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Francophiles who wish to help Atlanta win official designation as a French tech hub are invited to participate in efforts to create an organized community of French entrepreneurs and startups here.
A group of Francophile entrepreneurs, with the help of the Consulate General of France in Atlanta, is planning to submit an application to the French government’s startup initiative to create an official “French Tech Atlanta” community.
The designation would make the Atlanta ecosystem part of a global movement called “La French Tech,” a network of 51 French Tech communities in France and 48 French Tech communities in 100 other cities around the world.
The goal is to create a network of Francophile tech entrepreneurs – not just those from France but also others who “love French mindset and values and would like to do business with France,” said Rami Abi Akl, science and technology attaché at the Atlanta consulate who previously worked for the team in Paris that administers the global network.
The new French Tech Atlanta would help strengthen Francophile-led startups, attract new French companies and talent and promote cooperation among Georgia, France and other French Tech communities around the world.
The metro Atlanta startups selected for the program will receive public funds from the French government, participate in networking events, distribute a community newsletter and “promote entrepreneurship that corresponds to the values of France – progressive ways of thinking like going green and making more space for inclusion and diversity,” Mr. Abi Akl explained.
Atlanta’s French Tech application must be submitted in February, describing how Atlanta’s startup ecosystem supports innovation, why a French Tech community would thrive here and listing possible tech startup participants.
Several of the initial 10 French Tech Atlanta organizers have already been identified, but Mr. Abi Akl said additional Atlanta entrepreneurs and investors who are interested in the project may contact him to get involved. The French-American Chamber of Commerce Southeast is one key partner already.
“We are open to applicants and people who want to support this initiative,” he told GlobalAtlanta.
The initial French Tech Atlanta team will include entrepreneurs like Sebastien Lefon, CEO of digital marketing and business consultancy Adapt1st. Mr. Lefon recently moderated a panel discussion during the 11th annual France-Atlanta 2020, a virtual event organized by the French consulate and Georgia Institute of Technology that highlighted business cooperation between the city and France.
French Tech Atlanta, if approved in April, will be similar to hubs created in Raleigh and Miami earlier this year. But one of the Atlanta group’s key roles will be to “create more bridges between France and Atlanta – to make sure French entrepreneurs find contacts in Atlanta and Atlanta companies find contacts in France,” Mr. Abi Akl said.
“For transatlantic cooperation, a tech network is vital,” Mr. Lefon said during the France-Atlanta panel, adding that Atlanta is a logical place for a French Tech hub because of its growing entrepreneurial community and support systems.
“Atlanta is one of the top three cities for startups, with $1.1 billion in VC funding, three unicorns and a vibrant ecosystem of startups coming to the city,” he noted. Mr. Lefon spent 20 years in Atlanta in the corporate animal health world and served on the board of the Center for the Development and Application of Internet of Things Technologies (CDAIT) at Georgia Tech, matching sponsors and industry with Georgia Tech researchers and faculty.
Also expected to participate in the leadership of a French Tech Atlanta is Stéphane Donzé, CEO of AODocs, a cloud storage platform that recently ranked number 368 on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 list of the 500 fastest-growing tech companies in North America.
Mr. Donzé moved the company’s global headquarters to Atlanta from San Francisco, a move Mr. Abi Akl hopes other French entrepreneurs will follow.
“French Tech Atlanta would help to attract other French entrepreneurs to start their companies in Atlanta. It would place Atlanta on the map for French people and vice versa,” he said.
Another French company Bioserenity, which is one of the French government’s Next 40 most promising startups in France, is also part of the Atlanta group seeking to form French Tech Atlanta. The company’s CEO chose Atlanta as a regional headquarters because of the city’s growing startup infrastructure that is rivaling those of traditional tech hubs like Boston and the Bay Area.
In addition to French entrepreneurs, others supporting the French Tech Atlanta team will include executives in Atlanta corporations, business incubators, accelerators, mentors and dedicated entrepreneurship programs, such as the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC), Atlanta Tech Village, Atlanta Tech Park, Creative Destruction Lab and others.
Atlanta has a growing venture capital community that is potentially interested in supporting French startups in a region that is more cost-effective than Silicon Valley or the Northeast U.S., Mr. Abi Akl asserted, citing Atlanta Ventures, BIP Capital and others.
New talent coming out of Georgia Tech, Emory University and other universities, plus Atlanta’s existing skilled workforce, its large market and its position as a logistics and transportation hub, are all factors in the successful development of a French tech hub here, he added.
Ties to France are also important. Atlanta’s technology community ties with France are extensive, bolstered in part by the Georgia Tech Lorraine campus in Metz, France. Since 1990, Georgia Tech Lorraine has served as a conduit of exchange and collaboration between Atlanta and France in tech ventures.
France and Georgia are also increasingly connected through the gaming and film industries, with numerous French companies based in Atlanta accessing the region’s burgeoning talent and networks.
In the longer term, the organizers hope to have four or five French Tech communities throughout the Southeast that can create a larger network and organize joint events. Eventually there could even be a “French Tech Southeast,” he added.
French Tech Atlanta could also capitalize on another French government program that brings early-stage startups in France to the U.S. The New Technology Venture Accelerator (NETVA) program, promoted by the office of science and technology at the French consulate, brings 20 promising companies in France to the U.S. each year to be introduced to local startup ecosystems and “see the American way of thinking and doing,” said Mr. Abi Akl.
Then, when those French startups are ready to branch out of France and into international markets, they will be more likely to choose Atlanta as a base because they will already have an ecosystem and network here, he asserted.
As NETVA entrepreneurs are scheduled to visit Atlanta for the first time next year, having a French Tech Atlanta community in place “would make total sense,” he added.
La French Tech initiative is part of the French government’s national startup strategy that has launched multiple programs over the past two years, including Next40, French Tech 120 (a support program for 80 startups in addition to Next40), French Tech Visa, Tremplin (support for underprivileged startup founders) and a €400 million seed fund that matches funding for tech startups.
For more information or to get involved, please contact Mr. Abi Akl at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch the France-Atlanta tech panel below: