French President Emmanuel Macron’s vow to make France a ‘start-up nation’ amid the uncertainty over Brexit is raising the question of whether Paris could supplant London as the capital of European tech. Since his election, Macron has wooed tech entrepreneurs with a string of initiatives in the form of lavish tax breaks, subsidies, and credits for research. In March 2018, he promised to invest €1.5 billion into artificial intelligence research through 2022. Some of these initiatives, in addition to Macron’s dynamism, have lured British tech companies who are looking to gain a foothold in Europe.
This issue has driven me absolutely nuts since I first arrived in Canada from Silicon Valley. It did not take me long to figure out that things did not work they way they did in California, and that there wasn’t much of a true entrepreneurial economy here. Since then, I have also been appointed to the Canada Foundation for Innovation grant process, providing me with insight into how R&D funding works in Canada. I have seen many issues in Canada that have impaired the nation’s ability to develop an entrepreneurial culture, among them is the inherent Canadian conservatism and short term horizon of investors unfamiliar with technology venture investment. But none has been worse than Canada’s decades-long neglect of adequate funding for research and development nationwide.
It was with some amazement that I read of the stunning results achieved by Andy Hamilton and the Icehouse incubator in Auckland. I have had the good fortune to know and work with Andy, visiting the Icehouse as the Director of New Zealand Trade & Enterprise’s Silicon Valley incubator in Redwood City. Andy routinely asked me to stop by when I was in town to deliver a “tough love” talk to the resident companies. Andy’s results contrast sharply with the results being achieved in other incubators, particularly here in BC. Much is being written about an incubator glut, massive waste of government money, and most importantly poor quantitative results from incubator companies. For example, when asked how many companies they have helped succeed a local BC accelerator employee could only say: “You really have to define success. I mean for most of these guys our success is just about getting them to realize their ideas are bad.” Really?