French President Hollande visits San Francisco with tech focus

President Francois Hollande of France visited San Francisco to help improve his country's business climate.
February 12, 2014 12:00:00 AM PST
President Francois Hollande of France is in San Francisco, hoping to improve his country's business climate, but he's got some work to do. For example, right now in Silicon Valley, there are an estimated 400 - 500 French startup companies operating in the Bay Area and not in France.

Of the U.S. companies doing business in France, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce survey shows just 68 percent would recommend France to other companies.

Hollande brought an army of French entrepreneurs to reach out to the top brass. During his short stay in San Francisco, Hollande was awarded the key to the city. It was also given 30 years ago to then-French President Francois Mitterrand who back then met Apple founder Steve Jobs.

Hollande joked about the two of them getting keys. Hollande said, "I would like to thank you warmly for the honor you bestow upon me and for the spare copy of the keys. I hope it works as well as the first copy."

The president's visit is all about establishing stronger ties between France and the Bay Area's tech industry. Dozens of French business leaders and entrepreneurs followed Hollande to San Francisco hoping to tap into the booming tech sector and find more investors.

Jean Pierre Gauthier is one of them. He told us, "What we hope actually is to be able to present our products and services to American companies."

Some of these French startups are looking to expand to the Bay Area.

"We are here to begin the process and to launch a new company and increase the things we are already doing," said Yseulys Costes, the CEO of 1000mercis.

Hollande met with some of the industry's big names, like Eric Schmidt from Google, Marc Benioff from Salesforce and others.

It's not clear if Hollande and industry leaders talked about the French tax the president wants to impose on all tech companies doing business in France.

"He's right in saying that companies have to follow the rules in the country in which they are doing business," said Michel Cosnard from Inria.

Wednesday the focus was on moving forward together.

"For centuries France wanted to change the world and together we can change the world. We can change the way we consume, we produce, the way we deal with health and technology. In order to make the world a better place. California and France are a match made in Heaven," said Hollande.

He also reminded everyone that in California there are already 300 French tech businesses doing business in the state.


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