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Terror in Europe

A Patriotic Plea To French Entrepreneurs Abroad

After the attacks in Paris, Marc Simoncini, the founder of Meetic, asked French entrepreneurs living abroad, sometimes for fiscal reasons, to come back to France.

Meetic founder Marc Simoncini (center)
Meetic founder Marc Simoncini (center)
Les Echos

PARIS — A cri du coeur (cry from the heart): These are the words used by Marc Simoncini to describe his call to all French entrepreneurs outside of France — to come back home.

The founder of the dating website Meetic, online optical retailer Sensee and the investment fund Jaïna caused something of a stir in the French community of digital entrepreneurs by calling on his expat compatriots to come back to France to pay their taxes.

The Nov. 15 message was published on social networks, two days after the attacks in Paris that left at least 129 dead. Simoncini addressed his "dear entrepreneur friends," including "many of whom have left France, sometimes for personal, often fiscal reasons."

The 52-year-old multi-millionaire wrote: "Our country gave you the chance to succeed in life and you are part of the few percent of humanity who have so much more than what is necessary," the founder of Meetic wrote. "So, my friends, I implore you, come back to France, come back to start things, (…) come back, pay your taxes, you'll see, it's not that hard! Come back, because if we don't save our nation, you too may soon lose everything."

Mixed message

Many of his social-media followers welcomed his initiative, but many, mostly entrepreneurs, were critical.

Marc Simoncini lance un appel aux entrepreneurs exilés à revenir en France, bonne idée. https://t.co/rtHxRckxLc

— Nicolas Clairembault (@nclairembault) November 15, 2015

On Twitter, Julien Barbier, the cofounder of While42, responded by arguing that entrepreneurs also take part in France's influence from abroad:

@labilbe@marcsimoncini En deux ans à San Francisco, via #while42, j'ai aidé des centaines d'informaticiens, entrepreneurs et étudiants FR

— Julien Barbier (@julienbarbier42) November 15, 2015

"In two years in San Francisco, via #while42, I have helped hundreds of French computer engineers, entrepreneurs and students."

@labilbe@marcsimoncini Je suis revenu en France souvent, j'y ai partagé ce que j'avais appris, j'y ai donné des cours, des confs...

— Julien Barbier (@julienbarbier42) November 15, 2015

"I've returned to France often, I shared what I learned, gave classes, lectures …"

As for the entrepreneur Pierre Vannier, he described Marc Simoncini's post as "pathetic" and called it "exploitation."

In the same way, Simoncini's Facebook post sparked a debate between those who defend the French model and those who say avoiding expatriation is impossible. The message was shared more than 900 times and liked by some 3,000 people.

Some French expats felt singled out by the post, not-so-subtly accused of dodging France's famously high tax rates. "We lived the tragic events of these past few days with a force that I imagine was equal to yours," wrote Pascal Royer, a Frenchmen who left for the U.S. in 2013. "The presence of French people abroad in an incredible chance for our country. We represent a culture that the world loves, we develop businesses for French companies and products."

A common manifesto

In an interview with the business weekly Challenges, Simoncini stood by his message, saying he doesn't regret "arguing with a few entrepreneur friends," even if they felt he was trying to use the attacks to make them feel guilty about leaving, often because of France's famously high tax rates.

"Today, we're at war. And what's most important in war is money," Simoncini added. "We must imperatively unite to pay taxes, bring in the necessary money, but also weigh in politically, be heard, impose a better allocation of budgetary resources. At some point, you must reconcile yourself between the money you have and the country you want to live in."

The entrepreneur says he plans on launching a manifesto, "calling on all the good souls to contribute, in one way or another" to the good of France.

"I don't care if I seem overly patriotic," he says. "We're backed into a corner, and for those who have money and talent, the time to help is now."

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