France is good at launching tech startups, but not at growing them

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A long-running question—why hasn’t Europe created tech giants like China and the US—played out in dozens of forms during this year’s VivaTech conference in Paris.

“France is maybe the best place to start a company,” said Jean-Rémi Kouchakji, co-founder of PayinTech, a Paris-based fintech firm that was among the 9,000 startups at the Viva Technology conference this year. Paradoxically, he said, it’s a difficult place for small- and medium-sized companies to thrive, a necessary step for building a corporate titan.

This long-running question—why hasn’t Europe created tech giants like China and the US—played out in dozens of forms during the conference. On the main stage, the star power of tech-sector heavyweights like Alibaba’s Jack Ma could only be matched on the European side by the likes of French president Emmanuel Macron. Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Huawei erected big booths that stood out amidst the mix of France’s old-economy firms like energy utility EDF, aerospace contractor Thales, and railway operator SNCF. …

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