Fleur Pellerin Works to Make France Safe for Tech Startups

March 14th, 2014

The 12 guests of honor might have felt out of place as they sat down for lunch in October at the Elysée presidential palace in Paris. With its crystal chandeliers, gilded walls, and manicured gardens, the palace is a more natural setting for foreign dignitaries and heads of state than for the technology entrepreneurs who assembled for a three-hour meeting with President François Hollande. Seated next to the president was the person who’d persuaded him to clear his afternoon: a petite, 40-year-old woman of Asian descent named Fleur Pellerin. As deputy finance minister for digital innovation, Pellerin’s mission is to turn France into one of Europe’s premier hubs for tech startups. Doing so will require galvanizing not just entrepreneurs and investors but France’s political leaders as well.

As the others dined on fish, cheeses, and wine, Pellerin made her pitch to Hollande: In order for France to revive its economy, the country must overhaul a business culture that too often stifles innovation. “It was a deep dive,” says Marie Ekeland, a partner at the Parisian venture capital firm Elaia, who was at the lunch. “To have the president of France spending three hours trying to understand what’s going on with the digital economy is totally new. And a lot of that is thanks to Fleur Pellerin.”

There’s little question France needs change. Growth contracted in the third quarter of 2013, and unemployment is at its highest level in 16 years. Hollande, a Socialist, has tried to slash the huge public deficit (about 4 percent of gross domestic product) through steep tax hikes, rather than more fundamental labor and financial reforms; Standard & Poor’s has twice downgraded France in the past two years. During the rise of the Internet, the country has lagged behind the U.S. and European rivals such as the U.K. and Germany, which now boast dynamic startup scenes.

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Not Already Exporting? Consider This Your Engraved Invitation

March 14th, 2014

The President announced his plan to streamline the export process–by way of building out a central clearinghouse for exporting.

Making good on his vow to apply the power of his “pen” and “phone” toward making changes on Capitol Hill, President Obama moved to streamline the process of exporting from days to minutes.

After promising a “year of action” in his recent State of the Union address, the President today signed an executive order mandating the completion of a web-based platform called the International Trade Data System (ITDS). The platform is expected to cut through much of the red tape associated with launching export/import operations, as it would allow businesses to submit documentation to various federal agencies by way of a single portal, or single window.

The order that the President signed aboard AirForce One today says:
“To ensure that our nation is well-positioned to compete in an open, fair, and growing world economy, the federal government must increase efforts to improve the technologies, policies, and other controls governing the movement of goods across our national borders.”

Currently, the export/import process can require businesses submit information to multiple agencies and fill out (both online and paper) forms each time. The process is seen as particularly burdensome to small businesses that don’t typically have the resources to throw at dealing with regulatory compliance.
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