France’s pro-innovation culture is being fostered from within. Economic Minister Emmanuel Macron is leading an effort to change France’s business reputation by promoting innovation and startups – with significant early success.
Workers in the Paris offices of Numa, an "incubator" for French start-up companies and digital projects. Photo: AFP
Paris has been rated as the sixth best European city for startups and for scale-ups, according to the European Digital City Index for 2015.
The finish was good enough to edge out seventh place Berlin, in a list that saw London, Amsterdam, and Stockholm finish in the top three places.
“This high ranking is due, in part, to a well-developed venture capital industry and several world-class research institutions, together with an increasing number of co-working spaces and accelerators,” the report noted.
It pointed out that the startup scene was aided by France Digitale and La French Tech, both of which work to promote the profile of French startups.
The report also pointed to the strength of Paris as an “emerging sharing economy”, singling out mega-success BlaBlaCar as well as advertising company Criteo.
BlaBlaCar is the current startup darling of the tech scene in Paris after it recently became the first French startup to be valued at over $1 billion.
The good finish for Paris in Wednesday's ranking will no doubt be welcomed by BlaBlaCar's co-founder Nicolas Brusson, who told The Local in September that Paris wasn't rated highly enough – especially compared with the German capital.
“Paris does tend to be a bit underrated, but if you look at the number of companies coming out of Paris that are bought out or get an IPO rating, then there’s more than Berlin,” he said.
Gary Shapiro, the CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, is just the latest American businessman to ring the praises of France and its start-up culture.
This month the CEA held its CES Unveiled (Consumer Electronics Show) event in Paris for third year running, “because of France’s proven reputation as a hotspot for startups and innovation,” said Shapiro.
“Every year, the size and scope of the French tech delegation at CES in Las Vegas expands, with 70 French startups presenting at the 2015 International CES. From food to fashion to art, and now to tech – France has a record of forward-looking creativity.”
But Paris has plenty of work to do if it wants to reach the lofty tech heights of nearby London, which topped the list.
The index noted that market conditions in Paris “could be more favourable”, and that the adoption of many digital technologies was slower in France than in several other European countries.
And in a blow that almost every Parisian can relate to, the index pointed out that the city is “quite expensive” to live in, a fact that could deter foreign entrepreneurs from even considering a life there.
Despite all this, it would seem the Paris scene is blooming.
There are over 22,600 startups in the city, which employ almost 140,000 people.
Paris startups have attracted €2.35 billion in funding since 2005, and there are 250 co-working spaces, as well as accelerator hubs like Numa.
The index also noted that France has a dedicated minister for digital affairs, and will launch in January a visa scheme to encourage foreign entrepreneurs to kick off start ups in Paris.
Wednesday's index was created by UK-based “innovation charity” Nesta as part of the European Digital Forum in a bid to create a supportive environment for digital companies in Europe.