It was snowing in Paris when we sat down with Alice Zagury, Founder of The Family, a Paris-based startup community. In true French form, they have their own chef and entrepreneurs often eat together around a communal table.
When asked about the ethos of The Family and her motivation for starting the venture, she replied that she wanted to provide “a shelter that would help ambitious people build and make their dreams come true.” That same week we met with Laure Wagner, head of communications for the French unicorn BlaBlaCar. We asked her about what distinguishes the French tech ecosystem and she was quick to highlight the supportive atmosphere, saying that in the Paris Region established companies like hers readily offer mentorship and advice to fledgling companies. Samantha Jerusalmy, a Partner at Elaia Partners, a VC firm founded in 2002, also sang the praises of the Paris Region, adding that it is “the best hub — more than London, more than Berlin, more than anywhere in Europe — to build the next unicorn.
What accounts for this collaborative and optimistic spirit? Pure altruism? Certainly not. But in the Paris Region, players from across the business and institutional landscape are coming together to help make this an exceptional place to start and grow a company. The bottom line remains paramount, which is why the Paris Region is hard at work implementing new incentives for entrepreneurs, such as a fast-track tech visa process and the most generous R&D tax credit in Europe (it’s also worth mentioning the €2.7 billion currently ready for VC investment here). But in the digital age, people are deciding where to launch their startup based on more than traditional metrics. Once they’re assured that a given location makes economic sense, they also want to feel reassured that they are welcome and belong. In other words, they want to feel at home.
And what better home for people with big ideas than the Paris Region? If you know your history, you know that France is no stranger to disruption. That Enlightenment spirit is alive and well today, and the country remains a beacon for people who dare to think boldly. The Paris Region benefits from this dynamism and, in turn, so does society in general. At the most basic level, people start companies because they want to solve problems. More and more, companies are realizing that those problems can be solved by the Paris Region’s human, technological and financial resources. Take the Silicon Valley based startup Zenysis for example. Zenysis is a remarkable company that applies deeptech, AI and machine learning technology to global health and helps governments save lives. Their platform allows ministries of health to spend much less time preparing their data for analysis, allowing them to actually analyze. Concretely, that means they can predict, say, the next malaria outbreak and deploy an appropriate response in advance. It means they can see into the future, so to speak, and have an accurate picture of HIV cases with district-level precision.
When we sat down with CEO and Founder Jonathan Stambolis at their Station F office the other day, we couldn’t help but ask, “Why Paris, why now?” For Zenysis the choice was obvious: 1) a high concentration of talent, from multilingual project managers to data scientists and computer engineers; 2) location, location, location: the Paris Region is one of the most well-connected in the world, allowing their team to quickly travel around and communicate with their other international offices; and 3) the French government is a major investor is global health systems around the world, and being here affords access to some of the most important decision-makers in the field. Lastly, Stambolis pointed to the “soft” factor that is the Paris Region’s quality of life, saying that this is a place where his team can live well, a priority for the company and the founder himself who plans to spend half of his time in Paris. Call us biased, but we can relate!
Few places have witnessed such a dramatic increase in startups and entrepreneurship than France and the Paris Region. International founders have flocked to the area in recent years, attracted by a vibrant and supportive ecosystem of 650+ incubators, accelerators and coworking spaces, specialized talent and, of course, access to capital. The Region has also introduced important measures to make starting and growing a business here as seamless and successful as possible. First, financially, the Region created a Starter Pack of up to €250,000 for eligible startups and SMEs. Second, we actively help companies find crucial partners for success, connecting inbound companies with financial partners and the local R&D network. Furthermore, we are acutely aware that starting a company abroad can be daunting, no matter where you choose. Every place has its local regulatory framework, cultural differences and other unknowns that present challenges. That’s why our specialized team is on call to offer personalized support and increase the ease of doing business. Our professionals have helped companies with the most important issues, such as opening a bank account, recruiting talent to navigating the fiscal, legal and immigration landscape, visa topics, finding commercial and residential real estate, relocating staff, placing children in the local schools, and much more.
In the wise words of Alice Zagury, “You can make a difference in a place where things are not yet written. You can come with your difference, you can come with your singularity.” That gets to the crux of what’s happening in the Paris Region today, and the feeling that we’re working hard to reinforce: Startups, makes yourselves at home here. We’ll be waiting.