No Entrepreneurs, Please; We're French


Loic Le Meur and Arnaud Montebourg
Le Web/YouTube

CNet's Stephen Shankland has the interesting story of encounters at international tech entrepreneurship conference, LeWeb, between start-up business people and Arnaud Montebourg, France's minister for industrial renewal. Specifically, entrepreneurs compared their experiences in America and Britain, where they were relatively free to innovate, take risk, hire, and fire as needed in order to get businesses off the ground, with the rule-bound and expensive process in France. An interaction at the 11:00 mark in the video below makes it clear that, whatever Montebourg's title,  there's probably little renewal in store for France anytime soon.

Clara Shih, founder and chief executive of Hearsay Social, had a message she said [organizer Loic] Le Meur could deliver to Montebourg: "You should tell him to make it easier to hire and fire," she said. "It would be helpful for employers…to have more flexible labor laws, because then we would be more aggressive about hiring."

When Le Meur delivered the message, with reinforcement from Jeff Clavier founder and managing partner of SoftTech Venture Capital, Montebourg said things are different here.

"We are not California. We are French," Montebourg said. "We have a tradition to help people, to protect people. The question for us is to find a good balance between protection and what you need."

Clavier wasn't buying it. More flexibility would mean more jobs, he said.

"The reason we create so many jobs in California and have such low unemployment is that we can contract with or get rid of people as we need to, if they don't perform or as economic issues arise. The point is that we create the jobs first and then contract afterwards as opposed to thinking for 12 or 18 months whether we can afford to hire one more person."

Note that France faces protests around the country against high taxes and intrusive regulation that make doing business increasingly difficult. Truck drivers blocked roads to protest an "ecotax," and the government even produced a secret (but leaked) report saying that taxation was losing legitimacy and the country is on the verge of revolt.

The Hollande government is under serious pressure to ease byzantine labor regulation after the country was slammed with a surprise credit downgrade. Those rules are sufficiently bizarre as to require companies to keep money-losing plants with inefficient workforces open—apparently indefinitely, or at least until the money runs out.

Which makes a less-than-enticing environment for entrepreneurial types.

As Le Meur told Montebourg at LeWeb, "The problem here is that countries around us see this as trying to slow down startups. You're penalizing the startups. They try of course to disrupt systems. That's how they grow. The image of France is that it's the country where they try to slow you down to protect the past."

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  1. Today I learned that “Montebourg” is French for “brain dead”.


    1. Today I learned that “Montebourg” is French for “Obama”.

      1. Same thing.


    2. Kind of ironic?

      en?tre?pre?neur (ntr-pr-n?r, -nr)

      A person who organizes, operates, and assumes the risk for a business venture.

      [French, from Old French, from entreprendre, to undertake; see enterprise.]

      1. also see: laissez-faire

  2. Note that France faces protests around the country against high taxes and intrusive regulation that make doing business increasingly difficult. Truck drivers blocked roads to protest an “ecotax,” and the government even produced a secret (but leaked) report saying that taxation was losing legitimacy and the country is on the verge of revolt.

    Anyone think this time the French will learn not to replace despotism with even greater despotism?

    1. The proper term is “dirigisme

      And no; even Thomas Paine got sick of their shit.

      1. Interesting, I had never heard of that word before.

        1. That’s because you’re a young ‘un. What are you, like, 13? Hope the acne clears up soon, and the braces don’t stay on too long.

          1. My complexion is quite good, thank you. I only hope that I don’t end up like you where the acne spreads to my back and ass.

            1. Epi’s assne is truly something to behold. It’s like staring at the surface of Mercury.

              1. “No way! I’m checking this out. Ahh.. moles?!? Alright, wait for me. It’s like a negative planetarium on that thing. ‘Cause she’s got all those moles!”

              2. I always thought those were a new and more virulent form of herpes acquired from Warty

            2. Look, it’s a real medical condition! The doctor says it’s perfectly normal for the people who are unlucky enough to have this condition!

              1. The FDA is very close to approving a Retin-A suppository, so Epi will be fine.

              2. There are dozens of you, is what you’re saying?

                1. He contradicts himself. He is large, he contains multitudes.

                  1. Walt Whitman tried that line on the IRS and they insisted each of the multitude had to file separately.

        2. That’s what I’m here for.

          1. It is, however, one of those trigger words that cause me to go into violent bouts of slaughter. Now I ahve to get the blood out of the carpets and dispose of the bodies.


            1. Sorry to have microagressed you.

              1. It’s only a problem because I’ve run out of hydrogen peroxide.

  3. You have hit a low when California is bragging about its free markets.

    1. And low unemployment.

      Fucking CA has had a higher unemployment rate that the US as a whole every month for the last 22 years.

