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How France wants to become a tech giant

Vive la France — that was the dominant message of the day during a tour of the French tech ecosystem. But is it time to invest in French startups? Around 40 partners of venture capital firms, as well as limited partners, came to Paris to talk about tech in France, from Andreessen Horowitz to Greylock Partners, Khosla Ventures and more. The two-day roadshow took place at Station F, the Vision Institute, iBionext and the Elysée Palace. I grew up in France and it always surprises me that the same clichés come up again and again. When Symphony founder and CEO David Gurle answered questions about what it’s like to build an engineering team in France, it could have been easy to predict the questions — labor law is not flexible enough, French people are lazy, they go on strike all the time… According to Gurle, who is great at storytelling, Symphony has been looking at around 15 countries for their next office. They first selected Singapore but couldn’t put a team together. “We went to the board and said the next step is to invest in France,” Gurle said. At first, the board was really reluctant, citing the same concerns. Chairman of Business France and Ambassador for International Investments Pascal Cagni has been dealing with those concerns for years. For instance, when it comes to labor law, he says the regulatory framework is now predictable and limited — unlike in the U.K. or Germany, for instance. You can fire people whenever you want. It means that you’ll have to pay a severance package, but everything is laid out. Silicon Valley is overheating right now. It’s become increasingly expensive and challenging to build a company — the tech industry is getting bigger and the biggest tech companies now dominate the talent market. That’s also part of the reason why Silicon Valley veterans are looking outside of their comfort zone. Speeding things up The question wasn’t about whether startups in France are a thing or not. The tone of the conversation was about pace and intensity. Is it time to invest now…

MallforAfrica goes global, Kobo360 and Sokowatch raise VC, France explains its $76M fund

Jake Bright Contributor Jake Bright is a writer and author in New York City. He is co-author of The Next Africa. More posts by this contributor Harley-Davidson to expand EV lineup, may include scooters, bicycles Sokowatch closes $2 million seed round to modernize Africa’s B2B retail B2B e-commerce company Sokowatch closed a $2 million seed investment led by 4DX Ventures. Others to join the round were Village Global, Lynett Capital, Golden Palm Investments and Outlierz  Ventures. The Kenya-based company aims to shake up the supply chain market for Africa’s informal retailers. Sokowatch’s platform connects Africa’s informal retail stores directly to local and multi-national suppliers — such as Unilever and Proctor and Gamble — by digitizing orders, delivery and payments with the aim of reducing costs and increasing profit margins. “With both manufacturers and the small shops, we’re becoming the connective layer between them, where previously you had multiple layers of middle-men from distributors, sub-distributors, to wholesalers,” Sokowatch founder and CEO Daniel Yu told TechCrunch. “The cost of sourcing goods right now…we estimate we’re cutting that cost by about 20 percent [for] these shopkeepers,” he said. “There are millions of informal stores across Africa’s cities selling hundreds of billions worth of consumer goods every year,” said Yu. These stores can use Sokowatch’s app on mobile phones to buy wares directly from large suppliers, arrange for transport and make payments online. “Ordering on SMS or Android gets you free delivery of products to your store, on average, in about two hours,” said Yu. Sokowatch generates revenues by earning “a margin on the goods that we’re selling to shopkeepers,” said Yu. On the supplier side, they also benefit from “aggregating demand…and getting bulk deals on the products that we distribute.” The company recently launched a line of credit product to extend working capital loans to platform clients. With the $2 million round, Sokowatch — which currently operates in Kenya and Tanzania — plans to “expand to new markets in East Africa, as well as pilot additional value add services to the shops,” said Yu. MallforAfrica and DHL launched MarketPlaceAfrica.com: a global e-commerce site for select African artisans to sell wares to buyers…

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