Where are you from and what is your background? How did you end up in Singapore?
Born and raised in Canada, my patriotic French father taught me how to love France beyond cheese and baguette. When I was a child, I shared my time between Montréal (Québec) and La Drôme, in the South of France where I spent most of my summers. Today, I see the personal enrichment of expatriation: I can adapt easily to new environments and I need to regularly get out of my comfort zone to feel that I am moving forward in life. My year in China working for a French company was a good start for a change of scenery. A year later, I was selected to join the French Embassy in Singapore as Regional French Tech Attachée in ASEAN. So here I am again in Asia!
What is La French Tech? What is La FrenchTech outside of France?
La French Tech designates the French startup scene. It’s also a special government initiative inside the Macron administration better known as French Tech Mission, to bolster France as a country where tech startups can start, scale and succeed in companies that make sense for the future.
🚀French ecosystem is now literally booming with 10,000 startups, nine unicorns (as opposed to only three in 2018), more than 300 incubators, 50 accelerators, famous research institutes (CNRS, INRIA, CNES, etc) and 71 innovation clusters, centers of technological excellence.
🌎 Today there are 99 French Tech communities based in more than 100 cities all over the world (check the one close to you here), 43 French Tech communities in France, and 13 French Tech capitals.
- 👥 Communities are made to:
- Facilitate introductions between entrepreneurs/corporates locally based and French entrepreneurs looking to expand their business in the targeted country.
- Provide visibility to startups founded by French/francophone/francophile entrepreneurs who are operating in the country.
- Reference public and private initiatives and organizations that support French startups expanding in Singapore.
- Be the entry point for local investors, companies, engineers willing to explore new opportunities in France.
Any member of the community (not exclusively French) is entitled to use the French Tech logo (with the name of your community on it) on its communication documents.
To integrate a local community go on the official website (they all have one or at least a Linkedin/Facebook page) and get in touch with the board. It’s that easy!
- ⭐️ Capitals gather communities with a dense pool of hyper-growth startups which have a local team fully dedicated to the French Tech Mission’ strategy (i.e Bordeaux, Grand Paris, Lille).
To close-up on Asia, we are proud to count 14 labeled communities established in all the major tech hubs of the region (Beijing, Shanghai, Hong-Kong-Shenzen, Tokyo, Seoul, Taiwan) and 6 in ASEAN since May 11th 2020 (Singapore, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Vietnam « Hanoi-Danang-Ho Chi Minh city »), and the 2 new ones that we are very glad to integrate to the network: Philippines and Malaysia. Since the region is booming and attracts more and more French, we should welcome new communities in the near future!
As a Regional French Tech Attachée – ASEAN, I feel lucky to work with French Tech communities that are among the most dynamics in the world. Many great initiatives have emerged. Let’s take a few examples :
What about La French Tech in times of Covid-19?
Concerning French Tech communities…
🦠In times of Covid-19, “solidarity” is key and who is best placed to help? Communities! The crisis revealed, even more, the importance and efficiency of French Tech communities. The ones in the region have been really proactive to help each other. Naming a few amazing initiatives:
- French Tech Singapore launched “Co-deeds 2020”; members of the community randomly (and virtually!) got in touch with other membersand gave 25 minutes of his/her time to try to bring value by sharing a relevant contact, a piece of advice, tools…that is to say anything useful!
- French Tech Vietnam compiled two spreadsheets: one listing all the temporary available resources to share between companies in need (avoiding massive layoffs) and second a list of all unemployed people, detailing their skills and experiences.
- French Tech Hong-Kong created “Covid tenders”, a decentralized platform connecting authorities with companies from around the globe with developed technology solutions for COVID-19
- French Tech Taiwan put in place a “French Tech (job board)”, a job portal to the local tech ecosystem, particularly helpful for the ones who sadly lost their jobs due to Covid-19.
And more than ever, monthly French Tech Connects still go on! The last one gathered more than 90 people. With Marianne Wlassewitch (Area Manager – ASEAN at Bpifrance) we animated a 100% “Mari(e)Anne” round table about government support (French & Singapore) to startups.
Concerning the French Tech Mission…
💸 France has been the first European country to propose a €4 bn “emergency plan” to support startups amid Covid-19 crisis with measures including:
- A €80 million package to finance bridges between two fund-raising rounds
- State-guaranteed treasury loans of up to twice the 2019 wage bill for France or, if higher, 25% of the annual revenue
- €1.3 billion of grants, i.e. repayable advances, loans.
A strong message sent here: startups are not a nice-to-have for the French government but really part of the whole strategy.
Why is the hexagon more than ever the (Tech) place to be for startups and VCs?
