Fleur Pellerin discusses French Innovation on her 1st LinkedIn Post. The Internet disagrees.

Fleur Pellerin discusses French Innovation on her 1st LinkedIn Post. The Internet disagrees.


After a long trip around the world, including Korea, Israel and the Silicon Valley, the Minister of SMEs, Innovation, and the Digital Economy Fleur Pellerin has given her thoughts in the form of a post on LinkedIn as one of LinkedIn’s influencers. Ignoring all sarcastic remarks about why she didn’t post on Viadeo, let’s get straight to the heart of her post:

“I have visited many places, from the Silicon Valley to Boston, from Israel to South Korea, to meet the innovation actors at work. By means of programmes such as “Say oui to France, say oui to innovation” and the “Digital Neighbourhoods” project, I want to give France the innovative appeal that our entrepreneurs so richly deserve!


Businessmen interested in coming to France would find out that we rank fourth among mature markets concerning business costs, 3.9% lower than the US baseline. They would be surprised to learn that total labor costs in France (salary, employer-paid statutory plans and other contributions) are lower than in the United States, Germany, the Netherlands and Japan. Transportation and utility costs are the lowest among mature markets. For digital operations and R&D, France has the lowest effective corporate income tax rates among mature economies.”

Pictured above with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, Pellerin seems to really drive home the message of “come on, world – France isn’t that bad!” and in regular blog fashion, the comments reflect the general disagreement:

“Ms Pellerin has framed the debate with the wrong problem and therefore the wrong answer. Innovation is not the challenge. Business is the challenge for France. France is not short of ideas. Micro-computers, touch screens and smart card chips are all french inventions. But France has often failed to turn ideas into global products that customers will buy.” – Alex Coley, Technical Strategist – London


“I can’t think of a more un-innovative, more un-enterprising country than France or a more negative society with a punishing, stressful old-fashioned education system. And the surly, off-hand, un-commercial service in most Parisian cafes, restaurants and shops doesn’t make it very welcoming. Sorry to be so blunt mais il y a du pain sur la planche mes amis. Bon courage!” – Jon Duff, Corporate Journalist – Paris


“Time flies. April 1 again, obviously. Oh and that 75% tax rate probably won’t encourage many successful entrepreneurs to stick around once they’ve made it.” – Kevin McMahon, Finance & Accounting Executive – Denver

While Pellerin’s inaugural post looks to re-frame the discussion around France’s knack for innovation, the comments are more telling of France’s position than the Minister’s statements. A lack of business culture, an inability to commercialize, and unfriendly labor/business laws – these are the impressions that the outside world has of France, true or not, and until Pellerin starts addressing the concerns that the business world has about France, she might as well be posting on Viadeo.

12 Responses

  1. facts

    Until employee contracts can be terminated in a more flexible fashion, France will never – ever – be a hotbed of start-up activity.

  2. Rasmus Michau

    Marketing a technology product has nothing to do with service in cafés or restaurants… Pretty sick of this too easy French bashing. The French taxation level is nothing to be proud of, but in Scandinavia it is even heavier and everybody applauds Nordic entrepreneurs.
    The problem in France is that too many technology products are developed by engineers without marketing acumen. Not only in tech, but also in automobiles for example, where the Citroen DS3 is an insult to the original slick DS.
    You don’t hear of many engineers going to work at l’Oreal or P&G in France, and not many business school graduates going to work for Oracle or Alcatel. If you had more crossover careers as in the US, the French would be much better at marketing their often very clever technology products. That is a pretty easy fix the current government could easily do something about.

    • Jean-Baptiste Soufron

      Oui, on a tendance à oublier que l’innovation et le business, ce n’est pas que le numérique. Et on a aussi trop tendance à croire que les jeux sont faits dans le numérique alors que la bataille ne fait que commencer.

    • Tobias

      I agree the comments on the blog might seem facile, but behind the famous “bad restaurant” service lies the notion that not only is the customer not important, but nor will the waiter get a tip.

      Clearly, customer focus has everything to do with marketing.
      Making profit has a lot, though not everything, to do with wanting (and having the means) to undertake innovative, risky ventures.

      I do agree with your point on cross-over careers, though I suspect this is mainly a cultural issue; I’m not sure how much the government can do about it quickly – did you have anything particular in mind?

    • Milka

      Actually there is a very high amount of French Graduates coming to Dublin to work for…Oracle. And not only Oracle but also, Google, Salesforce, Linkedin, IBM etc…

  3. Eimear

    Agree that France doesn’t really have a marketing culture- and that permeates bars and cafés as well as big business. The French seem slightly mistrusting of marketing: I’ve seen campaigns work the world over, but not in France, because the French audience won’t trust the celebrity spokesperson, or because the French won’t believe a purely positive pitch, or essentially because the French don’t intrinsically believe you want to sell them something that will help them.
    France as a hotbed of innovation: sure
    France as an easy first market: not likely

  4. ParisExpat

    As an expat observer of French society for the past 40-odd years, I see absolutely no change in the negative business and social environment – at least in terms of impetus from the quasi-permanent political and economic power structure, in which the lifetime membership (occasionally even handed down from from to son/daughter) is much too comfortable for members to ever want to seriously modify things. France is a top-down society in which the position of quiet privilege of a self-replicating group results in a congenital impossibility to institute any kind of meaningful change to the social and business environment. In short, in 2013, I see essentially the same species of politicians, businessmen, intellectuals, journalists and assorted talking heads discussing the same problems as upon my arrival in this country in 1973. The television channels could re-run the same footage and few people would probably notice were it not for the differences in the hairstyles and clothing.

  5. ParisExpat


    An ‘edit’ function for posts would be welcome…

  6. Jan Barkhed (@JanBarkhed)

    Think you nailed it with ” a lack of business culture”. If there is no internal demand, and entrepreneurs are met with “no” everywhere, they will not succeed on a global market either. Ecosystems of entrepreneurs will only support a young, innovative business that far. To survive, all businesses need real customers – consumers or other businesses. I think all cultures can be both beneficial and detrimental, but France, in my opinion, suffers from centralism – as do most European countries. It’s a small elite of people at the top who makes all the decisions without understanding its consequences.

  7. Chris Hartwig

    In France, the lack of business culture is easy to explain : business doesn’t have a french word for it !
    Business culture : we have a french word for entrepreneurship, but no word for Business culture.

    Worse : if you really want a french word for business (“les affaires”), it’s the same as used for political scandals.
    “Doing business” has no word for it either.

    The lack of business culture in France is cultural…
    We have 500 business taxes, but no word for business.

    BTW, we use the same word for a company and the society : you could expect that from USSR only 🙂
    And the agency that collects some taxes in france is called URSSAF (URSS means USSR).

  8. Ziad SALLOUM

    Libération: “Casse-toi riche con !”
    That says it all about the culture in here.
    There is nothing wrong in WORKING to become rich, as long as it follows the ethical and legal path.
    Another example, is the latest interview of Bernad Tapie on France2. Disregarding everyone’s opinion about this guy or what the justice might decide, David Pujadas have questioned Tapie’ actions concerning his yacht and villa etc..While shyly saying it is legal he kept implying that there were wrongdoings in this!
    As long as this culture of “bad rich man” persists, there will be no laws that might permit the birth of the next Google, next Apple, next Microsoft in France.
    Sad but true

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