With Macron, five more years for the “Start-up Nation”


With unfailing support for France’s digital ecosystem, Emmanuel Macron, who is starting a second five-year term at Élysée, has managed to keep the flame burning with French entrepreneurs. However, great challenges await…

Since his visit to CES in Las Vegas in January 2016, when he was Minister of Economy in the presidency of François Hollande, Emmanuel Macron has been the darling of French Tech. With a particularly liberal speech and strong support for the French digital ecosystem, the head of state, who is starting a second five-year term at the Elysée, has won the hearts of French entrepreneurs.

It was enough to log on to LinkedIn in the last few weeks to realize this. In the days leading up to the first round of the presidential election, and even longer before the second round, many businessmen more or less explicitly asked for a vote for Emmanuel Macron. It must be said that, for five years, the President of the Republic multiplied initiatives in favor of French Tech.

A twinkle in the eye of fate, he began his first five-year term with the inauguration of Station F, “Temple of the Start-up Nation” which can accommodate young shoots in the 34,000 m² Freyssinet hall. Subsequently, his government distinguished itself by implementing various mechanisms to support the development of start-ups, such as the Next 40 and French Tech 120 indices. These allow selected companies to benefit from a support program, launched for the first time in 2019. and led by the French Tech Mission, which aims to turn the nuggets of the digital ecosystem into world-class champions.

The Next 40 and French Tech 120 indexes are part of the support arsenal deployed by the executive since the creation of the French Tech label in 2014, alongside other mechanisms such as the French Tech Visa to facilitate the recruitment of foreign talent. Because if Emmanuel Macron is considered the president of the “Start-up Nation”, it is under the mandate of François Hollande that the current dynamics of the ecosystem began to engage. The socialist president’s then Minister of Economy wanted to expand the phenomenon by taking inspiration from Israel and Silicon Valley, world references in digital innovation.

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The France 2030 plan for “reconciling start-ups and industry”

But this innovation must now be industrial for Emmanuel Macron. Now that French Tech is in full swing, as evidenced by the 11.6 billion euros raised in 2021 by French startups, up from 5.4 billion in 2020 and less than 2 billion in 2016, it will be a matter of correcting its flaws. Because if France today has more than 25 unicorns, startups valued at more than 1 billion dollars, only one is industrial: Exotec, a supplier of robotic solutions for warehouses.

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The foundations of Emmanuel Macron’s second five-year term were also laid well before the presidential elections, with the presentation in October 2021 of the France 2030 plan for “reconciling start-ups and industry”. “If we do not re-industrialize the country, we cannot go back to being a nation of innovation and research”, warned the Head of State. As part of this plan to mobilize 30 billion euros over five years, an envelope of 2.3 billion aims to get French industrial start-ups off the ground.

The question is indeed crucial for France, which currently has just 1,500 industrial start-ups, which represents just 12% of the total number of young French techies. This is roughly the current weight of industry in French GDP (13%), when this key sector weighs 22% of the German economy. It is therefore urgent for France to react, as a report on the levers of development of industrialization start-ups presented to the government in September 2021 by the Inspectorate General of Finance and the General Council of France. shortcomings, especially in terms of funding.

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According to estimates from the impact report produced by the company Roland Berger on the French Tech Next 40/120, the top 15 industrial start-ups could create 3,000 jobs by 2025 and up to 10,000 in 2030. The work remains immense, but Cédric O , Secretary of State responsible for Digital Transition and Electronic Communications (at departure), was excited when the new French Tech Next 40/120 class was announced in February: “What we are seeing emerging is the renewal of the French industrial fabric. Start-ups are our life insurance. Long live the Startup Nation!”

Two-speed digital sovereignty

However, while the government has constantly promoted French technology and proclaimed its desire to implement digital sovereignty over the past five years, headwinds have sometimes clouded the executive’s message. Symbol of these contradictions, the choice to entrust Microsoft with hosting data from the Health Data Hub, a French platform for health data for research, created tensions.

