20 tips for launching a successful IT startup in France

We spoke to our France country manager Yves de Beauregard for some quick tips that can help you successfully launch your IT startup in France with careful planning and execution. 

France Expansion Tip #1: Identify a niche.

See which actors are early adopters. For instance, French multinational retailer Auchan is well-known to select new ideas while other French brands are more willing to follow.

France Expansion Tip #2: Build a strong value proposition.

Show how the Unique Selling Points (USP) make it attractive to choose from the mob and enlist the scale-up into tenders of potential providers. Store presence can beat a pure player as our client mobile card reader fintech scale-up SumUp showed in France versus competition despite deep pockets.

France Expansion Tip #3: Localize your marketing.

Each country has top-notch media and a local way to communicate, including social networks and webinar shows. Translation is not enough: too many adjectives/adverbs do not make the cut in Nordics for instance whereas it is normal in the U.S. or Southern Europe.

France Expansion Tip #4: Establish strategic partnerships.

Starting from scratch is hard and having a team who knows the decision makers and trendsetters help gain a few precious quarters. This is a network you want to acquire abroad, not a bureau.

France Expansion Tip #5: Offer competitive pricing.

Elasticity is essential, which does not mean cheap pricing. In the SaaS business, an entry point can cost very little and upselling is easier when trust has been well cared of, after a proof-of-concept. Legal process may start along as if the concept was successfully proven: it is often a lengthy procedure and starting it is a clear buy-in signal from the B2B client.

France Expansion Tip #6: Provide excellent customer service.

If you localize everything but the customer success management, you may disappoint your first clients losing them quickly, so it is key to respond quickly and in French, even if the real French-speaking customer success agent may be hired when business fully justifies it.

France Expansion Tip #7: Leverage digital marketing.

Beyond the company website and social media pages, each employee and partner should be the ambassador of the brand, with a personalized approach: not a mere cut-and-paste of the marketing slogan but a "why I like to work for" post — especially on LinkedIn and France’s equally popular Viadeo.

France Expansion Tip #8: Test eCommerce before launching.

The Digital Customer Care Company recommends you test out your tech product in France via its €81 billion e-commerce market. According to Yves, some resellers multiply by tenfold their reach for new products, revenues, targeting connected buyers and additional budgets!

France Expansion Tip #9: Attend trade shows and exhibitions.

Go out and sell! Post-pandemic, seasoned local sales reps will benefit from the increased booth attendance in the new type of trade shows with speed networking sessions, hybrid webinars, organized tours, and VC meetings. VivaTech in Paris is one that cannot be missed.

France Expansion Tip #10: Continuous market analysis.

Stay tuned since hardware technology can be jeopardized by an app. Think of all that Apple’s Watch or an iPhone can replace (and Android devices as well.) Market disruptors homegrown in France or coming in from abroad can shake things up at any time.

France Expansion Tip #11: Market research.

Conduct thorough market research to identify opportunities, target audience, and potential competitors. Understand the demand for your product or service in the French IT market. And leverage local partners to dive deeper.

France Expansion Tip #12: Networking and partnerships.

Build a strong network within the IT industry in France. Attend relevant events, join professional associations, and connect with potential partners, investors, and mentors. Building relationships is crucial for success. Take advantage of sales reps with existing relationships and channel sales partners. Show you are physically present with French-speaking people and a good local address. (You can work with outsourcing partners for both of these.)

France Expansion Tip #13: Localize your offering.

Adapt your product or service to the local market. Understand the unique needs, preferences, and cultural aspects of French customers. Localization can include language, user experience, and compliance with local regulations.

France Expansion Tip #14: Funding opportunities.

Explore funding options available in France, such as government grants, venture capital firms, angel investors, and crowdfunding platforms. The French authorities offer various programs and incentives to support startups. Our French team often mentors and works with local programs including at Cap Digital, as well as has existing relationships with several venture capitalist firms.

France Expansion Tip #15: Talent acquisition.

France has a pool of skilled IT professionals and savvy sales reps. Start by leveraging local outsourcing partners, and then look to recruit full-time employees once you’ve proven the French market has an appetite for your product.

France Expansion Tip #16: Leverage incubators and accelerators.

Consider joining an incubator or accelerator program in France. These programs offer mentorship, resources, and networking opportunities that can help fast-track your startup's growth.

France Expansion Tip #17: Understand French legal and regulatory frameworks.

Familiarize yourself with the legal and regulatory requirements for IT startups in France. Ensure compliance with data protection laws (such as GDPR), intellectual property regulations, and other relevant legislation. And make sure you are ready to commit to a full-time hire before committing to strict French labor laws.

France Expansion Tip #18: Marketing and promotion.

Develop a solid marketing strategy to create awareness and attract customers with your local USP adapted and localized into French. Utilize digital marketing techniques, social media platforms, and online advertising to reach your target audience effectively.

France Expansion Tip #19: Customer support and satisfaction.

Prioritize customer support and satisfaction. Provide excellent service, gather customer feedback, and continually improve your offerings based on their needs. Positive word-of-mouth can significantly contribute to your success: often the best salesperson, so “buying” initial customers vs testimonials is a smart way to spend no marketing budget and learn from the first adopters

France Expansion Tip #20: Wait to incorporate.

France can be an exciting stop on your European expansion journey, but making the commitment to setting up an entity before you’ve proven your access to the market can be expensive. 

It’s best to partner with a company like Sales Force Europe to gain the speed to market while remaining flexible while you test things out. You can outsource a part — revenue management, sales or B2B lead generation in France — or all of your French revenue stream needs. And leverage from this first country to replicate in dozens of others, with our pan-European sales force. Contact us today if you're interested!

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