Although startup companies are among most promising sources of economic growth and innovation, more than nine out of ten fledgling firms in France today fail due to a lack of basic support and appropriate financing.

French Startup Community Calls for More Reliable Support and Financing

The contribution that startup companies make to the economy is no longer in any doubt and the importance of newly-minted firms is growing steadily. However, too many entrepreneurs have to overcome a succession of obstacles, says the French entrepreneur community body Club des Entrepreneurs. On 7 October, the Club unveiled a report describing the careers of 60 businesspeople who epitomise the ‘spirit of enterprise’ in France and drawing some conclusions about what startup entrepreneurship is all about. The report, which is the result of a collaborative, open initiative involving all the stakeholders in the French entrepreneurial scene which began in 2012, lists a number of basic requirements for fledgling companies to succeed. The report’s conclusions highlight two main areas where improvement is needed: basic support and financing.

Firstly, set up a national startup agency

As things currently stand, business starters are faced with a highly confusing situation in which they have to deal with a large number of different officials and the type of advice and assistance they receive varies enormously from region to region, when what entrepreneurs really need is direct, useful answers to help move their plans forward. Benoit Feron, co-founder of ‘online personal shopper’ site,who helped to author the report, points out that “the sheer number of people the entrepreneur has to deal with makes it a very time-consuming exercise which takes him/her away from the actual business.” Meanwhile, young entrepreneurs paradoxically find themselves pretty much on their own when they need basic advice on getting their company up and running. Advice on how to word their announcements and arguments when looking to raise funds or recruit the right staff are examples of the basic tips that entrepreneurs would like to see made available at a centralised national ‘startup agency’. Such an agency could provide tailored support to entrepreneurs, allotting them a mentor who could provide both expert advice and introductions to broader networks where the young business starter could find extra insights into best practice, says the Entrepreneurs’ Club report.

Secondly, arrange business starter loans

Many of the start-ups surveyed for the report also underlined the vital importance of an entrepreneur being able to obtain an interest-free and collateral-free business loan of around €90,000. “It’s absolutely essential to have the loan guarantee requirement waived,” argued Benoit Feron. “An entrepreneur should not see his/her career permanently blighted if that company fails. There should simply be a selection process to ensure that any project receiving a loan is viable.” This soft loan should go hand in hand with ongoing training in running a business. These days entrepreneurs need to be skilled in all aspects of external communication – making presentations to potential investors, giving media interviews, podcasting to the general

By Pierre-Marie Mateo