Dreams of cloning a European version of Silicon Valley, the centre of the US modern tech industry located in the area south of San Francisco, are not new and last December Fleur Pellerin, then France's deputy minister for digital innovation, announced "La French Tech." Inspired by the tech startup environment in London's Tech City/ Silicon Roundabout, La French Tech initiative was backed by a public investment of over €200m but weeks later Newsweek, the US news magazine, invoked the 1685 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes to etch a dystopian vision for the prospects of modern technology in France.
Newsweek noted: "It's a stretch, but what is happening today in France is being compared to the revocation of 1685. In that year, Louis XIV, the Sun King who built the Palace of Versailles, revoked the Edict of Nantes, which had protected French Protestants - - the Huguenots."
The edict signed by Henri IV of France at Nantes in 1598 had been a momentous declaration of religious tolerance and later following years of persecution under Louis XIV, estimates of the numbers that choose exile after 1685 in Switzerland, England, the Dutch Republic, Prussia, Ireland (a Huguenot cemetery dating from 1693 is located near the Shelbourne Hotel in central Dublin) and other countries range from 200,000 to up to 1m.
The exile of the Huguenots was likely the greatest migration in a short time of significant intellectual capital in Europe until the early 1990s when about 1m mainly educated Jews emigrated to Israel after the collapse of the Soviet Union - - enabling Israel to have the intellectual power to successfully clone Silicon Valley.
In largely agricultural France, the Huguenots came from towns where they were skilled craftsmen and professionals involved in a wide range of skills.
Despite Newsweek's calamity howling, the European Commission this year ranked Munich, London and Paris at the top of 34 tech hubs. Dublin got a 16th rank.
Last month Dow Jones VentureSource reported [pdf] that European startups had a strong funding performance in 2014, raising €2.1bn (more than $2.8bn) from venture-capital investors in the second quarter of 2014, the highest quarterly total since 2001.
The UK remained the favoured destination for equity financing in 2Q 2014 with a 28% share of investment into European VC-backed companies. The country received €598m across 97 deals, an increase of 7% in deal flow and 58% in amount invested from 1Q 2014.
France placed second with a 19% share of investment. Dow Jones said that while deal flow saw an increase of 42% from 1Q 2014 with 74 completed, investment more than doubled from the €184m drawn in during the previous quarter to reach €395m. Germany occupies third spot, raising €322m, representing a 15% share of investment. The Netherlands rose to fourth spot with an 8% share, raising €166m during 2Q 2014. It was the country’s highest quarterly investment total since 3Q 2000.
In the US private companies raised $13.8bn in venture capital in the second quarter.
See here on the faded dream of creating a European Silicon Valley in Ireland.
Newsweek in its January 2014 piece repeated the laughable canard that the French have not a word for entrepreneur - - see here on its spread from France.
Google recently announced the launch of the European arm of its venture capital fund, Google Ventures. But can Europe's burgeoning start-up scene compete, or even mirror, the success of Silicon Valley? The FT's Ravi Mattu finds out.
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