'She's a fascist': why Parisian VCs and tech entrepreneurs are worried about the French presidential election

Paris tech investors and entrepreneurs are “scared to death” about the prospective election of Marine Le Pen, an extremist politician who has strong chances of becoming the next French president.

“She is a fascist,” said a partner at one of France’s leading VC firms, speaking to Business Insider. “It’s very different from the populism you see in England, because she’s absolutely anti-capitalist. She’s a pure socialist — that way she’s closer to fascism. It’s xenophobia, plus socialism.”

“I’m scared to death,” the person added.

Marine Le Pen is often likened to US president Donald Trump or former UKIP leader Nigel Farage. She is the leader of France’s Front National, an anti-immigration and anti-EU party which regards the racist BNP in the UK as its sister party.

Unlike Trump, however, Le Pen is anti-capitalist and this, along with her anti-immigration rhetoric, makes her a worrying candidate for France’s tech industry. “She wants to get back to a state-owned economy,” noted one venture capitalist.

Posters of Emmanuel MacronShona Ghosh/Business InsiderPosters of independent candidate Emmanuel Macron, the Paris tech industry’s favourite for the presidency.

“It’s a real threat,” said Le Web founder Loïc Le Meur. Le Meur lives in San Francisco but votes in France, and is back in the country to promote his new Leade.rs conference. “It’s the same risk as in the US.”

Didier Rappaport, the CEO of Happn and former COO of DailyMotion, attributed Le Pen’s rise to a “failure of politics”.

“A large part of France does not like the way France is going,” he said. “They have no choice but the extremes.”

But he was more optimistic than his peers, saying she had “no chance of becoming president” — at least this time round.

If you took a walk around Paris, you’d have little idea that France was facing its own Trump moment, particularly given Le Pen’s popularity.

Instead, there are posters dotted around for the tech industry’s preferred candidate, the independent and pro-entrepreneur Emmanuel Macron. Macron has promised to slash taxes, something sources said often put foreign entrepreneurs and investors off France.

While Rappaport was optimistic for Macron’s chances, others voiced doubts.

“95% of the tech industry is pro-Macron,” said one VC. “But we live in a bubble.”

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