The French government has been proactive to fully become a startup nation. A big challenge for a country mostly visited for its incredible museums and ancient monuments! We believe that in the aftermath of Brexit and now the Covid-19, VCs and startups should seriously consider France. We possess great assets to become the first ecosystem in Europe:
- 👨👩👦👦France is the 2nd largest European market with 67 million potential customer/consumers
- 📍It has a central European location with direct access to 500 million potential customers/consumers with a high standard of living and 22% of the world GDP
The foundation stone to build up a startup nation was to remove one by one all the hurdles that hinder the growth of French startups. These obstacles have to do mainly with :
📋 1) The regulatory and administrative environment
To name just a few, here some significant new regulations:
-the reduction of corporate tax (25% by 2022)
-A drop in social contributions
-the administrative simplification: the time required to establish a company in France is only 4 days (versus 4.5 in the UK and 8 in Germany). We are not that far from Singapore! And the cost of procedures is 0.7% (GNI per capita), compared with 1% in the United States and 6.7% in Germany. The results speak for themselves: a bit less than 700 000 new companies set-up in France in 2018 (+17%).
💰 2) Funding
Philippe Tibi’s report on “Financing the fourth industrial revolution” (you can find the full report in French here) pointed out that even though the Tech scene is booming in France, late-stage startups still face issues when they need to raise big tickets (50 million and more). Following the publication of the report, the French President announced the commitment of France-based institutional investors (asset managers, banks, and insurers) to put five billion euros (+1 more billion additional) in the domestic tech industry within the next three years.
French Tech Mission launched the French Tech Visa, a fast-track process to obtain a 4-year resident permit for employees, investors, and founders without diploma requirements, sponsorship fees, nor quotas. To give you an idea, 8,340 French Tech Visa for employees were emitted in 2018.
Due to recent measures, France is more and more considered as a Launchpad to explore European markets, offering a growth-friendly environment for startups, VCs, talents. In 2019, it has become the top destination for international investments in Europe for the first time in 20 years! Moreover, amounts raised by startups have doubled between 2015 (€1.8 billion) and 2018 (€3.6 billion) and Station F (the world’s largest startups campus based in Paris) is almost considered as a pilgrimage for Tech❤️!
What do you do as a “Regional French Tech attachée”?
🗺 We are 4 French Tech Attachés in strategic Tech hubs in the world: New York City, Berlin, London, and Singapore.
Based at the French Embassy of Singapore, I am in charge of deploying French Tech Mission’ strategy in the ten ASEAN countries.
I have to open up the appetite of French scale-ups to discover the south-east Asian markets (unknown complex markets yet so dynamic!) while doing the same the other way around. The idea here is to really show to local scale-ups, VCs, and talents that France is now one of the most vibrant tech ecosystem and a real gateway to explore European markets.
Concretely I dedicate my time to :
📢 Promote French Tech in major Tech events. Our « Choose France » booth was very crowded last year as you can read here and see on this picture gathering H.E the Ambassador, Team France Export, French Tech Singapore and several French delegations:
Come visit us next at Switch Fintech Festival (November the 9th-13th), we will make things big!
- ✈️Embark more and more French startups on regional “discovery tours” and invite local startups, VCs, talents to do the same in France / Europe.
- For example, I brought French scale-ups to apply to the « Booster ASEAN 2020 », a twelve-month coaching program to discover two ASEAN markets.
- 💡Raise awareness on the two indexes (Next 40 / FT 120) :
French government has designed two indexes to shed light on the 40 + 80 (83 to be precise !) startups that have huge potential and the ambition to rapidly becomeworld-class technology leaders.
La French Tech Next 40 La French Tech 120
(literally the Next CAC40)
La French Tech 120
(modelled on the SBF120)
You’ll find below the French Tech 120 on this link!
– 🤝Help French Tech scale-ups, with a focus on Next 40 / FT 120, find business opportunities in the region
– 🧲Create even more synergies between French Tech communities in the region while accompanying new communities to emerge
A monthly newsletter to shed light on French Tech communities will be released next month. If you already wanna follow French Tech ASEAN’s adventures, it’s here
Since I got into this role, the first challenge I had was to create a relevant roadmap to reach my objectives. To do so, I got in touch with about 50 interlocutors from different backgrounds: The economic department of French embassies, actors of the French Export Team, French Tech communities, local entrepreneurs, VCs, and officials.
🎯 These interviews gave me great insights about the Tech scene in ASEAN region, allowing me to map out :
-the major Tech events on which we could promote French Tech
-local startups with huge potential to grow (potentially in Europe)
–government agencies for innovation to raise awareness on the Next 40/ FT120
–market opportunities for our French scale-ups
–meet and follow the 6 French Tech communities
How do you“dare to be a woman” in Tech? How do you bring diversity to the community?
I was raised with three brothers, so I naturally evolved in a masculine world. Funnily enough, when I studied mandarin in high-school, my Chinese teacher named me « Lian » (丽安). Years later, I found that this name was usually attributed to males. Maybe she had the premonition that I would end up in a hyper masculine environment? Even though I don’t feel uncomfortable in that position, I strongly believe that this world needs more diversity otherwise we end up with a unique way of apprehending Tech which is inevitably reductive. Fortunately, I have the chance to be part of a team for which gender equality is no longer to be questioned. French Tech Mission’s policies require 35% of speakers to be women in all the events that they sponsor to give you one but a significant example.
At my humble scale I try to bring more diversity to the French Tech ecosystem, pushing local players to join the movement. I have regular calls with my French Tech Attaché counterparts and we all come to the same conclusion: inclusive communities are more dynamic!