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.

Tom Foremski
Tom Foremski is the Editor and Founder of the popular and top-ranked news site Silicon Valley Watcher, reporting on business and culture of innovation. He is a former journalist at the Financial Times and in 2004, became the first journalist from a leading newspaper to resign and become a full-time journalist blogger.

Tom has been reporting on Silicon Valley and the US tech industry since 1984 and has been named as one of the top 50 (#28) most influential bloggers in Silicon Valley. His current focus is on the convergence of media and technology — the making of a new era for Silicon Valley. He also writes a column at ZDNET.
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