France has plenty of great startups such as Vente Privée, Meetic, PriceMinister, Dailymotion and others, but its startup ecosystem has nowhere near the depth of Silicon Valley, or even London or Tel Aviv. The above-mentioned startups lead the pack in Europe but no French startup has become a global leader.Why does this happen? Obvious culprits include too much regulation and taxes, but another problem is an educational system that 1) slots people in occupations for life from the moment they’re teenagers and 2) focuses its resources on a very narrow elite.
It’s always hard to explain to foreigners how France’s dual system of elite “grandes écoles” and crappy public universities works. Fortunately Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD), a funny web comic about grad school hell, put together the best explanation I’ve seen so far, in comic book form.
The comic focuses on how the hyper-elitist system discourages research and slots people in lifelong high-paying jobs, but a consequence of that is that the country’s best and brightest face every disincentive to start companies. After all, why would you take a chance when a lucrative career awaits you just because you had good grades between the ages of 16 and 20?
As Silicon Valley has shown, a startup ecosystem is a self-reinforcing loop: one generation of successful entrepreneurs encourages the next one to get started, through angel investments, mentoring or simply by example. In France, this self-reinforcing loop works as a vicious cycle: because there are too few successful entrepreneurs, too few graduates find the capital or the motivation to get started. And so France stagnates in technology innovation despite otherwise top-notch schools, research and infrastructure.
PHD explains all this and more in a pretty funny one-page comic. Check it out >>>