Let’s talk about Paris. Balzac describes the capital as a primitive land with curved, serpentine roads that stretch in all directions like sprawled arms and legs. Later Haussmann fashioned a new Paris, broadening the scrawny streets and blasting boulevards through zones neither “paved” nor “lighted” before. Today a new Paris, neither Balzac’s nor Haussmann’s, has emerged. This Paris, the City of Lights, is a digital city, situated in a digital France. France, toute ensemble, is glowing, alive, and offers one of the most fertile ecosystems for start-ups worldwide.
It is a well-kept secret that France has “uniquely advantageous tax and employment laws, and a strong educational system” that happen to be essential to the establishment and survival of startups. The French Embassy is in on this secret, though, and this March, we’re launching a new initiative to ensure the presence of the most innovative French digital professionals, startups, and digital content producers at the 2014 South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival in Austin, Texas.
At SXSW, a world-renowned celebration of digital culture gathering entrepreneurs and tech visionaries, the French Embassy will lead a group of French professionals from the field of digital cultural content production—Ex Nihilo, Small Bang, Honkytonk, Lumento Films, Darjeeling, and Moozar —that were hand-picked to represent the best of the French Tech scene. It is our great pleasure to collaborate with UBIFRANCE, Bonjour SXSW, Cap Digital, BUREAU EXPORT and the Invest in France Agency in French tech’s debut.
Like an electric charge reaching across the Atlantic, France and the U.S. are bonded in their joint role as pioneers in the startup arena.
President François Hollande recently visited San Francisco, where he emphasized Silicon Valley’s crucial role as “the place where tomorrow’s world is being invented.” Fleur Pellerin, France’s technology minister, has created La French Tech, a site devoted to offering funding and other opportunities to new French and international startups. Reminding us of the importance of funding in this surging tech sphere, Pellerin states “the ecosystem won't be viable unless entrepreneurs have the prospect of getting both funded and eventually bought out.”
Literature, so often prescient, could even predict this broad trajectory of evolution. In the recently published anthology of selected Balzac stories, The Human Comedy, with an introduction by Peter Brooks, the narrator of “Sarrasine” reminds us of the vibrancy of France’s capital, “For my part, at the junction of these two so disparate scenes, which, a thousand times re-created in all manner of forms, make of Paris the world’s most amusing city and its most philosophical…”
French Tech is a modern iteration of this dynamism, a flourishing sphere, a cloud of fervent energy hovering over the familiar hexagon. Dynamic and amorphous, it reaches across oceans and continents to connect far-flung partners and link us up to a better tomorrow.