It’s time we made tech entrepreneurship more inclusive. And to succeed, we need your help.
We’re looking for 200+ battle-tested founders to take in our first cohort of aspiring entrepreneurs from underprivileged backgrounds. Read what our director Kat Borlongan has to say about French Tech Tremplin, and how you can make a difference as a “godparent.” (Lire la version française de cet article)
What’s the context here?
You’ve heard me say this before: The French Tech Mission is obsessed with making sure France has one of the strongest startup talent pools in the world. To succeed, there are several barriers that need some obliterating.
The first barrier was immigration, which we have begun to take down via the complete overhaul of the French Tech Visa. Since March 1st, this visa — dubbed as the most open in the world — has already been granted to over 400+ French startups and featured in international news.
Our second target is the barrier between the research and startup communities. State created the French Tech Seed Fund for pre-seed deeptech startups, and will be doing even more in the fall to effectively transform more scientists into entrepreneurs.
One other issue we care very much about is gender balance. This is a long game, but one of our starting blocks is representation. Effective this year, La French Tech has formally enacted that all events we organise, partner with and sponsor events must have at least 35% of the opposite sex represented amongst its speakers.
Then there’s the fourth barrier — on that we haven’t talked about enough in the global tech community — class.* Some of our most promising startup talent is being held back by socio-economic barriers: funding, bias, networks and access to higher learning.
This is the barrier we designed French Tech Tremplin to help take down.
(*Cultural side note: Affirmative action policies in the US have largely been more about ethnic background or “race.” This term, widely used by Americans, tends to be considered vulgar by the French. While we have no trouble using this term to categorize canines or bovines, when referring to people to us there is only one race: the human race. In France, we choose to orient affirmative action or, what refer to in French as discrimination positive, based on socio-economic needs. For example, preferential admissions in our top schools are given to the brightest kids from the poorest neighbourhoods, regardless of the color of their skin.)
What is « French Tech Tremplin » ?
French Tech Tremplin is a startup program we designed for aspiring tech entrepreneurs from backgrounds that have faced marginalisation within the tech industry: low-income neighborhoods, refugee populations, people with disabilities, etc. It aims to welcome them into the French Tech ecosystem and optimise their chances of success.
We hope to level the playing field a little by mimicking certain advantages entrepreneurs from more privileged backgrounds have had easier access to.
How does it work exactly?
There are two possible entry points for them into the program:
The first is the Fellowship (or « Prep »). This is a full-time talent development program for aspiring founders to cultivate both the hard and soft skills needed to get from idea to market-tested prototype. To succeed, we give them
- 17K in equity-free love money (up to 5K of which may be used to shoulder living expenses, the rest goes into learning and building)
- Co-working space at each of the local French Tech HQs
- An intensive cohort-based bootcamp to help them learn by doing
- “Godparents,” successful tech entrepreneurs willing to open their networks, their offices (and their hearts) to guide our fellows throughout this journey.
If our fellows proceed to launch a company, they can apply to the 2nd part of the program, Incubation. This second entry point is also open to companies with disadvantaged founders who were not part of the fellowship. It grants them
- a starter package of non-dilutive funding of 30K
- paid space at an incubator for their entire team for a full year
- a French Tech “operating partner” we’d recruit to take a volunteer spot on their board for the duration of the program
- cohort-based activities
And what happens if your some of your Prep Fellows don’t launch a company?
If they don’t, then our community will help them find a job in a local startup. Let’s face it, not everyone is ready for tech entrepreneurship, nor is it for everyone. It’s amazing though what you can learn trying to build your own startup from scratch — product, UX, sales, marketing — all of which are valuable skillsets at a tech company.
Okay, now that you’ve laid out the basics, can you tell us about these « godparents »?
Are some of you seasoned entrepreneurs and still reading this article? Good. Because this program will mean nothing without people like you in it.
I can promise you that our team has done everything we can to optimize this program for success. We learned from a 2017 pilot our predecessors ran in 2017, partnered with specialized non-profits to ensure solid scouting, and even raised 15 million euros from the Prime Minister’s Office (SGPI) to be able to deliver nationally. But let’s be honest here:
No instructor-led class, state subsidy or office space will ever — in a million years — have the impact of a successful entrepreneur just being there for someone who holds them in esteem as a role model.
Our 200+ future entrepreneur-godparents are the real backbone of the program. Without them, we might as well pack up now.
What does being a French Tech Tremplin Godparent entail?
A whole lot more that the usual 1-hour drop-ins many of you do when you mentor startups at an accelerator, that’s for sure. It means being a genuine part of their lives as they embark on this journey and having a real opportunity to make a difference.
Should you come onboard, here’s what you can expect:
At the beginning of the program, you’d start by attending a briefing session with your HR Director. We’ll talk about mentoring tips for this context and combating unconscious socio-economic bias in hiring and the workplace. You’d spend time helping your fellow fine-tuning their initial idea and budgeting their 17K stipend.
During the program, you’d have your fellow over your company for a 2-week “Startup Immersion,” allowing him/her to understand how all the parts of a startup function from the inside. You’d be doing regular check-ins for guidance, expertise and feedback. You’d also help him/her develop certain soft skills by allowing him/her to regularly shadow you at certain moments (ex. Meetings with your C-levels, all-hands, tech conferences, etc.)
As the program comes to a close, 6 months down the line, you get him/her ready for what’s next: Getting into French Tech Tremplin Incubation, pursuing a career in a startup, enrolling in coding school, etc.
What are you looking for in a French Tech Tremplin godparent?
You’d have successfully grown a startup, and be willing to share what you’ve learned from that journey. You should be able to help propel your fellow forward because you’ve been there, seen the landscape, and know what it takes to be successful. You’re a visionary problem solver, and have both great empathy as well as the ability to deliver honest feedback. You’re connected, with a network that allows you to open multiple doors for your mentee.
And, of course, you genuinely care about the issue of socio-economic diversity in the French tech ecosystem.
Any closing words?
It’s a big ask, we know. Becoming a Tremplin “Godparent” requires a deeper and more personal commitment than the vast majority of mentoring gigs.
But I can’t stress enough how important it is — to our future fellows and to this ecosystem as a whole. I am personally tired of tech being a bubble, in which people often complain about being in a bubble, and then proceed to feel powerless to change anything. I’m telling you now: you can change something. And you can start right here.