Speaking at The Inspire Conference today was Tariq Krim, founder of Jolicloud, a personal cloud computing portal. He is also the founder ofÂ Netvibes, a personal dashboard for users to monitor their favorite blogs and social networks.
The serial entrepreneur and angel investor has been recognized by MIT Technology Review as one of the worldâs âTop Innovators Under 35â (2008), and by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader. More recently, Krim was honored by the President of France as Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. As a former journalist for La Tribune, Tariq has been a keen observer of the Web since its genesis.
Today, Krim spoke about how Web and mobile platforms are redefining our experiences of the world.
Krim struck me as an incredibly positive person from the start. He made reference to his blog, entitled âEarth is a beta testâ, stating that he thinks everything can be improved. And he asked: âHow can you enable people to live a better life?â There is so much data and not nearly enough control.
Krim was also in the mood to wax lyrical about Apple. In reference to hardware design, Krim noted that Apple is the only company striving to do anything unique, which is why the interface itself is so important. Its the chips and the operating systems that define the price of a computer. Products are cheap to make â but much of the cost is in marketing: getting the message out.
But it was one of his passing points that most intrigued me. Krim is French, and naturally is in tune with all thatâs happening in the French tech scene. He discussed what sounds like a clash of cultures between the âoldâ way of doing things and innovation. âIn France, the past is sacred and precious. So anything new in France is often met with a wall.â
And it was on this note that I picked things up with Krim following his speech at The Inspire Conference.
The Next Web (TNW): Hi Tariq, you wrote on your blog a month or so ago that you had turned down an invite from President Sarkozy for the installation of the new Conseil National du NumÃ©rique (CNN). You stated that you were unhappy about the lack of support of the government towards entrepreneurs, on the back of changes to the tax set-up around young innovative companies. Would you care to expand on this?
Tariq: The problem in France is that thereâs a certain type of company that they donât really care about. Actually, itâs not so much that they donât care itâs that they donât understand the role that these young startups play in the economy. Startups such as Jolicloud did have an 8-year period where they enjoyed certain tax breaks. Now the Government has changed the rules, meaning that small companies that have had a budget in mind to move forward with, are having to rethink. For me itâs had an impact, meaning that I will have to hire one less person this year than Iâd hoped.
TNW: Does this tie in with what you said during your talk about France not embracing ânewâ?
Tariq: I think itâs more than that. I donât believe anybody in the Executive position in the Government really believes that tech companies are going to save France. They believe that itâs better to help bigger companies.
TNW: So if they understood what impact these smaller tech companies could have in the economy, then they might not have cut the tax breaks?
Tariq: Of course. They donât want to do harm though, I think itâs more like aâ¦disinterest. In general, the French Government sees the Internet as a threat. Once there was an incident, where some guy told the President that he didnât want to shake his hand. The President called him an asshole, and this was caught on video. The mainstream press didnât want to run with the story, but because it was put on Vimeo and was widespread, so the press had to run it. If they didnât, theyâd look like North Korea.
TNW: Whatâs the core problem for innovation in France?
Tariq: You have 4 types of companies (in tech): telecommunication operators, who are trying to spend less money whilst dealing with the challenge of increasing demand for bandwidth. Second, there is the media industry (e.g. music, online content) and they all want to protect their content â âdonât downloadâ, donât do this, donât do that.Â Then there are e-commerce websites, which are great, but they are more connected to the real world â they are concerned with paying tax, distribution etc. Itâs a well understood model, it just happens online. And then there are innovators which are another thing altogether â coders, developers, social networks etc. The problem for me, is that this last group isnât being represented.
TNW: When youâre talking about the Internet, thatâs quite a big hole, isnât it?
Tariq: Absolutely. As an entrepreneur, I believe that we need more flexibility and more support. But there are other problems going on as Iâve pointed out â in telecoms, e-commerce, in the media. And we have our own problem: how can you give us the ability to grow our business in Europe? The problem is, after a certain sizeâ¦what do we do?
TNW: What sort of companies do you think France should be producing?
Tariq: Everyone keeps asking me, âHow can we produce a Google in Franceâ? I say, we shouldnât be thinking about companies like Google, we should be thinking in terms of Spotify â billion dollar valuation, hundreds of employees and a leader in its space worldwide â but itâs a medium-sized company. Thatâs where France should be heading.
TNW: Thanks for your time Tariq, itâs been great speaking with you!