Can Montebourg Seduce French Startups Again?

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Buying what Arnaud Montebourg just said is a tough sell for French startups. France’s minister of the economy, industrial renewal, and the digital economy delivered an optimistic speech in front of entrepreneurs, startup employees and influential people of the French tech ecosystem. In fact, it’s a total change from his previous positions. But can we believe him?

At Criteo’s and BlaBlaCar’s office and without notes, Montebourg first started by declaring his love for France, the country of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, France’s creativity and more. This is usual stuff for a politician and not what people wanted to hear.

Montebourg is mostly famous for killing Dailymotion’s acquisition by Yahoo, deciding who should acquire SFR and other blunders. He was in enemy territory.

Instead of justifying this hard line, he stated something completely different. First, he said that it’s true there is much less venture capital money available in France (even when you compare it to the two countries’ GDP). And then, he started calling California France’s 23rd region as there are many French entrepreneurs and engineers now living in California.

“We need to build bridges with California. We shouldn’t oppose it,” he said. “We need to work in conjunction with this 23rd region.”

But I’ve recently learned that people working for Montebourg started a little investigation to figure out why American company TripAdvisor should acquire restaurant reservation service LaFourchette for $140 million. This happened last month. Eventually, the deal fortunately went through.

So it’s hard to believe that Montebourg suddenly fell in love with startups.

He said that two recent initiatives were going into the right direction for startups. First, the French Tech label designed by Fleur Pellerin is a good way to promote French startups under a similar brand. Second, a Decree will allow French startups to raise up to $1.4 million (€1 million) in equity crowdfunding before July 14th (think AngelList syndicates.)

Montebourg is sending a signal, saying that you shouldn’t believe everything you read on him. As a professional politician, he does communication moves all the time. I could only spot a few cameras in the room, so today’s speech wasn’t supposed to be a communication move.

In front of us, we could see the true Montebourg, not the popular politician who is playing a role in front of TV interviewers. At least, that’s what he wanted us to think — but all of these were words, not facts. So did Montebourg seduce french startup people again? No. We need more.