The ambition to become a global leader
When it comes to innovation, the country is indeed putting its money where its mouth is. In a number of interviews he has given to numerous media since he became President in May 2017, Emmanuel Macron reiterated his determination to make France an international leader for innovation. In June 2017, he said he wanted France to become the “leader for hyper-innovation”. “Something is going on in France”, he said, “There is a momentum. Everywhere, there are men and women who want to act and win on a global scale“. As recently as 31st March 2018, in an interview with Wired, he expressed his ambition to spend EUR 1.5 Bn over the next five years to support research in the field of artificial intelligence, with specific focus on healthcare and mobility.
Primarily a matter of mindset
Looking at France today, it seems the “momentum” Mr. Macron talks about is no creation of the mind. Incubators and fab-labs are multiplying and Paris now hosts the world’s largest start-up campus. In 2017 only, 197,000 new businesses were created in France, which represents a 4.8% growth compared to 2016.
“Start-up may have become something of a buzzword”, says Florence Vasilescu, the founder and CEO of Firm Funding, a Mazars-incubated start-up that specialises in helping SMEs meet investors willing to fund their development (2). Vasilescu adds: “I believe it is a positive trend. There are lots of young graduates who now want to work in start-ups. Start-ups help people unleash their energy and potential for creativity, more than large corporations do.”
Entrepreneurship is also now an integral part of a growing number of graduate or post-graduate degrees. For Fabrice Cavaretta, it is as much about debunking a few myths as it is about actually teaching how to start and grow a business. “All those talks about a brain drain or France being business-unfriendly are unfounded. Looking at all the international rankings, we are among the most competitive markets in the world for entrepreneurship and innovation. More specifically, I do not believe in the so-called logical chain of having a brilliant idea, designing a business plan, raising a lot of money, producing your product or service and marketing it. I actually think that can be toxic”, he says. “What I try to teach is what we call ‘effectuation’, which is a theoretical framework for entrepreneurship. Effectuation is about starting small, relying on what one can actually do, prototyping and not thinking about fundraising. If you turn out to have the right product or service, money will come to you.” “Is it fundamental for people to really know who they are and we they can do”, says Sandy Melamed, who works for Switch Collectif, a start-up specialising in helping people find the career path that best fits their abilities and desires. “This is how they will acquire a growth mindset, dare, prototype, try and not be afraid of failure.”
“I am not sure I believe in entrepreneurship courses and trainings”, says Mathieu Maloux, founder of Pukka, a solution that engages staff in content creation. “But I think in countries such as Denmark, and as early as junior high-school, kids are taught about project management and its business applications. It seems to me something like that would be a good idea to develop the taste for entrepreneurship in France.” (2) “What I see in my generation” Maloux continues, “is that people tend to want to have an impact. They want to do something meaningful, to bring value beyond what is required for the job they have been hired to do.”