How Bpifrance helps French startups develop an international expansion strategy

For years, French government-backed investment group Bpifrance has been investing in several successful French startups that are making a global impact.


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For years, French government-backed investment group Bpifrance has been investing money in several successful French startups and assisting young companies in finding financing or listing on stock exchanges. According to the group’s mission statement, by 2017 it will invest up to €8 billion in French startups or provide assistance to expand outside of France or apply for funding programs.

In recent years, several startups have made a splash outside of France by securing customers and users around Europe and internationally.

One of them is Aix-en-Provence-based SuperSonic Imagine, which develops ultrasound imaging systems, has availed of Eurostars funding and is now listed on the Euronext stock exchange.

The company made a big move into Israel in 2014 and has placed its sonography systems in more than 20 hospitals and medical centres around the country. Last year it installed systems in Switzerland, Italy, and as far as Japan. In 2014, the company had launched a trial clinic in China to lay the groundwork for further expansion in Asia.

Another is Crossject, a French company that's also in the medical tech space, having won funding through Eurostar’s ISTAR project in 2013. It has created a needle-free injection device called the Zeneo following a long road of 12 years of research and development.

Most recently, Bpifrance backed Paris-based drone maker Parrot, putting €33 million into the company and taking a 5% stake in November of last year.

Parrot, in recent years, has been making waves in the burgeoning drone industry and most recently was one of the standout companies at CES in Las Vegas when it came to flaunting UAV devices. The company is also listed on the Euronext stock exchange.

These startups and companies are just some of the bigger success stories to come out of the country, and specifically Bpifrance’s portfolio.

Founding your startup is one thing but making the first moves for expanding into the rest of Europe and beyond can lead into some choppy waters.

Bpifrance provides guidance and support for French companies it invests in, when they are looking at stepping outside of France, explained Patrick Cornet, head of international collaborative programs and innovation department. In many ways, Bpifrance acts as a broker of sorts, connecting startups with international contacts and networking events.

“We co-organised a presentation with our counterpart in Canada ,” said Nathalie Trannois, account manager for international innovation as one example. “That was a way to enhance the cooperation between French and Canadian companies. Our main goal is also to fund the projects and fund the company.”

Identifying companies’ strengths and partnering them with another company in a similar or complementary field is key, added Cornet, or what he calls “technical clusters”.

“It’s a place that gathers the people dealing with the same technical topics. Companies can join and deal with those companies acting in the same field,” he said. “That’s a better way to make them work together and find the better counterpart they need to build up their business.

“That’s the main concern to help them find people with whom they can develop their business, meaning they share the same goals. It’s not so easy but it’s part of our job to help them find those counterparts.”

Also read:

Cisco bets big on the French startup scene, invests $51 million in local VC firms

French rail network SNCF releases API with real-time data for developers to play with

French consumer electronics startup Netatmo raises €30 million

Featured image credit: Bpifrance / Flickr

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