The Paris tech scene is hot right now. PeopleDoc’s co-founder lets us in on why.
by Jolene Nicotina January 09
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New research affirms what PeopleDoc’s founders figured out 10 years ago—Paris is prime for tech startups. There are obvious reasons why: The publicly-funded initiative, La French Tech; funding availability; a surge in tech talent; and, of course, the support of president Emmanuel Macron. But it runs deeper than this. There’s an entrepreneurial spirit in the air that a recentHubSpot Tech Hub Survey set out to quantify. The survey interviewed 597 consumers who live or work in the Paris metro area and found that there’s pervasive belief in Paris’ potential to be the next big tech destination.
90% think the tech scene in Paris is growing
91% think a tech company can succeed in the city’s economy
81% think Paris will become the center for innovation in the future
Not only do Parisians perceive the city as a promising tech mecca, many are also eager to be part of it:
88% want a fast-paced start-up job
42% are willing to start a company
63% are willing to take on risk in general
Though Paris doesn’t compare to London or the US based on numbers alone (Paris only has 1 business valued at > $1B, whereas London and the US have 10 and 100+, respectively*), there’s a certain je ne sais quoi to Paris’ technology culture. According to one engineer who left Silicon Valley for Paris, “Tech people in France are...terrifyingly enthusiastic and hell-bent on helping raise the overall state of the French ecosystem through the simple act of helping each other out.” To better understand what’s driving the excitement, I recently sat down with our very own co-founder, Clément Buyse, to get his perspective.
Technology ecosystems usually evolve due to a convergence of factors—infrastructure, economics, politics. If you had to pick the top 3 contributors to Paris’ growth, what would you credit?
First, it’s the overall mindset shift toward entrepreneurship. Not only in Paris, but across Western Europe. Germany, France, Spain—they’re all taking off. The number of businesses across all these countries has just boomed in the past 5 years.
Second is the emergence of cloud. Cloud technology makes it so you can start a business anywhere and scale to reach a bigger market. This is why being in Europe is a gamechanger.
Third, it’s the investors. Paris entrepreneurs don’t start out with the intention to maintain local, their ambition is to go global, which is very appealing to investors.$2.1 billion was invested in France last year. Back when we started PeopleDoc in 2007-2008, this wasn’t the case. We struggled. There wasn’t the amount of seed money or early-stage funding that’s available now.
Tell me more about the mindset shift. What’s behind it?
Overall, it’s more culturally accepted to start your own business. It used to be rare to own a business in France. Now, universities have classes in entrepreneurship that explain how to raise money and run a company. Another example is the emergence of companies like Simplon, which works to provide disadvantaged populations with tech skills. The pace of growth is accelerating and we’re seeing more and more skilled teams. Now that there’s more startups that have made it, we get to learn from them. It’s less of a craftsman approach.
How has culture played a role? France has traditionally favored hierarchy, security and work-life balance. Has this affected Paris’ ability to grow?
People in France now want agility in their work and they’re more results-driven. In traditional businesses, it’s hard to switch to this kind of culture. But when you build your own business, you start your own culture. And building a global company, you get to take the best of each culture. In France, it’s all about processes and that’s important when trying to scale. We gladly adopted America’s casual dress code!
Aside from the burgeoning tech landscape, what else is appealing about settling in Paris?
For ages we had brain leakage. Residents were going to other parts of the world, now they’re coming here. We always exported, now we import. People from other countries are settling in Paris because they don’t have to lose their global connection. This has been a big shift in mentality. Locals are more open-minded and have a more international mindset. Then of course, there’sStation F, which is backed by Facebook and Amazon. We’re also hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics and the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Paris is just going to get hotter and hotter!
Jolene Nicotina is the Content Marketing Manager for North America at PeopleDoc, Inc. She works on making sure HR professionals have all the latest information they need related to HR service delivery, HR technology, and PeopleDoc, Inc. Prior to PeopleDoc, Jolene worked in marketing communications for the healthcare technology industry.