Is France Missing the Boat?

How to Exile Your Youth

By Shlomo Maital

France food

   Ah, France, home of Paris, great cuisine, culture, the inspiring French Revolution, relaxed lifestyle…!   Alas, France – your most important recipe, how to inspire your youth and keep them from leaving the country, has failed. And the results are disastrous.

   Entrepreneurs are leaving France, according to Liz Alderman, writing in the New York Times (March 22). Here is how she begins her piece:

  “Guillaume Santacruz is among many French entrepreneurs now using London as their base. He said of his native France, “The economy is not going well, and if you want to get ahead or run your own business, the environment is not good.”   Guillaume Santacruz, an aspiring French entrepreneur, brushed the rain from his black sweater and skinny jeans and headed down to a cavernous basement inside Campus London, a seven-story hive run by Google in the city’s East End. It was late on a September morning, and the space was crowded with people hunched over laptops at wooden cafe tables or sprawled on low blue couches, working on plans to create the next Facebook or LinkedIn. The hiss of a milk steamer broke through the low buzz of conversation as a man in a red flannel shirt brewed cappuccino at a food bar.    A year earlier, Mr. Santacruz, who has two degrees in finance, was living in Paris near the Place de la Madeleine, working in a boutique finance firm. He had taken that job after his attempt to start a business in Marseille foundered under a pile of government regulations and a seemingly endless parade of taxes. The episode left him wary of starting any new projects in France. Yet he still hungered to be his own boss.

   He decided that he would try again. Just not in his own country.”

Every country, including my own Israel, must understand this: Entrepreneurship is global. Entrepreneurs will start their business elsewhere, if you do not create the right conditions for them. Make it easy to start a business, and most important, easy to close a business if it fails. Make it easy to get a small amount of startup zero-stage money. Make it easy to hire, and to fire. Make it easy to find experienced management advice.   Lots of countries do.

   France just had local elections. Everyone is preoccupied by the rise of LePen and the right-wing nationalists. This is a problem. But it is trivial compared to the cost of losing bright young people who if they stayed would create new businesses and many new jobs for other young people. France is 41st (!!) in the world in ‘ease of starting a business), and about 149th in ease of registering property. Why? Blind dumb bureaucracy that could be eliminated in one day. Wake up France! You have the world’s best schools of engineering and some of the world’s best engineers.   Keep them at home, help them start businesses. If you don’t, they’ll leave – and France will never be the same. And that applies to all countries, Greece, Spain, Italy – and my own Israel. Ever notice how many foreigners (from India, Israel, etc.) are in Silicon Valley, starting businesses?