In France “It takes even more courage then usual to be an entrepreneur” replied Marc Westermann, principal of telecommunications and internet corporation SFR Développement, when asked about the current climate for French-based start-ups. In the recent Global Competitiveness Index 2012-2013, a report which globally ranks the pillars of institutions, France was ranked 21st, sliding down three places on last year. The report outlines this decline as down to the falling confidence and untrustworthiness in public and private institutions and the financial sector. It is true that it is a time of great upheaval in France. Like many European countries, France’s economy is currently facing numerous challenges. When socialist President Francois Hollande was elected in May last year his economic policy became a target for the press and his government’s 2013 Budget proposals concerned both corporate venturers and entrepreneurs, most notably for the proposed supertax on the countries top earners. The 75% ‘supertax’ effects individuals who earn €1m or more, which is applicable to around 1,400 people. The tax has been accused of being ‘unfriendly to business’. Is it? Fabienne Herlut, president of multi-corporate fund Ecomobilité Ventures as a spin-off from French national railway SNCF, thinks not: “we have never been a country where billionaires are the most welcome. They like to have a house in the south of France but they don’t like to live here forever… It will still attract people (to France) the real issue is the way the government treats those who make money… it’s more of an image problem”. When asked the same question, Westermann Emphasized that any halts in innovation in in France was not about salaries of €1m, but of taxes on stock options which “penalizes investors and does not give companies the leverage they need to grow”. There are more concerns over the fact that the market is not longer secure and that corporate ventures units may not be able to return profit. Positively, the same report also highlight the high standard of infrastructure within France; its energy infrastructure transport and communication links are ranked as among the best in the world, 4th overall and all important in the boost for growth. The state-owned French National Railways (SNFC) operates ones of the fastest train service in the world, the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse). France has the 2nd most developed high-speed rail network in Europe, with 1896 km of rail lines for high-speed services, according to the International Union of Railways, 2010…
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Feb 20, 2013 • Joanne Faulkner
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