Government-sponsored initiatives involving startups and innovation often meet skepticism. I understand because I often tend to be one of the skeptics. It’s a familiar drill. A group of politicians announce with great fanfare some theme of cross-border collaboration, accompanied by numerous platitudes extolling the virtues of entrepreneurship, job creation, etc.
The official framework here dates back to October, when Messieurs Valls and Macron joined Japan’s Prime Minister Abe in Tokyo to launch the Year of Franco-Japanese Innovation. In this case however, I submit that the initiative is concretely starting to bear fruit, on the ground, in both countries’ startup ecosystems.
Just yesterday for example, a collection of internationally ambitious Japanese entrepreneurs pitched in Tokyo for the chance to participate in Paris’ Hacking de l’Hôtel de Ville. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Regional President Valérie Pécresse showcased their charisma here at a preeminent Tokyo startup incubator. Between Hidalgo’s Paris cheerleading and Pécresse’s impressive Japanese language intro, the message resonated well with the mostly Japanese crowd (chapeaux bas à tous les deux!).
Four winning teams received plane tickets to Paris for the March 24th event: Accela, Emotion Intelligence, Up Performa, and Locarise.
Meanwhile, French startups are en route to Japan…
Traveling in the opposite direction, tomorrow five gifted French startups will arrive in Fukuoka for the prestigious Dash Camp Summit to hobnob with leaders and m&a groups of Japan’s largest tech firms.
Then next week, some of France’s hottest IoT startups will visit Tokyo in an event co-hosted by Orange Fab Asia and DMM.Make, Japan’s largest hardware accelerator. They’ll discuss the challenges, pitfalls, and pleasures of building a connected hardware company.
Granted, the world is flat, and opportunities are vast. French entrepreneurs: I encourage you to consider Japan in your reflections on international market rollout. Perhaps you prefer to prioritize the U.S., or even Western Europe, a strategy which may also have its merits depending on your sector.
Japanese entrepreneurs: same goes for you. I encourage you to put France on your radar. You have a fascination with Silicon Valley, and I can understand that. Although I can provide a slew of compelling arguments on the appeal of France, I can also accept it if you judge other European countries to be more appropriate for your initial beachhead.
From a VC’s perspective, the most important thing is that your ambition be global.