      1. I about fell out of my chair at that part, too. When you are bragging about being to the left of California…holy shit.

        1. California’s new business pitch: “Hey, at least we’re not France!”

  4. Well, more importantly to the underlying issue as France is a Catholic nation, is it even moral to engage in commerce with them, out of religious sensitivity? Just as I don’t offer pork to a practicing Muslim or Jew, or a soda or beer to my Mormon friends, out of respect, should I be offering money for an exchange of goods and services to a Catholic after their representative of the divine will embodied on the Earth declared that activity to be evil?

    1. I think, you’re allowed to offer a Catholic money, if you are offering it in his name, as a tithe directly to the Church in exchange for the good or service you want.

      Or is that Simony? I get so confused.

      1. It’s pretty hopeless to keep up with it all. I understand flirting with nuns is even considered sinful.

  5. “LeWeb” AYFKM?

    1. I’m sure it would have been as successful as Le Car.

    2. Steve G|12.17.13 @ 1:00PM|#
      “”LeWeb” AYFKM?”

      I’m surprised “web” hasn’t been outlawed in France, since it is English.
      Maybe they were too busy surrendering to someone to notice.

  6. I’ve never seen anything that leads me to believe that culturally, the French are ever going to be willing to prefer risk/reward over stagnation/stability. Until they suffer a complete economic collapse, they’ll suck it up in return for job security, 6 weeks vacation, 35 hour work weeks.

    And as for the unemployed in France, the employed clearly don’t give a shit about them.

    And I know I shouldn’t just pick on France, but they really are an easy target.

    1. Also, they don’t fight back.


  7. The Hollande government has been the worst possible government to be in power in France at this time. Of course, the Obama administration has been the worst possible administration for the US at this time, so I guess it’s a bad time for a lot of us.

    When the notoriously strike-prone French truckers are protesting not for higher wages but the high taxes, Hollande has a problem. I predict he doesn’t last very long.

    1. But do you have any idea how yummy French tears are? They are just full of butter.

      1. And escargot!

    2. “We laugh in the face of stupidity!”

    3. Of course, the Obama administration has been the worst possible administration for the US at this time

      I dare say that a McCain or Romney presidency would be worse.

  8. More byzantine than California, sure, but do they have as much debt as California?

    1. Realized debt, I’d imagine they have more. Unrealized debt (i.e. unfunded pension obligations), doubtful.

      Another fun fact about the ineptitude of California pensions: the California Teacher’s Pension fund run by TIAA-CREF is a joke in the real estate world, as they consistently overpay for commercial properties (lowest cap rate sales in every property class). If you’re a broker and you make a connection with TIAA-CREF and can make deals selling them properties, you’re set.

  9. Tous ont vu entre l’humanit? et le l?gislateur les m?mes rapports qui existent entre l’argile et le potier.

    1. Google Translate: “And then she said it was OK to put it in her pooter.”

      1. “The ‘famille’ thing actually makes this borderline creepy.”

        “Perhaps if you tried it from behind?”

        “Yeah, let’s try that.”

        1. That chick was like, the Pele of anal!

          1. Archer is the best thing on TV.

  10. The point is that we create the jobs first and then contract afterwards as opposed to thinking for 12 or 18 months whether we can afford to hire one more person.

    Central planners always forget to plan for the chess pieces jumping to the wrong spaces in anticipation of that guiding hand’s next move.

  11. What! These foreign cohorts!
    They would make laws in our courts!
    What! These mercenary phalanxes
    Would cut down our warrior sons
    Good Lord! By chained hands
    Our brow would yield under the yoke
    The vile despots would have themselves be
    The masters of destiny

  12. How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?

    1. Oh, you can. In the most delicious way possible. Where’s my Roquefort?!?

      1. Sorry, all out.


          1. Come back in 3 months. Perhaps we will have it then.


      2. I’ll have a look ’round the back.

  13. France’s minister for industrial renewal

    Industrial renewal? That’s your problem right there! This man still gets a hard on from the Danones, EADS and Renaults of this world.

  14. No Entrepreneurs, Please; We’re French

    What you did there, I see it.

  15. France is a pretty place and the wine is terrific. The people are a fucking nightmare, and it is nearly impossible to conduct business with them.

    1. There’s an easy way to get them to speak English, though. Say a few words of badly mangled French.

      1. “le price por su daughter, sil vous plait?

        1. Alas, such is the way of the world. The sweetest rose too often is… {He looks longingly at the girl} … plucked too soon. –Friar Bellows.

