Why Paris? Interview with Lucas Lovell, Hopstay

Paris may not immediately come to mind as a city for startups, however the capital now leads Europe for the number of venture-capital funding rounds and is seeing the rise of “deep-tech”.

We had the chance to speak with Lucas Lovell, Managing Director of Hopstay (previously TenderFoot), on making the move from Adelaide, SA to Paris six months ago, and hear why Paris is a great spot to consider for your startup.

Lucas is Managing Director of Hopstay, a platform that helps accommodation providers communicate with guests and share travel information digitally. He grew up in Adelaide and went on to study Law, International Relations and a Diploma in French at Adelaide University. hopstay was launched in his final year of Law School before being accepted into the French Tech Ticket Program at the end of 2016.

Here’s what he had to say:

What made you decide to move your business to France? 

We were accepted into the French Tech Ticket Program, a French government-funded initiative that brings 70 international startups to France per year. As part of the package, we receive a €57,000 grant, one year in one of Paris’ top accelerators/incubators and a four-year residence permit for the founding team. As a tourism company, being located in one of the most visited cities in the world with significant tourism infrastructure is hugely beneficial. Combined with the credibility of the program and the strength of the Paris&Co Welcome City Lab (our incubator), it represents a huge opportunity for us. More generally, the UK/Europe offers market size and access that is incomparable to Australia.

How important has your Australian network been to get started over here?

To be honest, important but not critically important. Given we are part of a structured program, we have had access to an extensive network from day one. I have reached out to some Aussies and Austrade/Australian Embassy have been really helpful. It’s also important to mention that I actually found out about the French Tech Ticket Program through the Aussie.EU community, so I have a lot to thank for that. In general though I don’t think the Australian network in Paris is overly big (compared to say London and Berlin), but I’m keen to change that as the Parisian tech ecosystem is going from strength to strength.

Have you raised money in Europe and how did you find it compared to Australia? 

Not yet, but we’re looking to raise a seed round here in France over the coming months. It looks like France is a good place to raise money and the French Tech Ticket/Business France are very supportive.

What is it like to do business in France?

Doing business in France is quite different and has its positives and negatives compared to Australia. Dealing with corporates is more traditional – it takes a few meetings to gauge interest levels and the emphasis on relationships is stronger. Warm introductions are important and don’t expect a yes or no on first encounter. Meal-based meetings are common.

On the flip side, companies are more receptive to innovation. Larger companies are easier to access here and enjoy working with startups in mutually beneficial relationships. The culture of innovation is stronger across the board which is great for startups. Language is less of a barrier than one might think – most professionals are happy speaking English (particularly in Paris), but having a bit of French behind you certainly helps.

Are you working as a remote team or did the team move over with you? Do you, or have you, hired local talent? If not, why not?

Our founding team of three are in Paris, so this is definitely our base now. We are only a team of three at the moment with a remote development team. We haven’t hired local talent up to this point as we’ve only been here six months and our company isn’t yet at a point to hire, but we’re looking to grow our team here in France over the second half of this year. There’s a stigma that hiring and firing is difficult in France, but if you look at the laws closely, it’s not as dire as one might think. And it’s changing rapidly too with the new government.

What do you love about living in France? 

Paris is an amazing city and France an amazing country. It’s a cultural melting pot and the vivacity of Paris makes it such a fun place to live. Everything is close and the access to Europe to do business/travel makes for an exciting lifestyle. I also feel like French tech is at a significant turning point so there’s a huge buzz in the startup world.

Top 3 tips:

  1. Be organised: Moving your own life and your business (if you’re a founder) requires a lot of administration and work. If you arrive with a plan, you’ll find those unexpected processes far easier.
  2. Don’t expect too much: Moving is hard, really hard. Emotionally, too. Don’t expect to be living the dream in week two. It takes time to settle, figure out where you fit socially and get things off the ground. A few months, at least. Sometimes longer. Stick at it!
  3. Throw yourself out there and ask questions: Go to meetups, join a sports club, and persist with relationships. You need to be a ‘yes’ person for a while. You never know where you’ll meet that person who turns out to be your closest friend. There are also plenty of people who’ve moved abroad before – expat communities are everywhere in Europe. Go to social events and find out the tips and tricks to settling quickly.

Thank you to Lucas Lovell for this interview. You can contact him at Hopstay.

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