The French Assert That They Embrace Entrepreneurism Not Reject It


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There’s a story that George W. Bush once said, “The problem with the French is that they have no word for ‘entrepreneur.’”

It’s more of a Yogi Berra-ism because it’s kinda true, the French culture has seemed very anti-entrepreneur and suspicious of anyone trying to make money and build a business.

If you are running a startup your own mother might keep it under wraps  – she’d be far prouder if you had a job at a big corporation such as French Telecom.

But things have changed quite a bit over the past five years or so. Liam Boogar, a reporter for Rude Baguette, which focuses on the Paris startup scene, makes a good case for reminding the world that, “entrepreneur” is still very much a French word.

I held my tongue during my fireside chat with Soundcloud CEO Alexander Ljung as he said the only cities he thinks anyone should start a company in are Berlin & London – I get it, Paris isn’t the most connected city. I even nodded politely during my 30 minute interview with Gary Shapiro as he told me fake facts about French labor laws, clearly reflecting a bad experience he had many years ago, which he had not bothered to check in the past 10 years…

Here’s the deal: from Business Objects to Criteo, Sparrow to Exalead, Dailymotion to Viadeo to Deezer, I wager that France puts out more $100M startups than Berlin (easy!) and even London, if you stop counting video game companies (where Ubisoft and Gameloft still rank top in gaming) and agencies.