#Geonpi: the bizarre case of an ever shrinking France



The excellent Jean-David Chamboredon a.k.a. Chambo, arguably the best e-commerce venture guy in France, wrote a hard hitting column in La Tribune last week attacking an “anti-startup” fiscal law.

Since then there has been an explosion on twitter about the “pigeons” (turkeys) or “geonpis” in verlan (inverted French, a habit born in the Paris inner city and rap culture).  Just search for #geonpi and seem what I mean.

The French authorities are intent on enforcing a model of social equality through taxation, and as Jean-David puts it, are entirely confusing the taxation of economic creation (capital gains on startup exits, to be specific) with the taxation of wealth.

I don’t really do politics, but I do care about my beloved old continent and as a French-speaker France is dear to my heart.

What on earth is happening ?  The Frenchies seem to believe that they operate in a vacuum, that they can design fiscal laws that ignore the rest of the world.  Whilst centers like London and Dublin are doubling efforts to attract the world’s best entrepreneurs, Paris holds almost no appeal to innovative immigrants and now seems intent on chasing its best and brightest away.

France is seemingly locked into a battle with itself over whether wealth is acceptable whilst the rest of the world shrugs and moves on and many of its best entrepreneurs leave for most hospitable shores.

You can argue all day long about whether wealth is moral, but you cannot argue that capital is highly mobile.  Without capital, no startups.   As JD put it, the pigeons (entrepreneurs) are realizing that life without water (capital) may be challenging.  The French VC ecosystem is moribund, ironically kept alive by some odd tax games, a ton of subsidies that often help average entrepreneurs, all signs of a meddling state that thinks it has better answers than the startup community.

Paris is the second largest venture market in Europe.  Keep going like that and watch Berlin sail away with both capital and talent.  ”Laisses-nous faire”, Mr President.

Final word to @benwoodward: “French PM goes full-retard and tries to tax entrepreneurs out of existence. Insane”

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  • Rory Bernard

    I think France has yet to realise there is no opt-out on globalisation.
    Ridiculous requirements for starting up have caused the life to be squeezed out of potential starts ups where I live (central France). Most of them driven by huge vested interests such as insurance and banks. Startup Msr? – Sure, can we have 2 years estimated tax in advance,  you have to be qualified to run a startup (months of training). Also don’t forget, if you go bust you will not be able to anything for 10 years afterwards (good article in recent Economist on how long it takes to wipe your slate clean if your company dies).Nothing is going to change in the next few years, continual flight across the channel or into Germany is going to slowly turn to a mass migration. There are a few brave enough to take on the vested interests e.g. Xavier Niel who had to fight every inch of the way against all sorts of nasty tactics. Witness the consumer flight to Free after launch.  Their success caused major layoffs at all the pre-existing networks (I terminated 3 SFR contracts the day it launched). French consumers will slowly wake up to the fact that France is incredibly expensive but there are much cheaper products and services outside the borders. The pressure this brings will have to bring change eventually but how much damage to both the balance of payments  and local talent will be done first?

  • Rok Preseren

    The same text is applicable to every socialist state in Europe. Which are the states with Mediterranean mentality – dreaming of glorious past but in fact not even a shadow of ancesters. Pun intended.

  • Marc Brandsma

    Pigeons are pigeons, turkeys are turkeys. We don’t mix.

    Also Paris is the second place in Europe. Sometimes we remember where we belong to.

    All in all,  you’re spot on. This whole thing is a disaster with dire consequences.

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