      2. My mother spoke French but was English, when they detected that she was foreign, they would pretend not to understand.

        This was back in the 50s. I don’t know if it’s still that bad.

        1. I had the same experience in the 1980’s.

    2. How the fuck did they ever crank out Bastiat?

  16. France isn’t like California at all? Things must be REEEEAAAALY fucked up in France then.

  17. “We are not California. We are French.”

    It really is a cultural thing. It shows up throughout history.

    If we compare the American Revolution and the French Revolution, the traditional conception of the American Revolution has it as a fight to free individuals and businesses from government. The French Revolution is thought of as more about freeing the government from wealthy aristocrats.

    And the French were hating on the bourgeoisie long before Marxism ever existed. It’s kind of funny, really, when California gets slandered by the right as being like France. California is more like the epitome of a bourgeois society. The French hate California culturally for some of the same reasons conservatives do.

    1. It was said recently by someone Reason (I think) interviewed, that the American revolution was about liberty, and the french was about equality, and we’re now taking on the French model in this country.

      1. But their model is grounded in French culture. Marxism just kind of gave expression to what was already there in France culture.

        It’s still foreign a foreign culture to us. Honestly, I think a lot of what we’re seeing is still about Obama’s personal charisma.

        During the Iraq War, we saw otherwise reasonable people reimagine everything they thought they knew about how foreign policy, etc. works, too–just because it’s what Bush did. Now, his name is a laughing stock, and no one wants to be known as a neoconservative.

        And American culture is very different from France’s. It’s still a foreign culture and foreign values to many of us, and that gives me some hope.

        Also, when France fails in reality, the French still revel in the ideal of France, but Americans aren’t like that. Americans hate failure worse than anything else. And as ObamaCare continues to fail,…

        1. The French aristocracy was incredibly vile. George III was a relative sweetheart in comparison. E.g., the French believed that the aristocracy and clergy should pay no taxes, but the poor should pay high taxes. The theory was that it strengthened the poor and made them work better, like pruning a tree.

          So I can understand why the overthrowing of that system didn’t turn out as well.

          1. That is nasty.

  18. You know who else wanted to make a less-than-enticing environment for the French?

    1. Ho Chi Minh?

    2. Tsar Alexander I

    3. The Walt Disney Company?

    4. Pepe Le Pew?

      1. Mac Donalds!

    5. Algerians?

  19. OT: Note from my daily NPR torture thanks to my workmate:

    If you lose your Doctor, it’s not Obama’s fault. It says right there in the title of the Affordable Care Act that your doctor has to be affordable. If you lose your doctor, it’s because it has been determined that a better, and cheaper, doctor would be in your best interests.

    I’m super serial. This is what the Obama mouthpiece actually said.

    Plus, ofcourse, teathuglicanobstructionism at the state level is making implementation more difficult than it should be.

    And to the caller who asked the mouthpiece about losing his insurance, well he just has to hang in there, as Obama has told the insurance companies to allow people like him to keep his (substandard?) plan.

    1. If you lose your doctor, it’s because it has been determined that a better, and cheaper, doctor would be in your best interests.

      I doubt that line is going to sell very well for them.

      1. But…TOP. MEN.

    2. The officemate’s speakers could befall a terrible accident one day, when the it’s out at lunch.

  20. OT: The Obamanites are hiring a Microsoft Exec to fix/rearrange deck chairs on…..01237.html

    He was most recently the president of the Microsoft Office Division and has been with the company since 1992. He is also the husband of freshman Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.).

    Ah good, he’s a member of the DC air-istocracy

    1. Most recently of the office division? So he was responsible for casting the atrocity that is the Ribbon upon me?

      1. No. The Ribbon was a long-term attempt to get ahead of the curve for touchscreens. Go use Office on a Surface and you will see exactly why the Ribbon was created.

        1. I abandoned Office for LibreOffice because of the ribbon. I’m not even sure where I’d hunt down a surface tablet.

        2. So the ribbon was created for devices that are shit for productivity? Yeah, that makes sense.

          1. Hey, I’m not defending it, I’m just telling you why it was created. Surfaces are OK if you get the expensive Pro version so that you can actually install x86/x64 programs. And you get the keyboard cover. And you get the maximum memory and add a huge memory stick. And you like using a tablet that is slightly too heavy. And…yeah, the Surface was a screwup. I would think Ballmer’s days are numbered. Maybe he’ll go work for the Obama administration?

            1. Wait, having a tablet that costs under $400 with a built-in keyboard, with 90% of the functionality of a laptop for everyday use, that I can take with me anywhere and weighs only a fraction of what a laptop does, is a screw-up?

