Following through on a pledge made earlier this year, Cisco Systems announced today a broad range of investments in France’s startup economy.
Cisco has committed to spending $100 million on incubator and accelerator programs, as well as on direct investments in some of the country’s Internet of Things startups (or, as Cisco likes to call it, “Internet of Everything”).
“France has almost limitless potential and our mission is to support innovation across our entire ecosystem,” Robert Vassoyan, chief executive of Cisco France, said in a statement. “These first initiatives demonstrate our active cooperation with innovative companies to aid them in their development, and show that we are committed to continuing our efforts in this area to drive growth, competitively and employment of our country.”
The announcement grew out of a visit to France earlier this year by then-CEO John Chambers, who declared himself impressed with the groundswell of startup activity happening across the country.
“It’s clear to me that the French tech scene is at an inflection point,” Chambers wrote, back in February. “The time to invest in France’s future is now. And with more startups than any other European country at the Consumer Electronics Show this year, and a strong infrastructure in place, France is primed to embrace the latest technology transition: digitization of everything.”
The timing is no doubt also welcomed by a French Tech scene that recently saw its attempts to reboot the country’s innovation image take a hit following a taxi-driver strike that led ride-hailing giant Uber to suspend its UberPOP service in France. The resulting controversy renewed criticism that the country is too conservative and protectionist to foster an effective startup culture.
In contrast, the Cisco announcement endorses the notion that the French tech economy is gathering momentum by launching a number of new initiatives, including:
- “Le Defi” (The Cisco Challenge): Aims to identify digital entrepreneurs to pitch their IoE ideas focused on enterprise, social, and environmental projects. Winners get €35,000 ($38,410) in seed money to develop their idea.
- The Camp: The creation of a digital innovation campus in Aix-en-Provence that will host researchers, teachers, businesses, and startups to foster study related to how to create the “city of tomorrow.”
- Partnering with NUMA: Cisco said it will support 22 startups chosen for the next class at this Paris-based accelerator with equipment and advising.
- Partnership with Actility: Cisco will embrace the open IOT standard used by Paris-based Actility, a company that recently raised $25 million.
- 6WIND: Cisco invested an undisclosed amount in this Paris-based startup that makes software to improve network performance for telecom companies and large businesses.