The government therefore preferred to annex the services of the North American giant, instead of those of the French company OVHcloud, which obviously did not appreciate this decision. In addition, the Council of State considered that there was a risk of data transfer to the United States… Likewise, Bpifrance, which largely funds French start-ups, was appointed by the Senate after choosing Amazon to provide data management for state-guaranteed loans (PGE) created at the beginning of the health crisis. In this context, digital sovereignty is altered.

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On the other hand, digital sovereignty on a European scale has been strengthened in recent weeks with the adoption of the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act (DMA) to better regulate tech giants. But France is no stranger to this new legislative arsenal. In January 2022, Emmanuel Macron expressed his desire to reach a final agreement on these two texts before the end of the French presidency of the Council of the European Union (PFEU). Now it’s done.

During our interview with Cédric O last March, the Secretary of State praised these new laws. “DMA is perhaps the most important economic legislation since the American texts of the late 20th century and early 21st century. And the DSA is extremely important, as it draws lessons from the lack of regulation in the information space. With DSA and DMA, in addition to GDPR, we are laying the foundations for a very European innovation model.”he assured.

I set a goal of bringing in 100 French unicorns and 10 European giants by 2030.

Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic

It is within this European framework that Emmanuel Macron wants to believe in the emergence of European and French alternatives to the current digital giants, whether American or Chinese. “The last five years have allowed the game to reopen, but it is still insufficient. The world economy, but also our daily uses are still almost exclusively dominated by Anglo-Saxon or Chinese companies. That’s why I’m setting the goal for us, by 2030, to bring 100 French unicorns and 10 European giants.”proclaimed the President of the Republic in an interview given to the big whalemedia specializing in cryptocurrencies.

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So that the most promising French start-ups (Doctolib, BlaBlaCar, Qonto, Back Market, Sorare, etc.) market. “We have true champions. But the difference with China and the United States is that France is not Europe. The United States is a market of nearly 400 million people and China is a market of 1 billion people. France is a market of 65 million inhabitants. If we want to make champions, the internal market must immediately be the European Union market”explained the reelected president during the traditional debate between the two rounds of the presidential election.

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Moving from Next 40 to CAC 40

Europe is also set to become the stock market destination of choice for Old Continent startups in the face of Wall Street, which is picking up nuggets like Contentsquare. Because it is by multiplying the IPOs of its start-ups in its territory that France and Europe will be able to change its dimension. It is no accident that the index of high potential tech companies has been called the Next 40. This should serve as a springboard for the CAC 40 for French startups. Believe me, OVHcloud and soon Deezer took a first step in this direction by opting for an IPO on the Paris Stock Exchange. As of now, the government’s goal – subject to winning a majority in the National Assembly in June – is to boost a French tech start-up to CAC 40 by 2025.

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According to Xavier Lazarus, head of the Elaia fund, this ambition is legitimate. “You have to keep in mind that the CAC 40 is an index that reflects the health of the stock market, but also a form of economic health for companies. Companies need to be solid, and that can take a year longer than the assessment. However, here we go. It may not be in two years, but in four years. We will have companies that have the size, results, forecasts and visibility to go to the bottom of the CAC 40, in the first part, around 10 billion euros, not yet between 80 and 100 billion euros. I don’t think we’re too far from that.”told the Digital At the beginning of the year.

After more than 25 French startups have become unicorns in recent years, submitting at least the same number to the Paris Stock Exchange in the next few years would be a sign of a more mature French tech ecosystem. It is up to Emmanuel Macron to create the ideal conditions for this to happen, in a scenario of digital sovereignty and new digital revolutions. “Web3 and the metaverse may represent a new stage for the web as we know it. My wish is for Europe to be a central player, contrary to what has happened so far.”assured the Head of State to the media the big whale. This will be one of your challenges to face to advance French technology.

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