On January 8, I went to France for a ten-day entrepreneurial mission with a group of students from the CÉGEP of Saint-Jérôme, accompanied by their teacher, Mr. Pierre Savard.

These students had previously shown a clear interest in entrepreneurship. Therefore, they were engaged in the mission to learn more about what it’s like to be an entrepreneur while also discovering the French entrepreneurial ecosystem.

As a start-up coach, I had three roles to play during this mission: contribute to the development of the course of our delegation, lead the discussions with the various stakeholders and answer the students’ questions about entrepreneurship.

This was a one-of-a-kind experience for the students, as well as for me. In this post, I share with you the highlights of this unique journey that took us to the heart of French entrepreneurship.

A busy journey

After a seven-hour flight from Toronto, we landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport at 10 am, Paris time. Our young cohort had to quickly overcome a jet lag of six hours as we had a busy agenda ahead.

Four trips by train, a dozen trams and more than thirty trips by metro would allow the students of the cohort to discover the entrepreneurial ecosystems of Paris, Nantes and Lille.

The next few days were going to be tough, but so exciting!

A warm welcome

We had the chance to meet the people of Moovjee, Incubaschool, Beleev, Positive Planet,  Station F, EuraTechnologies, Novapuls, Le Village by CA, Pépite France, Enactus France and the Délégation Générale du Québec in Paris. At each of these meetings, our delegation was treated to an exceptional welcome by the speakers. The students benefited from the experience, expertise and network of each of them.

I was deeply touched to realize how much France appreciates Canada and its people; it seems that we have a natural connection. For having personally maintained various links internationally, I would say that the relationship between Canada and France is particularly marked by warmth and mutual enthusiasm. The students also noticed and appreciated it.

Interesting discoveries

During our journey, we have of course noticed some differences between our entrepreneurial universe and the French one. Here is what comes out of it.

First, we observed that the French have easier access to unemployment benefits to start their business. Although we have a similar measure in Quebec, the STA, it seems that the French program is less restrictive at the industry level, more generous over time and more flexible. For example, the French have the opportunity to capitalize a portion of their benefits to invest in their start-up business, making it easier to start a business.

Also, we found that student entrepreneurship was a little more developed in France. For example, the existence of a national student-entrepreneur status makes life easier for many students who want to embark on the entrepreneurial adventure. In addition, organizations such as Pépite France offer specialized programs for students wishing to start their business.

The networking between large companies and entrepreneurs is also a distinctive strength of the French entrepreneurial ecosystem. Businesses are well aware of entrepreneurs’ potential for innovation. Therefore, they collaborate with them in different ways, which benefits both parties.

A unique experience

This entrepreneurial mission has been intense, but so rich! We’ve all learned from it. The unique path of our delegation allowed us to discover the entrepreneurial side of France and develop lasting relationships.

Some people say that you never really come back from a trip. This entrepreneurial mission left us somewhere, on a piece of land of the continent of possibilities, where the other nourishes our own ambitions.

Written by: Jean-Philippe Écuyer, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Futurpreneur Canada

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