              Can I game on it (beyond the games made for it)? Nope, but I wouldn’t want to. That’s what my PC is for.

              1. The one under $400 is the one with an ARM processor that runs Windows 8 RT. You cannot install any x86/x64 executables on it. So you can’t install iTunes if you have an iPod. You can’t install Calibre if you have an e-reader. You can’t install anything that hasn’t been compiled for an ARM processor. It’s kind of a problem. If you go up to the Pro you get a x64 processor, but it’s more expensive. A Surface Pro would probably be pretty cool, but the ARM version is extremely limited.

                1. Can I install my old Palm Pilot apps on it?

                2. Same deal for any iPad or Android tablet. How is this any different? And the ARM architecture gives it good battery life, which is what you want from a mobile device. What you’re talking about is a complete laptop replacement, which RT never was intended to be.

                  No iPod, so no problem for me. Yeah, no Calibre, but I found an app that does un-Kindled .mobi files and works fine.

                  The point is that I didn’t buy it to be my only computer. It’s a mobile device, with a bigger screen than my smartphone, that I can use for most of the things I do when I’m not at home and, more importantly, not pay $1,000 for it.

        3. They fucking took away my keyboard shortcuts so I could have a “better solution” for a touch screen with less functionality with more effort? Sounds like Obamacare alright..

          1. Wait, they took away shortcuts? NO NO NO NO NO NO

            Are you sure?

            1. Yes. I couldn’t replicate my workflow in their new product either. My keystrokes just confused it.

            2. Some shortcuts in excel remain but most of the ones that I used for years ceased working as of Office 2007. They were simple alt-letter_letter_letter combos that corresponded to the.menus. they don’t work anymore. Shit that.used to take no time at all now rewuires moving your hand from the keyboard to the miuse.and drilling down through hierarchical menus after selecting the proper ribbon. It’s like SAP levels of hierarchy except now the top level has mutiple parallel entries because they tried to make each ribbon contain “related” commands.

              1. Yeah, all my normal work takes about 3 times as many clicks post-ribbon. It’s actually insane.

              2. My favorite of that type that went missing was the insert page break – Alt I, Enter, Enter. It helps when rolling past a chapter break.

    2. Once they get the website fixed, the problems that result from centrally planning our healthcare system will be fixed too.

      1. It’ll be like finally removing that pesky emergency brake from the runaway train.

  21. Posted this in am links, but it’s relevant here; sadly in French:….._3234.html

    It’s the French version of the anti dog eat dog rule, but for wireless connectivity! Yay France…

  22. So, the morale still hasn’t improved in France?


  23. I have met plenty of French ex-pats in my life many of whom have set up businesses in North America. Point? The French are whacked out

    “We are not California. We are French,” Montebourg said. “We have a tradition to help people, to protect people. The question for us is to find a good balance between protection and what you need.”

    This is the exact rhetorical drivel that drives Quebec (we’re not like those bad, greedy Americans) right into the ground.

  24. Why are a bunch of French dudes sitting around speaking in English. I know: colonialism.

  25. We have a tradition to help people, to protect people.

    Apparently, by “people” he means “rich, well-connected cronies”.

  26. This confrontation reminds me of a similar conference between French businessmen and an “economic minister” of the French government, with Montebourg in the role of Colbert. Colbert asked the businessmen what the government could do to help their businesses, and a man named Le Gendre replied, “Laissez-nous faire”, or “Leave us be”.

    Despite the shining examples of men like Bastiat and Le Gendre and Say, France really was (and is) an intellectual epicenter of Marxism. Though Marx was hugely influenced by the philosophy of Hegel, the influence of Rousseau upon both Marx and the New Left cannot be overestimated. In the philosophical history of the West, there are few I hold in greater contempt than Rousseau, he was scum.

  27. The image of France is that it’s the country where they try to slow you down to protect the past.

    You can’t start mass producing automobiles, Monsieur Ford, you’ll put the buggy whip manufacturers out of business.

  28. Those guys really crack me up man, for sure.

  29. Oh, and this is appropriate here.

    1. While I love the joke, there is a factual error in the assertation:

      Hard work has killed people.

      1. John Henry says “NUh-uh. Oh, wait.”

  30. For a country that puts a lot of intellectual and legal energy into keeping society “healthy” and “fair” and “safe” they sure are a grumpy bunch who love to strike a lot.

    My doctor friend thinks French doctors are quacks. If there’s a piece of quackery to believe you can bet they’ll jump on it he reckons.

    Land of Louis Pasteur. Imagine that.

  31. I believe the proper phrase in French is:

    vas te faire encule c’est pourquoi

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