Yet another signal of how far France’s startup ecosystem has come

August 17, 2017

I recall how when I first moved permanently to Paris over 16 years ago, finding people in the office during the month of August was highly unusual. It seemed that after the long weekend of July 14th, one couldn’t count on scheduling a meeting again before September 1st.

This shutdown extended to the startup sector as well, which back in 2001 was still in its infancy. Even for several years, scheduling a meeting with entrepreneurs in late July and August proved difficult. And if anything, this was the segment of the working population that was most likely to be at their desks.

Inversely, for a diligent entrepreneur hoping to pitch to a French VC in the peak of summer: forget about it. Remember, most French VCs at the time were former commercial bankers investing tax rebate money of their retail clients.

How dramatically things have changed !

It was only back in 2014 when then Innovation Minister Fleur Pellerin suggested the French need to reformat their mental software to become less averse to failure. Now, Ms. Pellerin has moved on from the government into creating a venture fund, while leaving a lasting positive impact on the French government’s attitude toward the startup community.

Over the past few weeks, I detected yet another signal that Ms. Pellerin’s recommended mental software upgrade has taken effect. A privileged opportunity for European AI startups presented itself. Concretely, it is a small private summit that brings together leaders of industrial groups and AI entrepreneurs. But here’s the rub: this summit is taking place on August 25th in Tokyo — i.e. peak French holiday season in a faraway land from the perspective of French entrepreneurs.

Given these logistical hurdles, I figured that interest in such an opportunity would be limited, so I casually mentioned it in a blog post. Boy did I underestimate how much things have changed.

The high demand from French startups in the AI space for this opportunity caught me off guard. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, because France possesses arguably some of the greatest engineering talent conducive to creating innovative companies in AI.

Given the small scale and specific subject matter at this initial event, many of the applicants were regrettably not eligible to attend this time. However, it is very likely that this will be a repeat occurrence sometime in 2018.

I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to all of the impressive, globally-minded entrepreneurs who have contacted me about this opportunity and will do my best to ensure that your candidacy is carefully considered for next year.

Things are looking encouraging for French innovation in AI, and in tech overall.


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posted in venture capital by mark bivens

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