The way French Tech determines success needs to change

The way French Tech determines success needs to change
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This post originally appeared in the Rude Baguette Weekly Digest. You can sign up here to receive a nice packet of FrenchTech news every Monday morning. 
I’ve found myself in one too many conversations starting with “What is a startup, anyway?” or “Why do journalists write about fundraising rounds?” or, on the polar opposite “I wish I could be successful like [startup that raised money],” so I thought I’d set the record straight for the French readers, and, for the non-French readers, this may be helpful as well:

Startups

Startup has more or less 2 definitions that the majority of people (who matter) go by: that of Paul Graham (i.e: “Startup = Growth”), and that of Eric Ries (Startup = solving a problem for which the solution is unknown). They both tackle different aspects of a company, the search & the resulting growth, and so I use them interchangeably or in combination. More importantly, “Startup” doesn’t imply age, or revenue, or size; it does, however, most often imply scalability, and, thus, some technical component, even if the innovation is one of design and not of technical nature.

Success

Success for Startups is absolute. It doesn’t have qualification. That is, being the leader of a specific market, when it implies that you are not the global leader, means that success lies in front of you. This is because the very Scalability element, which is a required component of a Startup, knows know language, no country border, and thus, inability to go global will ultimately result in a lack of defensibility against the inevitable competitor. 

With that in mind, Startup Success is not equal to fundraising. Journalists write about fundraising – at least, some of us – because it is proof that someone who isn’t the founder has done enough due diligence and decided to put money into the venture, implying they liked what they saw. This is why the investors are just as important as the amount invested, from an outsider’s view.

So, while Vente-Privée does €1 Billion+ in turnover per year, the majority of that comes from France, despite being present in other countries; therefore, I would conclude that they Failed to go Global. The revenue amount is irrelevant, except to the founders and investors, who I’m sure are happy with their qualified success.

SIGFOX & Blablacar have raised $100M & €100M, respectively, and I’m sure that gives them fuel to attempt to grow globally; however, the idea that to be like SIGFOX or Blablacar is to be successful is flawed, as it misses the underlying risk associated with raising that much money – namely, that the people who gave them that money want it back, and they want it back with large multiples.

4 Responses

  1. Avatar
    Manuel Atréide

    “while Vente-Privée does €1 Billion+ in turnover per year, the majority of that comes from France, despite being present in other countries; therefore, I would conclude that they Failed to go Global.”
    Yet ?
    Another way to measure success is to think about time frame. Maybe Vente-privée has failed to go Global, maybe it hasn’t achieved yet to go Global. Measuring success is seldom made with a picture, it’s more about analyzing the entire movie.
    (Another french way to determine success …)
    M.

    • Avatar
      Liam Boogar

      Yawn.
      Scalable technology has a fixed time-frame, and success can be measured in relative to other achievements in that same time france. Vente Privee was founded in 2001. Since then: Apple goes from near bankrupt to the most valuable company in the world, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon Web Services, Tesla, SpaceX, …
      Success is absolute. Not qualified, by time or ‘yet’
      This ‘French Way’ you speak of is called justifying mediocrity. Celebrating mediocrity encourages mediocrity, and celebrating ‘yet’ implies that it’s OK to not succeed today, because you will eventually.

    • Avatar
      Manuel Atréide

      If you speak about Apple Liam, you must be honest: the company wasn’t created in 1997 but in 1976 and it was nearly bankrupted at that time but had a huge technical background, millions of clients who were willing to buy new products and, most of all, a new CEO who was the founder of the company and a tech guru. Its reboot was a challenge but a successful one because of all this and because of one more thing : Steve Jobs had failed a lot between 1976 and 1997. Should we speak about NeXT ?
      So yes, it’s “OK to not succeed today, because you will eventually”. this is exactly the US way to think about success and entrepreneurship : the more you try, the more you fail, the more you learn and eventually, the more you succeed.
      Success at the first attempt is the french way. Guess what’s the best “proven-by-fact” way ? 😉

    • Avatar
      Liam Boogar

      1) In comment threads, Winky Face emoticons universally come across as “douchebag-y” – just an FYI.
      2) You’re not countering my argument. You’re giving a short history of a company, or a shorter history of one of its founders – both of which have other sources who are better qualified to do so. I was telling you what has happened in a time frame relative to what the French call ‘success,’ which are examples of what the US calls success.
      3) The French would never call Groupon, Zynga, or MySpace a success; however, they, too, had up’s and downs. Success is absolute.

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