Fleur Pellerin, former French Minister of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), Innovation and the Digital Economy, delivered a speech with current Taiwanese legislators Karen Yu (Yu Wan-Ju), and Yu Mei-Nu yesterday at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei City.
Titled “Revitalizing and Innovating Businesses: A Case Study on France,” Mme.Pellerin’s speech shared important lessons from her project “La French Tech” and highlighted the need to cooperate transnationally through channels such as the recently created “French Tech Taiwan” hub.
Mme. Pellerin’s stellar career highlights her global roots and has been seen as inspiring well beyond the borders of France.
Born in Seoul, Korea in 1973, she was then adopted by a French family in 1974. Growing up in suburban Paris, she finished tertiary education with degrees from the Higher School of Economics and Business Sciences (ESSEC), the Paris Institute of Political Studies (Science Po), and the National School of Administration (ENA). She then joined the French Court of Auditors in 2000.
Mme. Pellerin’s political career began when Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault appointed her as Minister of SMEs, Innovation and the Digital Economy in May 2012. Besides advocating stronger privacy laws against the push to install broad public surveillance, Mme. Pellerin turned heads with her successful implementation of France’s first crowd funding law in 2014.
More recently, she has garnered praise for launching La French Tech, a project which seeks to support startups and foster innovation.
Mme. Pellerin resigned as government minister in early 2016 amidst a major government reshuffle. She has subsequently established the transnational venture capital fund Korelya Capital, which seeks to further tech innovation through investments.
Cooperation and Innovation
Mme. Pellerin’s talk was introduced by Mr. Benoit Guidee, director of the French Office in Taipei. Remarking on the importance of cooperation between France and Taiwan, M. Guidee pointed out that the two countries in fact have been working together very close for a long time.
This insight was echoed by Mme. Pellerin, who cited the close relationship as one of the main reasons for her visit and her wish to engage in mutual dialogue.
One of the difficulties Mme. Pellerin faced during her time as minister was the promotion of innovation in the tech sector. The main challenge she confronted was how French tech companies could attract international investments. Although France has a great reputation for exquisite fashion, delicious cuisine, and high-class luxury brands, the country has only rarely evoked images of startups or digital prowess.
This, however, is far from reality, as France actually excels in computer science and mathematics. In other words, the country does not lack talented people at home, but rather the means to encourage them to start their businesses.
According to Mme. Pellerin, one potential way of promoting such innovation was to offer tax credits, broad-scale investments, as well as to engage in creative branding.
La French Tech and French Tech Taiwan
These three converged in Mme. Pellerin’s ambitious project La French Tech, which seeks to promote and develop new technologies and startups under a single brand nationally and globally.
Apart from funding for specific projects, La French Tech also provides newcomers with networks and seeks to expose them globally through the La French Tech Conference. More so, La French Tech also helps startups to maneuver the thorny landscape of French politics and lobbies for their interests.
Another important aspect of La French Tech is its international network of French Tech Hubs, which according to Mme. Pellerin aims at improving the French entrepreneurship ecosystem at a global level. Today, “French Tech Hubs” already spans more than twenty-two locations.
Among these, one exciting locale is Taiwan, which is home to “French Tech Taiwan.” The official inception of French Tech Taiwan was launched at the Meet Taipei 2016 Startup Carnival last November, which signaled a new chapter in Taiwanese-French cooperation.
For Mme. Pellerin, French Tech Taiwan plays a significant role as bridge between France and Taiwan which connects and benefits entrepreneurs from both sides.
More so, the project seeks to guide these startups in their development and towards a promising future.
Food for Thought
Three key realms that could see Taiwanese and French startups cooperating in the near future are, according to Mme. Pellerin, the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Big Data. What with current developments and future potential in these fields, national governments should be more proactive in supporting such innovation.
Asked by one attendant about suggestions for the Taiwanese National Development Council's recently inaugurated “Asian Silicon Valley Project,” Mme. Pellerin opined that it is not so much about which industry to choose, but rather how one can nurture an adequate and friendly environment that allows tech newcomers and established players alike to excel globally.
Although the Asian Silicon Valley Project and La French Tech are different models, both nonetheless aim at doing just this.