PRESIDENT François Hollande hugged the founder of the Pigeons entrepreneurs’ pressure group on a visit to Silicon Valley yesterday, in a pro-business gesture of reconciliation.
The President spoke enthusiastically about start-ups on his trip – and underlined the point by embracing Carlos Diaz, one of the French business people who have joined him in America on his state visit.
Mr Diaz founded The Pigeons, the group that rebelled against plans for capital gains tax changes for business people selling their firms that were proposed in the 2013 budget.
It was an act of reconciliation and “proof of love” for entrepreneurs said Fleur Pellerin, the deputy minister for small and medium-sized businesses, innovation and the digital economy.
“France must recognise its dynamic entrepreneurs and promote leadership,” Mr Hollande told French start-up businesses operating in America.
He promised “a new impetus” to crowdfunding, and spoke of a “talent passport” plan, which he said would allow innovators and foreign entrepreneurs to more easily get a French visa.
"Between 5,000 and 10,000 people " could benefit each year, he said.
He called on Medef head Pierre Gattaz, accompanying him, to explore with the large French groups a Californian idea of three-year posts for graduating students, which he said would give them security while they develop their own businesses.
He also said that to attract top talent to start-ups entrepreneurs needed to pay people well, which was not easy for them. He might look at making it easier for them to give company shares and stock options, he said.
Also during his visit – the first official visit by a French president to San Francisco for 30 years – Mr Hollande met the chiefs of multinational internet giants Facebook, Google and Twitter at a breakfast meeting.
The Washington Post predicted tension around the table, with tax issues high on the agenda.
Since his election in 2012, he has sought to prevent large multinationals doing what he has termed “tax optimisation.”
He refused to discuss the issue yesterday, however, keen instead to promote his message.
He told them: “We are not afraid of anything, not afraid to put our best companies in Silicon Valley, not afraid either to attract talent or foreign investors to our country.
“That's why I said to these groups, ‘Come and invest in France, come and create jobs... just as we French support start-ups’.”