3 Things Fleur Pellerin could be doing instead of fighting AppGratis’ battles for them

Apr 12, 2013
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Fleur Pellerin AppGratis

We wrote this week about AppGratis being pulled from the Apple App Store unexpectedly last weekend. CEO Simon Dawlat later came out and said that he was utterly confused as to why Apple would do this, and that there was zero communication around the subject. If you’d like to catch up on the other side of the story, former OMGPOP CEO Dan Porter did a great guest post on AllThingsD called “App Non Gratis,” in which he talks about how Apple is trying to keep the App Store a meritocracy, and some apps (such as AppGratis) were essentially selling Top 10 placement on the App Store. 148Apps confirms this sentiment and even goes so far as to share what they say are emails forwarded by a prospect AppGratis client from the AppGratis sales team essentially quantifying how much it would cost to get on the top of the App Store.

So, you’re caught up with that, now let’s jump to the story: Fleur Pellerin, Minister Delegate with responsibility for SMEs, Innovation & the Digital Economy, is now on the attack against Apple for booting AppGratis from the App Store.

Let’s put aside the fact that this is an appointed official in charge of 90%+ of employment (that which is produced by SMEs) who has taken up the charge for a total of 45 employees – let’s pretend that’s normal – this is NOT the point at which a government intervention is appropriate. The Minister, who is threatening to look into any and all ways of punishing Apple, uses such amazing arguments as “there are plenty of apps like AppGratis on the App Store” to defend her claim. So now she’s not only negating the very INNOVATION her title dictates that she defend, but she’s actually suggesting that if Apple is going to boot AppGratis, they should boot ‘em all. Hmmm, I wonder which “similar apps” she’s referring to – maybe Appsfire (Paris), or maybe AppTurbo – hell, maybe she wants to eliminate the entire App Discovery sector that France is doing so well in.

Now, I don’t know who reached out to whom, but this is terrible press for the French startup scene. It summarizes the very heart of the problem in France – that the French can’t accept failure, whatever the cause, and move on. I think the most healthy thing in this situation would be to let AppGratis sort out its situation on its own, for better or for worse, instead of having the Minister come to the AppGratis office like she was paying tribute to a fallen soldier.

The worse part about this is that she has literally no power over the situation, and it is just another case of Pellerin talking without action – I’m not calling her to action, mind you, just saying that she needs to learn to stay out of things. Remember the Google Tax she was pushing for? Never happened. What about the 1000 Startup Incubator she said would finally create a startup ecosystem in Paris? That died down just as soon as it appeared last month. This government is coming up on the end of its 1st year in office, and I honestly can’t think of a single thing that Pellerin has done for SMEs, Innovation, or the Digital Economy. The 75% tax was ruled unconstitutional – Pellerin didn’t say a word against it – and it was France Digitale that pushed measures through to give startups more benefits. Pellerin did help launch the SayOuiToFrance campaign - however, it came just after the announcement of the 75% tax when international news was all about how France was killing innovation, so that big 1 page NYTimes ad they took out probably fell on deaf ears.

The only thing worse than France’s inability to give credit to successful entrepreneurs when they succeed – Dailymotion, Deezer, Viadeo, Criteo, Blablacar, Free – is their inability to just let someone fail. Worse comes to worst, Dawlat has probably the best cop-out for his startup not succeeding – Apple killed them at their peak – and will easily be able to raise funds for a second startup. Obviously, Dawlat is exploring every option – launching on Android, focusing on their emailing list and web origins, etc. – but you can bet Iris Capital, who fronted their most recent $13M investment, is seeing this news as a big blow, and it’s really either all or nothing here.

So Fleur, my dear sweet Fleur: instead of fighting for 45 jobs, or attacking giant Tech companies that are holding up the entire Digital Economy – why don’t you do one of the following:

  1. Eliminate taxes for any startup with private investment, foreign or domestic (you’ll get your money back if they succeed)
  2. Push for a startup visa to allow any developer based in the US to come to Paris and work – I can’t think of one Silicon Valley person who doesn’t secretly wish they could do a year abroad in Paris
  3. Remove all the tax-incentivized VC funds (more than 50% of funding is coming from abroad anyway), so we can rebuild our VC structure from the ground up to support startups, instead of keeping VCs steadily employed and risk-averse

I know, those things are hard – but every entrepreneur learns from day one that you should look your to-do list in the face and pick the three most difficult things and do them straight away, because they are always the things that will have the biggest impact. You’ve got four years left – which of those things can’t be done in four years?

Photo courtesy of Yahoo!