Why French Startups want to give Americans a VISA to work in Paris

Oct 24, 2013
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One of the founding principles behind the Rude Baguette was that, if given enough information, you could convince Americans (namely, Silicon Valley developers & entrepreneurs) to move to Paris to work for a French startup – I mean, take or leave the perceived business atmosphere, but as an employee, you clearly have it better than your American counterpart, and who wouldn’t want to live within spitting distance of the Eiffel Tower and eat French baguettes every day?

The problem, of course, is a question of transparency: which French startups are willing to hire with VISAs? This is a problem we’ve tried to tackle through our Paris Tech Job Fair last September, though it’s still unclear who is willing to ‘pay to play,’ as it were.

My usual answer is that startups need to raise at least a Series B in order to start thinking about hiring international employees – Venture-funded startups and VCs can correct me on this if you advise earlier or later – as the process for hiring an international employee requires a certain number of prerequisites:

  1. The job needs to require skills that cannot be satisfied by the local workforce (English-language knowledge, special technical skills in high-demand and low-supply locally)
  2. The company needs to be old enough to show a track record of growth and that they will continue to exist
  3. The company needs to “learn” how to file for a VISA ( = lawyer fees & 3 months of time)

The first restriction is generally the most difficult – it’s hard to hire a technical programmer and justify why you need the Silicon Valley guy instead of your local French programmer. Nonetheless, there seem to be ways to manage that, as many of my American programmer friends have managed to get brought over, though usually through international companies that agree to relocate the employee.

Why do French Startups want Americans?

The other side of this question is, of course, “Do French startups even want to hire international talent?” While I’m sure you’ll find a few overly nationalistic startups who reject the notion, they only underscore the need for international talent – and more importantly, an international mentality.

The French culture – both business & social – is intrinsically inward facing & nationalistic, and startups, well, aren’t.  In order to grow internationally, a startup needs to have that mindset engraved into their company culture, and an all-French team or a team of people who have never worked outside of France lack that part of their company culture.

The self-aware French founder looks to compliment his skill sets and make up for his weaknesses – that weakness is often internationalization.

How to get a job in Paris as an American?

As it has always been, for the most talented, the opportunities are endless. If you are a programmer, find a startup you like (perhaps by reading the Rude Baguette more often) and reach out to the CEO (or reach out to me and I’ll make the intro) – whether they announce it or not, venture-backed startups are always hiring, especially talented developers.

If you’re in the business development/marketing/sales/community/communications line of work, find a company that has traction in France, and see if they’ll bring you on as their American guy. This may be a job based in the states initially, or based in France, but it’s a great way to start.

Of course, Google & Microsoft will always be hiring, and, while VISAs can be a pain upon hire, if you work six months in a local office and decide you want to jump ship to the Atlantic, It will cost them less to keep you on than to headhunt someone else, so flex your power a bit.

For now, there isn’t a perfect place for foreign talent to find local startups in France – namely, because the size of the supply & demand aren’t clear; well, I say we start defining it.

Startups: drop a line in the comments section if you’d be willing to hire the right American for the right role.

Talent: drop a (short) line with your years of professional experience, focus/specialty, and a link to your LinkedIn profile.