The French government is rolling out yet another initiative in its quest to become Europe’s most startup-friendly country. 'Welcome to La French Tech' will introduce a new tech visa scheme to the country, as well as push to bring back expat talent.
“The French tech ecosystem has been steadily growing for the past four years, and has now reached a point where we add almost one new unicorn every month,” Franck Riester, France’s minister for trade and economic attractiveness, told Sifted.
“Our startups are entering a critical phase of their growth where they need to recruit skilled talents to transform their ambition into global success stories. We are already well equipped, but we still need to up our game.”
The French government has been one of the most startup friendly on the continent since Emmanuel Macron took the reins as president in 2017. The politician pledged to turn France — often criticised for its lack of successful startups — into a startup nation.
Since then he has hosted the who’s who of entrepreneurs in France and positioned himself as the champion of tech in Europe. A group of 170 entrepreneurs and investors assembled by Macron this year released recommendations to help the continent to become home to 10 technology companies — each valued at more than €100bn — by 2030.
The measures announced Thursday will move the existing French Tech Visa application system entirely online; set up a new team offering support to applicants; and establish a network of targeted support in each prefecture. The scheme’s particularly targeting c-suite level foreign applicants and French expats abroad.
The scheme, entitled 'Welcome to La French Tech', will also involve increased help from the government on relocation providers and banking services for newly arrived tech workers. The scheme has partnered with banks and apartment providers to help provide a streamlined service for people arriving in the country.
France’s existing Tech Visa is comparatively generous compared to other European countries, granting four years of residence and extending to a person’s family. It’s also agnostic to nationality and education level.
What France needs
Two thirds of French startups say their primary concern is how to hire the right talent to facilitate their growth, according to the Ministry.
The government believes that making it easier for those in higher positions within companies to emigrate to France is a way to start tackling the problem.
“We think that adding experienced profiles in as many leading positions as possible will have an immensely transformative effect on the whole ecosystem,” says Riester. “They learned from the very best, and can now share their experience and expertise with those who want to reach the top.”
The scheme also aims to target French expats who have moved abroad for tech jobs. Riester explains that although they won’t need visa support, expats returning to France experience similar problems to newly arrived tech workers — including things like moving finances and finding new accommodation.
“We want to be the number one tech ecosystem in Europe. For that, you need the number one talent in the world, and it turns out many of them are French,” says Riester.
“We understand that the conditions for them to strive in the French tech scene have not always been there. But now is the time to come back: not only will they find a transformed France, but the ecosystem is offering a large number of senior positions to fill, with salaries and challenges to match.”
In recent years, high profile French entrepreneurs have returned to the country, like founder of Eventbrite Renaud Visage, who now lives in the country and now works as an angel investor.
What France can offer
Reister’s keen to sell France to incoming tech talent.
“France is obviously a great place to live. One can access free healthcare and free education, [and that's] without even mentioning our rich cultural life or the chance to reside in the most visited country in the world,” says Riester.
Beyond what the country can offer tech workers in their day-to-day routine, Reister says that people should apply for the scheme if they match the values that the French ecosystem stands for.
“We believe that gender equality, diversity and inclusion are not only morally right, but also economically efficient. We believe that privacy matters and that growth should not compromise with values. For those sharing our values: welcome to La French Tech!”