Digital payment unicorn Stripe has released a report offering further evidence that France’s startup economy has shifted into a much higher gear since 2014, in large part by being more aggressive abroad.
“A new wave of French startups are changing France’s economy and the way we do things,” said Guillaume Princen, Stripe’s director of France and Southern Europe. “These startups are exporting themselves very well. They’re going international very quickly.”
Over the past three years, France has seen a surge of startups backed by growing amounts of venture capital and a government program called La French Tech. Last year, the country could boast that it was competitive with other major European startup hubs — such as London and Berlin — in terms of venture capital.
Princen said Stripe is well-positioned to watch this rising tide because its payment technology is being used by a wide range of startups to help facilitate payments. The company decided to partner with VB Profiles to crunch some data to see if could better understand what was happening. (Disclosure: VB Profiles is a cooperative effort between VentureBeat and Spoke Intelligence.)
The biggest finding was how many French startups seem to be active in competing in markets outside their home country. A traditional criticism of French entrepreneurs was that their ambitions were too narrow and they focused too much on product and solutions that might fit France but not make sense elsewhere.
Among the report’s findings, 98 percent of French startups launched since 2014 have customers outside the country. Overall, about 25 percent of sales to these startups are generated internationally. And about one-third actually earn most of their money from customers outside of France.
The result is faster growth. These startups are growing on average 8 percent per month, and on average have each created 15 jobs. About 15 percent have more than 30 employees.
The report also offered some demographic information about French entrepreneurs. About 75 percent of founders had no entrepreneurial experience before launching their startup, and roughly 56 percent had attended some kind of engineering school.
Stripe also found that one of four startups created since 2015 was founded or cofounded by a woman, up from 18 percent in 2014.
Princen attributed the shift toward global expansion in part to the example being set by larger startups, such as BlaBlaCar and Sigfox, which launched several years before the window covered by this study. He said their global ambitions had raised the bar for other entrepreneurs, who now believe they could also have an international impact.
Beyond that, Princen said the rising amount of venture capital and funding available in France has helped startups scale faster and made it possible to consider opening international offices much sooner.
But for the growth to continue, these French startups are going to have to show that they can compete for employees and customers on a much grander scale against a far larger range of potential rivals.
“There’s a war for talent,” he said. “We’re not creating enough talent here to sustain the growth of these startups. How they scale outside of France is going to be critical.”