Friday, February 23, 2007

Importing Silicon Valley

Europe is busy trying to catch up with the United States by encouraging more entrepreneurial activity. France is no exception, though the environment there is less than ideal for start-ups. French nationals who have gained the requisite experience abroad are making a go of it in their homeland:

Jacques Souquet had gone through several start-ups in Seattle, but he still was not entirely prepared for beginning a high-tech company in his native France...

Mr. Souquet’s experience illustrates how far the Continent has to go if it hopes to match the United States. He was able to lure eight of his 27 employees back from the United States. And after two years, he is preparing to offer his product in 2008, a device that measures the elasticity of living tissue, to assist doctors in diagnosing and treating cancer.

Still, Aix is not Seattle. French attitudes are a bit rigid, compared with the American approach of if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed. And French law, which mandates a 35-hour week, still crimps entrepreneurial flair.

Once again, the story is about the return of a prodigal son or daughter. Mr. Souquet brings with him ample start-up experience and a network of talent that remains in the United States (he opened an office in Seattle). In order to succeed in France, he eschews geographies much more conducive to entrepreneurial enterprise. In this case, relationships and connectivity trump an advantageous environment.

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