While on a trip to New York for the French Touch Conference, the French Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, Mounir Mahjoubi, reiterated Emmanuel Macron’s message to American entrepreneurs: “Come to France, you have a home here.”
It’s become something of a tradition; the French Secretary of State for Digital Affairs has attended the French Touch Conference every year since it was founded in 2014. The event in New York offers two-days of exchange and dialogue on the theme of new technologies and Franco-American cooperation. Axelle Lemaire magnanimously applauded a “reciprocal exchange between our two countries” in 2016. But this year, standing before an audience comprised of 45% of Americans, Mounir Mahjoubi went one step further.
“Join us in France,” said the Secretary of State, who was appointed by Emmanuel Macron in May. “France is a land of innovation, where we have created all the conditions you need to succeed.” The Americans generally view France as a country that treats small businesses unfavorably; a country where taxes are high, and investors pay the price. As George W. Bush reportedly once joked, “The French don’t even have a word for ‘entrepreneur.’”
In an effort to change perceptions, the new French government has focused on three key points. According to Mounir Mahjoubi, the current tax system is “complicated,” “unstable,” and “changed every five years.” The system will therefore be reviewed to make it more accessible and more transparent. Laws and regulations governing innovation and research will also be amended to offer businesses more freedom. Lastly, French business culture will change in order to “allow for mistakes,” an aspect which is currently not tolerated. “The government is not there to sanction companies,” said Mounir Mahjoubi. “It is there to help them do better.”
The statements by the Secretary of State coincided with this Thursday’s inauguration of Station F, the “world’s largest start-up incubator” developed in a former railway building in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. The space already leases to Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, and hopes to welcome almost 1,000 fledgling businesses. Emmanuel Macron also recently announced the creation of a ten-billion-euro fund to support innovation and the introduction of the French Tech Visa, a visa and financing program aimed at international entrepreneurs.
Daví DeShaun Davis was deciding whether to move to San Francisco, London or Berlin, before choosing Paris as the place to develop his company. The New York-based musician and entrepreneur is the founder of ClefPay, a platform that uses blockchain technology to “simplify the payment of royalties” and “facilitate transactions between consumers, artists and other entities in the music industry.” The prototype won a start-up competition organized by IBM last October, and has caught the attention of several investors, including a major English bank. With the support of Business France — the government agency that guides small- and medium-sized companies abroad — Daví DeShaun Davis now hopes to bring his project to Paris. The first phase includes a three-month stay in the French capital this summer to earn a place in a start-up incubator and meet with French investors.
“France is looking for bold, innovative projects,” said the young businessman, who has clearly been inspired by the French president’s invitation. “I haven’t seen any other head of state, in the United States or elsewhere, as committed to new technologies as Emmanuel Macron.”