Minister Mounir Mahjoubi speaking at VivaTech fair
26 May 2018

French Tech 2022: “We must get French startups off the ground”

Going from emergence to full flight... That’s what the French Tech mission has in mind for the French startup ecosystem by 2022. met with the Minister of State for the Digital Sector, Mounir Mahjoubi. Digital technology and innovation are at the heart of the Government’s objectives for France as a nation and for its influence abroad. Yet many citizens express doubts about digital technology. What are you doing to get this part of the population to feel more at ease with and involved in such technology?

M.M.: Today, around 20% of French citizens have no idea how to use digital technology. 40% know how to use it, but prefer not to. Their doubts have a whole range of sources, including protection of personal data and online violence and hatred. If you think digital technology is destructive, then it’s natural enough to feel reticent about using it and keep your distance from it. It’s essential that cyberspace be governed by rules. There has to be more security and greater simplicity, along with more values and impact. If we manage all that, then French citizens will have every reason to rally to the cause of more digital technology everywhere. It’s our role to show the way, to explain possible digital technological scenarios, and to say that we’ve made a conscious choice to go in one direction rather than another. There’s a way of doing French- and European-style Tech, and there’s a way of doing Chinese- and American-style Tech. In France, there’s always a balance between performance and humanity.
"In France, there’s always a balance between performance and humanity."
Mounir Mahjoubi
Minister of State for the Digital Sector


You talk of a French-style way of doing Tech, but what is France’s place in international Tech?

We’ve no need to be ashamed of our position on the international scene, and many countries look to us in this field. French- and European-style Tech are a matter of values and direction. If we don’t focus on direction, if we don’t concentrate on our values, there will always be others more numerous and richer than we are. There are various ways of approaching digital technology, just as there are various dynamics behind investments: performance, control, protection, or strategic advantage. In Europe and France, we innovate in order to have a responsible impact on humankind and the environment. As long as we stay true to these aims, we keep our individuality. That’s why we organised the AI for Humanity and Tech for good summits. Humanity is the key to French- and European-style Tech.

French Tech was created in 2013 in order to assert the French vision of digital technology and support the emergence of French startups. Now you’ve announced the launch of “French Tech 2022”. What are your new objectives?

Since it was first introduced, French Tech has aimed to enable the emergence of French startups. It’s succeeded in doing so as it’s taken part in bringing about an ecosystem of some 10,000 startups. We must now aim yet higher and really get the French ecosystem off the ground. Among other things, this will be done by lending support to companies with hypergrowth projects on the international scene. In order to succeed, they’ll have to find the necessary funds and obtain project assistance. We’ll be helping them with creation of mentoring programmes and new financing to the tune of 70 million euros.

We must also improve our ability to attract talent. To do so, we’re going to extend the “French Tech Visa” and “French Tech Diversity” schemes. Diversity and mixity must become French Tech’s main driving forces. Fewer than one in ten companies in the French Tech sector are headed up by women, and the most privileged social classes are vastly over-represented.

Taken together, these schemes will only bear fruit when public actors are fully mobilised. That’s why we’ve also decided to set up startup relays in each Ministry.

And what are your objectives for French Tech in Europe and on the international scene in the years to come?

It’s essential to view French Tech from the inside and outside alike, which is one of the reasons why I’ve appointed Kat Borlongan to head the French Tech mission. She’s a businesswoman who brings innovative methods and fresh impetus to our approach, ensuring that France’s startups truly come into their own. She knows the ecosystems formed by financers, entrepreneurs and public actors in France and abroad, and such knowledge is especially important in order to get French Tech off the ground. We want our top talents to enjoy more visibility on the international scene. That’s why we’ve developed a new “Next 40” indicator; this will help raise the profile of France’s 40 most promising startups, which will be selected every year by a jury.

"We want our top talents to enjoy more visibility on the international scene."
Mounir Mahjoubi

At European level, we want to develop a genuine “Europe Tech”, drawing inspiration from the French model. The current lack of diversity in the national identities of such companies’ founders partly explains why they’ve not managed to reach all 500 million European citizens. We’re yet to see any stand-out examples of startups whose cofounders come from several EU countries and which take advantage of such diversity to develop a real European market. I hope we’ll be the first Government to witness the advent of such companies.
French Tech today
  • Over 10,000 startups, a number increasing by 30% every year.
  • A leading position in Europe in terms of high-growth startups.
  • Annual totals of funds raised increased threefold in 5 years, with a peak of 2.5 billion euros in 2017.
  • Significant participation (>12%) in net job creation in France each year.
  • 35 labelled communities in France and abroad