Posted by Tom Foremski - December 16, 2009
Our fellow Traveling Geek Olivier Ezratty has been a wonderful guide to Paris and also to the Parisian startup scene. Olivier makes some angel investments and he consults with French startups.
I had mentioned that I was quite impressed with the quality of the French entrepreneurs. [Paris Diary: Putting "French" Back Into Entrepreneur]
He agreed that things had improved over the past few years but he also mentioned some of the issues that French startups still need to work on. Here are some notes from our conversation:
- Engineers have a higher status within French business than sales and marketing people. This means there is less importance attached to marketing skills.
- French startups try to start in France, then expand to French speaking countries, then Europe, then US. This is not the right way to do it.
- French startups should do what Israeli startups do - goo for the largest markets. Israel has virtually no domestic market so its startups have to try for the largest markets.
-It is very difficult to make sales in France if you are a French company. You know the old saying, "No one gets fired for buying IBM." Well, the same is true in France, there is a perception that no one gets fired for buying from a US company. Despite French nationalism, there is the perception that US companies are better than French.
- Few French entrepreneurs have good language skills, few speak English well.
- French startups need to diversify their staff. It is much better if they have different nationalities. Diversity is very important within a company.
- French startups would do better if they sited their sales and marketing in the US and win reference customers there. That would make it easier to make sales in France. They can keep their R&D in France and get the tax credits.
- The French culture has a mistrust of business people. Making money or becoming rich is viewed with suspicion. This attitude can be traced back to the early eighteenth century.
- People think twice about telling their families that they work for a startup. You can be considered a failure by family and friends if you do not work for a large company.
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Please see: Olivier Ezratty on Traveling Geeks.
Also his blog: Opinions Libres