France: Promised Land of Entrepreneurship

In focus: Some grants, schemes & initiatives for women entrepreneurs in France

With almost one million new businesses created in 2021, France remains ‘the promised land of entrepreneurship’. A business-friendly country, France has one of the largest markets in Europe, additionally aided by access to the European single market. We know that its capital – Paris, is an important financial center in the region and the European leader in venture capital.

So, France has much to offer businesses and its booming economic attractiveness is attracting a growing number of foreign investors.

What is the rank of France’s economy in Europe? France is one of the world’s largest economies and is currently at Rank 7, after the United States, China, Japan, Germany, India and United Kingdom (IMF, April 2019). It is also Europe’s second-largest market with over 67 million consumers; and France is home to 29 of the world’s 500 leading businesses (Fortune Global 500, 2017). What is remarkable about its economy is that – going beyond the well-known economic sectors of luxury goods and agrifood, the French economy also has strong banking and insurance sectors, as well as energy and automotive industries.

Looking at women in business in France, women are gaining prominence in the French business scenario – with particularly strong representation in retail and service industries.

Here are some grants, schemes and initiatives that aspiring women entrepreneurs can avail of in France.

> Wom’energy

Wom’energy programme strongly promotes women entrepreneurship. Created by Réseauentreprendre the objective of this programme is to support women entrepreneurs in every stage of their projects by offering personal assistance, plus a honour loan of between 15.000 and 50.000 euros.

> “Egalite femmes” Loan guarantee

This programme is implemented by France Active – a not-for-profit agency whose purpose is to provide aspiring women entrepreneurs access to bank loans via a guarantee scheme. The guarantee scheme will cover up to 80% of a bank loan up to an amount of 50.000 euros per project.

> “Initiative France” Honour loan

Quite prominently, this is an unsecured and interest-free loan granted by Initiative France. It allows women entrepreneurs to build up capital, that can lead the way to access larger loans, at a later stage. The amount of this honour loan depends on both the nature of the project and the capital needs. It usually goes from 3000 to 50.000 euros. The national average is 9.700 euros.

> Plan entrepreneuriat des femmes (Women’s Entrepreneurship Plan)

Plan entrepreneuriat des femmes (Women’s Entrepreneurship Plan) aimed to increase the share of women in new business start-ups to 40% in 2017. There are three main pillars of support: (i) improve information dissemination to women entrepreneurs on available public support; (ii) providing individual support to entrepreneurs (e.g. mentoring, training, networking); and (iii) improving access to finance. In addition, some measures target women entrepreneurs in rural areas.

The Plan was launched in August 2013 by the Ministries of Women’s Rights; National Education, Higher Education and Research; and the Delegate Ministry for SMEs, Innovation and the Digital Economy. It contains three pillars, two of which focus on entrepreneurship skills development.

Source: -Pg 21

Other Links:

> France’s Top 7 Public Grants for Startups (2023)

> French Tech Grant

The French Tech Grant was devised in 2014 by France’s own public investment arm, BPI France. It aims to fund early-stage startup businesses – with up to €30,000 equity- free funding to pay for up to 70% of startup costs.

It is targeted at any startup business that meet all the following criteria like – the business was incorporated within the last year, has less than 50 employees and a balance less of less than €10 million.

Also note: individuals without a corporate structure can also apply for the grant, including sole proprietorships or entrepreneurs enrolled in an accelerator or incubator for example.

> French Tech “Emergence” Grant

The French Tech “Emergence” Grant is very similar to the French Tech Grant, given above. But, the main difference is that it focuses on deep tech businesses and offers up to €90,000 funding per project (instead of €30,000). In 2019 alone, 94 startups have received an average funding of €85,000 for a total of €8 million.

What does it imply? €90,000 equity-free funding to pay for up to 70% of startup costs. Who is the target? Any startup business that meet all the following criteria like – the project is considered “deep tech”; the business incorporated within the last year, has less than 50 employees and has a balance less of less than €10 million.

> French Tech Seed

The French Tech Seed Fund is another of BPI France‘s recent initiatives – to promote investment in tech-enabled businesses (but not necessarily deep tech). Created in 2018, it is a €400 million fund that co-invests with in deep tech startups in France.

It’s all about – €50,000 to €500,000 convertible note funding (7% interest p.a.). It is targeted at any small business incorporated in France that meet all the following criteria like – the business was incorporated within the last 3 years, it has less than 50 employees and they have already raised at least one equity round in the past.

> Aide Au DéveloppementDeeptech (ADD)

Aide Au DéveloppementDeeptech (ADD) is another of BPI France’s grants program for deeptech startups in France.

Unlike the French Tech “Emergence” Grant discussed above, ADD is more suited for SMEs (vs. early-stage startups). Indeed, they offer up to €2,000,000 funding per project, and companies of less than 2,000 employees can apply.

What is it? Up to €2,000,000 funding per project, with a mix of both public grant (free money) and repayable subsidy. Total funding is limited to 45% maximum of the project’s expected costs.

This grant is meant for any business incorporated in France that meet all the following criteria – like it has less than 2,000 employees and the project needs to be considered “deeptech”.

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