Bringing entrepreneurialism to France

Cultural Insights — By on February 28, 2007 at 8:05 am

We often take for granted certain aspects of life in our own culture. In the U.S., for instance, risk-taking tends to be seen as normal, failure is an accepted part of trying new things, and an abundance of venture capital firms exist to fund intriguing new business ideas.  These are not universal traits, however, as Jacques Souquet discovered when he tried to transplant some of these business assumptions to France in the process of founding a new high-tech firm in his home country. As this article reports:

Jacques Souquet had gone through several start-ups in Seattle, but he still was not entirely prepared for beginning a high-tech company in his native France.

Failure is still a no-no here, creating a challenge for any start-up. … And Mr. Souquet, 58, a compact man with a gentle manner, has a lot of rules to learn. When he once had to meet a deadline, he asked his colleagues to come in on a Sunday, which they did; but Mr. Souquet got a scolding from his lawyer, who lectured about the legal limits on the French workweek. …

French attitudes are a bit rigid, compared with the American approach of if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed. And French law, which mandates a 35-hour week, still crimps entrepreneurial flair.

“In a start-up environment, you cannot work a 35-hour week,” Mr. Souquet said, referring to the time he asked his colleagues to work on a Sunday. “My lawyer was furious,” he said, fearing the company could be penalized.

Still, the story does note that the situation is improving for would-be European entrepreneurs:

Now, Mr. Souquet’s company is up and running smoothly, and that is a testimony to recent changes in France and greater Europe: start-ups are no longer rare. Moreover, Europe’s new entrepreneurs are turning West to learn the start-up culture bred in Silicon Valley before coming back here to apply their learning.

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