The disarray of the start-up nation after the shock of dissolution

Emmanuel Macron, at the VivaTech show, in Paris, June 14, 2023. NATHAN LAINE / BLOOMBERG VIA GETTY IMAGES

It was in a chic, rural setting, nestled in the heart of the Bois de Boulogne, near Paris, that France Fintech, the lobby for young tech startups in finance, organized its summer party on Tuesday, July 9. The name of the place? Pigeon shooting. How can we not see the quasi-Freudian symbol of a French tech company worried about its future?

It was under this term of “pigeons”, in fact, that digital entrepreneurs, fearing being fleeced by a tax law deemed to be “confiscatory”. But that year, they had found their champion: Emmanuel Macron, then deputy secretary general of the Elysée, had convinced the President of the Republic, François Hollande, to backtrack. This episode marked the beginning of an intimacy between start-ups and a political leader adept at “disruption”, as he proved again by choosing to dissolve the National Assembly after the European elections of June 9. Almost a love story, then.

But the awakening is brutal. From Versailles to Las Vegas (Nevada), from the Elysée to Davos (Switzerland), the head of state has embodied French Tech so much that its members now fear being collateral victims of his electoral setback. Because they are considered too close to a largely discredited political leader. “My fear is that those outside the ecosystem will not understand how our contribution is useful. Even more so with the arrival of artificial intelligence, some may feel excluded from innovation”says Roxanne Varza, the boss of Station F, the “cathedral” of start-ups, in the 13the district of Paris.

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“François Mitterrand went to the villages every Wednesday, Jacques Chirac felt the cows’ bottoms and Emmanuel Macron stroked the unicorns [surnom donné aux start-up valorisées plus de 1 milliard de dollars] », ironizes Hugues Le Bret, president of Nickel, the promoter of the “account for all”. If French Tech and its red rooster were created in 2013 by Fleur Pellerin, then minister of the Ayrault government, the future President of the Republic gave a new dimension to the program when he became Minister of the Economy, in 2014: by personal taste, by the interest he had in associating his image with modernity, by his demand for sovereignty.

For the whole world, Emmanuel Macron became the headliner of French Tech during his trip, in January 2016, to the CES (Consumer Electronic Show) in Las Vegas, the global high point of the sector. With his stylish three-day beard, he was the “king” of an evening financed to the tune of 289,000 euros by Business France, remaking the world all night long with captivated entrepreneurs.

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