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French Startup Frustrations Highlighted By Flying Water Taxis Highlight

French Startup Frustrations Highlighted By Flying Water Taxis Highlight
A clean, fast taxi service for the waterways of major cities is what French yachtsman Alain Thebault wants to turn a boat design into that he used to break a world speed sailing record in 2009.
Thebault expects to raise between 50 to 100 million euros by the end of September as the SeaBubble won the backing of private investors.
the idea when he was economy minister was even championed by Emmanuel Macron, France's pro-business president who wants to create a "startup nation".
Including trying to convince Parisian authorities to raise the speed limit of the River Seine, SeaBubbles faces specific regulatory hurdles.
But if the idea takes off and he needs to grow fast, he fears his company will be held back by administrative bureaucracy like other startups.
“It’s a road full of obstacles for two seabirds like Anders (Bringdal) and me,” he said of his business partner, a Swedish windsurfing champion. “If it’s getting too complicated… we’ll go where it’s the easiest.”
In a job that he said could have been done in a few hours in some other countries, it took a month for lawyers to register the company and two months for SeaBubbles to arrange a contract to lease two cars.
By rising out of the water on legs at speed, the SeaBubbles prototype preserves its battery. With a ride up the River Seine in June, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo gave support to the idea.
But only if the authorities raise the Seine speed limit so it can go fast enough to rise out of the water, the Bubble has a chance of running in Paris. But the authorities have rejected a request so far. Including whether she thought the Paris speed limit should be changed, Hidalgo's office did not respond to a request for comments on the project from the media.
It was demoralizing when two applications for 200,000 euros in government subsidies were turned down even while he got some initial funding from the state investment bank. The money could only go to companies with a "proven business case", a spokeswoman said.
Interested in exploring whether the SeaBubble could become part of their public transport systems are "about 5" cities from around the world, Thebault says, but refuses to name the cities.
One of the driving forces behind the bursting startup scene with investments of 191 million euros in 2016 has been the state investment bank Bpifrance.
Station F, a 34,000 square-meter (366,000 sq ft) startup mega-campus in Paris that opened its doors at the end of June are among the private initiatives.
After this year's election of Macron who has portrayed himself as a business-friendly president, there has been a growing investor confidence which has also helped.
According to venture tracking firm CB Insights, noting a jump of around 40 percent over 2016, 2017 is on track to reach more than 700 deals by the end of the year at the current pace. Compared with $2.1 billion for all of 2016, about $2.03 billion was invested in the first-half of the year. CB Insights said that after Britain, that makes France the second best-funded tech start-up scene.
Rather by bureaucracy and labor laws that are designed to protect employees but can be cumbersome and expensive for businesses as they get going, startups are not being held up by financial concerns, investors say.
“It’s not a matter of money. There’s plenty, plenty, plenty of money,” said Romain Lavault, a partner at Partech Ventures, a venture capital fund that also invested in SeaBubbles.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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