France ranks among the most active European countries in fostering and supporting startups. La French Tech, a government-led startup development policy that started in 2013, established a startup ecosystem across the nation, and France succeeded in emerging as a European startup hub within a few years. Although promoted by the government, it is the various members in the market, such as companies, investors, and accelerators, that have fostered the French startup ecosystem. The government laid the foundation for startup growth, including financial support, and the members focused on expanding the ecosystem with government support. Creative Valley, led by CEO Yann Gozlan, also serves as France’s leading accelerator, contributing to the vitalization of the French startup ecosystem.
Creative Valley, which opened in 2011, has fostered more than 200 startups so far and has been operating support spaces in five locations in France, including the world’s largest startup campus, StationF and Le KB(Kremlin-Bicêtre). It has a variety of networks such as universities, governments, and large companies and cooperates with BPI France, a French public investment bank, to provide support for securing investment as well as customized accelerating programs for global startups seeking to enter Europe and France.
Creative Valley has formed a partnership with Korean startups since 2016. Since then, it has supported over 40 companies wishing to enter France in cooperation with Korean startup agencies and attended several events in Korea on behalf of French accelerators.
“We are very interested in Asian startups, especially Korean startups,” Gozlan said. “Last year, we fostered 15 Korean startups.” In June, the company joined LAUNCHPAD, a global expansion program, for the second time since last year. It also signed a business agreement with the Korea Creative Content Agency to fully support Korean content startups’ entry into Europe. It selected 5 Korean startups through this Launchpad, and after in-depth mentoring until October, it will support their entry into France. It plans to support Korean startups to settle in the market in multiple ways, such as issuing visas, supporting office space, and connecting to local startup networks.
According to Gozlan, France has a favorable environment for Korean content startups to enter. He explained that France has strengths in fashion, art, and culture like Korea, which is famous for K-culture, and the establishment of 5G infrastructure provides a good environmental foundation for content startups such as VR, AR, and games to take root.
Strong engineering culture is another feature that the two countries have in common. This year’s Launchpad finalists were also highly rated for their technological maturity. While there were many early-stage companies in Launchpad last year, many were in the growth stage this time, including game startups. CEO Gozlan said, “As cultural understanding plays a big role in global expansion, we focused on diversity, especially whether there are foreign members in the team.
He was very impressed with all of the startups in this batch, but among them, he cited Platfarm, which provides B2B emoticon service Mojitok, as a startup with high potential for success in the European market. Though there are already competitors in the field, the company was highly appreciated because of its outstanding technology and high utilization in various fields. Mojitok automatically recommends emoticons that match the context by analyzing messages using artificial intelligence.
Mojitok, preparing to enter France through the Launchpad, analyzes messages using artificial intelligence and automatically recommends emoticons that fit the context.
When asked about his experience of fostering Korean startups, he replied, “They feel a lot of pressure to enter overseas markets, but I hope they can be more relaxed.” In other words, there is an impatience to move forward quickly due to the hard-working culture, and they need to take the pressure off.
In addition, he mentioned what Korean startups should have in order to enter the European market: a clear vision, market understanding, language skills, and understanding the cultural differences. For market research, he advised visiting the local sites to feel the atmosphere even for a short time. Above all, he emphasized the importance of understanding language and cultural differences. “It is a problem if you don’t understand that people are different as well as culture,” he said. “Language is an essential quality.”
In this year’s Launchpad, participants were selected through virtual evaluation with Creative Valley representatives, managers, and local investors in attendance.
“France has relatively low costs of hiring excellent engineers and operating business compared to other European countries,” said Gozlan. “If possible, meeting potential clients and establishing partnerships at the very early stage will also help advance into the market.”