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Second French-German Forum: The Challenges of Being A Woman Entrepreneur

Organized by the HEC Paris Representative office in Germany, the second “French-German Forum’ took place on July 5 in Munich, covering the themes of entrepreneurship, technology, finance and culture.

2e forum franco-allemand au féminin - Munich - HEC Paris - Remise prix Yes She Dares

After the success of the first edition, organized in Berlin last year, on the topics of leadership and diversity, the French-German forum returned this time at the UnternehmerTUM, independent start-up center and partner of the Technical University of Munich and HEC Paris. During this day of rich exchange, many experts debated the current position of women, their skills, their leadership in organizations, businesses and different sectors of society, without forgetting the social, economic and digital issues in France and in Germany.

“2019 is a historic year in terms of French-German politics, with major events such as the G7 or the Aix-la-Chapelle treaty, giving a new dynamic to the French-German question. The push for professional equality, as well as for female education and the support for more feminist diplomacy were part of this year’s big challenges and the years to come for our two countries,” said Catherine Briat, Cultural Advisor and Director of the French Institute in Germany, introducing some of the major subjects covered during this second French-German forum.


2e forum franco-allemand au féminin - Munich - HEC Paris - Discours d'ouverture


Family Life, Artificial Intelligence: What is at stake ?

Four panels of experts took their place in front of an audience of entrepreneurs, students and passionate French-German decision-makers.

The first round table discussed managing family life as a founder of a startup. Each of the speakers emphasized the importance of an even share between the role of the father and the mother, and the need for empowering children from an early age, to allow more flexibility in the parents’ entrepreneurial career.

A second round table then addressed the state of artificial intelligence in Europe, underlining notably the European delay in contrast to China. During this discussion, Isabell Franck, Founder and General Director of Franck AI, and Denise Vandeweijer, Manager of the AI Transition at Unternehmer TUM expressed their regret for the prejudices faced by women working in this sector today.


2e forum franco-allemand au féminin - Munich - HEC Paris - Table-ronde


Capital Risk and French-German Entrepreneurial Culture

In the afternoon, a third discussion covered capital risk in France and in Germany. Although startups founded by women are twice as profitable as those of their male counterparts (Boston Consulting Group, 2019: “Why Women-Owned Startups Are a Better Bet”), they still only represent 14.7% of business founders in Europe. In Germany, this figure is even lower, being only 13.9%. “In France, startups created by women raise between 30 and 50% less capital than that of similar businesses started by men,” stated Imène Maharzi, founder of the pedagogical platform Own Your Cash, which aims to train women to become business angels. “Women’s projects are much less financed or even not financed at all, resulting in a real waste of economic potential”, she added. During this exchange, Eva Stark, a Berlin-based lawyer and converted entrepreneur and founder of the network Ventureladies, insisted on the importance of networking for female entrepreneurs: “the network is THE decisive factor for success or failure. The first investor is always one met via the network.”

The final seminar looked at the entrepreneurial culture in France and in Germany. According to Agnès Bazin, who is in charge of German development for the medical appointment platform Doctolib, the ways of working in both countries are very different: “the Germans are particularly flexible. Someone based in Munich would have no difficulty accepting a post in Berlin. Whereas someone who lives in Marseille would be much less enthusiastic about accepting a job in Paris!” According to Beate Boodoo, lawyer and member of the Stand Up program at HEC, visions for entrepreneurial success diverge greatly in France and in Germany: “for the Germans, success is something very concrete: the finished product must be of top quality. For the French, it’s more about self-respect: the product must be the best in its category.” Hana Milanov, professor of entrepreneurship at the Technical University of Munich, finished by reiterating that there is still a long way to go to better recognize women in the field of entrepreneurship: “when we evoke the term ‘entrepreneur’, we immediately think of a man. This sends biased signals to women and doesn’t encourage them to take the first step”, she concluded.

“Yes, She Dares!”

One of the strong points of this Forum was without a doubt the presentation of the “Yes, She Dares!” prize, conceived to promote and support the growth of a startup, founded or co-founded by a woman, having French-German activity and ambitions. Co-created by the HEC Germany Representative Office and the platform Own Your Cash and sponsored by Atos, the prize was given to Fizimed, a Strasbourg-based startup with a device and application for pelvic floor re-education.

Founded by Emeline Hahn, Fizimed has already received more than 10 awards for its technological innovations, of which is “Emy”, the first wireless probe designed and assembled in France. Connected to a fun application, Emy allows for pelvic floor reeducation, at home, alone, fully dressed and accompanied by a health professional. Thanks to this new prize, Fizimed can benefit from Own Your Cash events for one year, mentoring sessions directed by top leaders of HEC partner and sponsor businesses, as well as access to a selection of Atos events, dedicated to startups. A second prize “coup de cœur” was also given by the jury to the startup IkonoTV, known also as “the MTV of art”. IkonoTV is the first HD television channel, which broadcasts art 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the world.

The HEC Paris office in Germany wishes to make the French-German Forum an annual event. The next edition will take place July 3, 2020 at the French Embassy in Berlin and will cover the themes of education and research.


Read also: "1st French-German Female HEC Forum Draws a Parallel Between the State of Leadership and Diversity Between Paris and Berlin"