Economy: In the land of the start-up nation, business creation is stagnating

De Montpellier, researchers at France’s only Laboratory of Excellence dedicated to entrepreneurship have produced a first-of-its-kind report. There is a continuous increase in business creations, it is even a career choice. But entrepreneurship is often a decision by default. And it is far from the intention, important, to create its box, for the accomplishment, weak. Professor of management sciences at the University of Montpellier, Karim Messeghem, co-author of this report, also deciphers the brakes on women’s businesses.

France, a country of entrepreneurs? There are about a hundred laboratories of excellence (Labex) in France, but only one dedicated to entrepreneurship. Based in Montpellier, he answers this question. This Labex, whose scientific council is chaired by Sétois Olivier Torrès, mobilizes around 200 researchers and teachers, mainly in management. Economists and lawyers also participate. Professor of Management Sciences at the University of Montpellier, Karim Messeghem participated with Frank Lasche (Montpellier Business School) and Justine Valette that processed the data from a questionnaire. This is the French part of an international study on entrepreneurship (1).

Intention to make peaks

Professor of Management Sciences at the University of Montpellier, Karim Messeghem. DR.

This laboratory has just published the GEM France, a report from the French part of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor assessing entrepreneurial activity and its ecosystem, which includes reports on entrepreneurship from around 50 countries around the world. Your main lesson? Despite the incentive policies and the good image of entrepreneurs, the intention to undertake is stabilizing in the start-up nation. However, we are doing more and more!

One million companies created in 2021, 65.1% of which are “micro”

“There has been a steady increase in business creation over the last twenty years. In ten years, we even went from 5.2% to 7.7% of the population involved in business projects”, emphasizes Karim Messeghem. “INSEE estimates the number of companies created in France in 2021 at one million. Even distinguishing the approximately 65.1% of micro-entrepreneurs, this remains a good volume. But… France ranks last among the G7 countries for the proportion of established entrepreneurs in the population as a whole (3.6%).

“We consider it also a career choice”

We undertake because we want to undertake. Because there is a certain wage crisis as well. Karim Messeghem goes further: “We emphasize in the report: there is a very strong social transformation: we consider, today, that it is also a career choice. Two thirds of the French population consider that starting a business today is part of a preferred professional choice. It is also due to a more positive image of entrepreneurship, despite the fact that one in two companies does not survive more than five years.”

Start-up: the tree that hides the forest

Behind the prominence of the ultimately marginal universe of start-ups in relation to the number of companies, there is a discrepancy with everyday entrepreneurship. “In the study, we are closer to everyday or necessity entrepreneurship, where, however, we have a sense of a capacity, a power of commitment perhaps greater and that are linked to a highly developed ecosystem of support and public engagement in France. As we see more entrepreneurs around us, this may encourage us to take the plunge. There is also greater media coverage that raises awareness. We also see this in the statistics: one in two entrepreneurs is in default and had difficulty finding salaried employment before becoming a boss.

Change with the realization of the intention to create

With the intention of creating your box, we are “very good” compared to other G7 countries. “We are around 3rd in the world, with 17% of intentions, after the US and Canada, which are around 20% to 22%. Then, in implementation, there is a big gap: only 7.7% of the population is engaged in entrepreneurship, against 15% in North America. How do we explain? “There is a glass ceiling. There are still barriers to taking action. There are not only economic factors, the people interviewed do not have the impression that it is more difficult to start a business than before.” But wage work lingers on many minds “more comfortable in your eyes”. It must be said that the course can sometimes be that of the fighter…

make children aware

Sport-health: when children model their parents
Make children aware of sport but also of the spirit of initiative. Photo O.SC.

To overcome this “glass ceiling”, Labex Entreprendre recommends to the government, chambers of commerce and others in the ecosystem, “continue and reinforce the effort to raise public awareness of entrepreneurship, particularly among the younger generations, through the foundations of entrepreneurial education at primary and secondary levels. BPI is precisely trying to coordinate the networks more, says Karim Messeghem. It is estimated that around 20% of project leaders had access to business incubators or nurseries. For others, they miss positive devices.”

Female entrepreneurship towards a national action plan

Positive point for France: the differences between male and female entrepreneurship are the lowest among the G7 countries. However, France lags behind other countries for the rate of established entrepreneurs, which is just 2.9% compared to 7.6% in the US or 6.6% in Canada… “Fifteen years ago, there were about 30% women entrepreneurs; today we are at 40%. There, too, there is a glass ceiling to overcome in order to achieve parity. There are already launched actions. Our proposal is that you have to ask yourself to understand the points of friction. The study may warn, but no more. Women always seem to have a tendency to devalue themselves. It is necessary to imagine a specific national support plan to coordinate these existing actions and even know whether or not to go to 50% of women’s businesses and under what conditions. Because if it is to generate more precariousness than salaried work, it is not progress either. It takes time for collective reflection to develop a strategy, especially on this subject.”.

It is not right that our learning methods are in favor of creativity, risk-taking, project work…”

Because, says the report, “Women consider themselves less competent than men to start a new business (42.3% versus 54.9%), are less likely to believe that there are good business opportunities around them (47.9% versus 56.3% %) and report greater fear of failure (53.1% versus 46.3%).” It adds : “Experts have highlighted the remarkable work being done in higher education, but this is perhaps less true in primary and secondary education. This leads to a real reflection on the learning methods, on the competences that we favor today. It is not certain that our methods are in favor of creativity, risk-taking, project work. There is real and substantive work to be done to be inspired by good practices at the French level, but also internationally. In Quebec, for example, on these subjects, we can create an aptitude in this field from an early age”, explains Karim Messeghem.

Sustainable Entrepreneurship: We Need to Change the Paradigm!

Finally, the surveys carried out among French entrepreneurs are instructive in considering the challenges of sustainable development. Because if emerging and established entrepreneurs are very sensitive to this and if more than half (51.4%) of them declare that they prioritize social and/or environmental impact before profitability or growth, Actions do not match words.

Not only do 24% of emerging entrepreneurs and 49% of established entrepreneurs implement actions to minimize their impact on the environment, but, above all, 14.2% of emerging entrepreneurs and 26.1% of established entrepreneurs effectively act at the social level, which places France in the last position among the G7 countries. For Labex Entreprendre, “the challenge is not so much to raise awareness of sustainable development, but to support entrepreneurs in the implementation of concrete actions with social and environmental impact, from the emergency phase. »

Entrepreneurship is good for health!

Despite the Covid pandemic, business creation hit a new record. According to Labex, p.Almost two-thirds of emerging entrepreneurs (64.8%) also say that the health crisis has not made creation difficult. However, they perceived the government’s effectiveness “at all costs” less than established entrepreneurs (42.7% vs. 53.9%), the latter even expressing optimism about growth.

Asked about the perceived health scale, the entrepreneurs declared themselves to be in good health. Emerging entrepreneurs have a 49.2% rate of declaring themselves in very good or excellent health, no doubt an effect of the creator’s euphoria. Given the risk of burnout highlighted by the Amarok Observatory in 2020 and 2021, which Dis-Leur told you aboutLabex Entreprendre recommends that public authorities take the health issue into account from the emergency phase and then allow entrepreneurs to regularly assess their health with digital tools.


(1) Labex Entreprendre (teams from the University of Montpellier and Montpellier Business School) carried out two studies, one with the population (APS study), the other with experts (NES study) to analyze the entrepreneurial activities and attitudes of the French during the past year . From a questionnaire whose “the default is 2,000 respondents aged 18 to 64; we had 3,800 respondents in the French survey. These are data that are then consolidated, evaluated internationally”, says Karim Messeghem.


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