactive map of Europe’s debt crisis.

“…Some acknowledged that they might have contributed to the crisis by spending beyond their means, and said there was probably no alternative to bailing out banks and countries like Greece to prevent a wider downturn. They are, grudgingly, willing to accept cuts in pensions and salaries, provided that politicians, whom they see as complicit in the crisis, quickly clean up the mess. Yet despite the problems, they would also be unhappy to see the European Union unwind…’We are part of a generation who knows that things can vanish,” said Mathilde Donovan, 29, a French public relations executive….”

Effective Strategies for Expatriate Cost Management

Brian Friedman of Totally Expat published this piece on managing expatriate employee costs. Excerpts are below (click on the link for more details, as there are 21 different items discussed):

We all know that expats are expensive and that a significant proportion of assignments fail – but what can be done to manage costs and to maximise the overall return on investment? And in these straitened economic times, we all know that expatriate costs are increasingly under the microscope……. Prioritise. Too many companies try to cut expatriate costs by reducing headcount in the International HR department or by forcing vendors into unsustainable price reductions. The reality however is that it is not internal headcount or vendor fees that make assignees expensive. In fact research undertaken by the Forum for Expatriate Management suggests that in-house costs typically amount to just 1-2%of total assignment costs and external costs amount to no more than 8-10%. The big costs are Assignment Allowances (35%), Property Costs (35%) and Relocation Costs (15%). So if you are looking to control expatriate costs, concentrate on the big ticket items – don’t rush to slash headcount….

Business Opportunities in Miami: Meetings in Lyon, Grenoble April 21-22

NOTE: THESE MEETINGS HAVE BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO THE VOLCANIC ASH DISRUPTING FLIGHTS ACROSS EUROPE. THEY MAY BE CONDUCTED AT A LATER DATE BUT FOR NOW, KNOW THAT THESE ARE CALLED OFF.

On Wednesday April 21 starting at 9:30am (with events going throughout the day), the CCI de Lyon (Lyon’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry), in coordination with the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Rhône-Alpes Auvergne Chapter will host the Beacon Council (FACC Miami) for a bilingual (English/French) conference and a series of meetings about business and investment opportunities in Miami, Florida.

For more program details and a PDF, click here to be directed to AmCham’s website. Please note the link to mandatory registration through the CCI website.

The World Trade Center of Grenoble (GREX) will also be hosting a similar meeting (working lunch) in Grenoble the following day on Thursday April 22 from 12:30 to 2pm. Registration can be done here.

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