@GeeknRolla: How to crack the French online market

If your start-up is plateauing in terms of users and revenue in the UK, it’s only natural you might look further afield for growth opportunities. But while the dream for many early stage digital businesses remains to build success in the US, that’s a route fraught with difficulties – so why not look at opportunities closer to home?

One man who would recommend looking to France is Cédric Giorgi, marketing director at French mobile start-up Goojet. He told GeeknRolla on Tuesday that UK start-ups can reap success on Gallic soil and highlighted the incentives for digital businesses to set up there, but there’s a few things to know first…

Giorgi points out that France is a major online economy in Europe: the French spent €25 billion online last year, there are 35 million internet users and some 47 million mobile users. On top of that, France has one of the most advanced IPTV markets in the world, a better telecoms network than the UK and there are even tax breaks and grants for “young, innovative” businesses, says Giorgi.

But: Before you hop on the Eurostar bound for Paris, you should keep in mind the “French way of thinking,” he says. The “French prefer inspiration to procedure” and there isn’t the same focus on “winning” as in other cultures, he says. “Work isn’t everything for us, it’s like the old saying ‘We’re working to live, not living to work’.”

Business leaders hoping to practice the same hire ’em and fire ’em employment policy they employ in the UK, might be in for a shock: labour laws and trade unions in the France are very strong and many workers closely guard their statutory 35-hour working week. “It’s very complicated to fire people in France, workers are very well protected,” he says, before pointing out that “entrepreneur” is of course a French word and not everyone leaves the office on time.

Making the right contacts is key to any business deal, but this is especially true in France: Giorgi says it’s crucial to spend as much time as possible in France meeting key influencers, assembling a French team, working on a local version and – if you don’t speak it – learning the language. And just to fit in, Giorgi says it wouldn’t hurt to brush up on your cheese and wine knowledge too…

Here are Cédric’s slides from his talk: