French schools creating next generation web entrepreneurs | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 17.02.2011
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French schools creating next generation web entrepreneurs

New schools in France will soon be training up the next generation of Web-savvy entrepreneurs. The move is partially an attempt to close the technology innovation gap between Europe and the United States.

A man with headphones yelling at a laptop computer

A pair of French schools aim to train new Internet execs

Two new Internet skills schools are starting up in Paris in the autumn. Their founders have said people need to be trained from school to work in web enterprises ranging from e-commerce to social networking, and that they will help create a shared European Web culture.

Three of France's most successful Web entrepreneurs are founding the European Internet School, the Ecole Europeenne des Metiers de l'Internet (EEMI).

Xavier Niel, who started telecoms company Iliad, Marc Simoncini the founder of dating website Meetic and Jacques Antoine Granjon who runs e-commerce company Vente-Privee, have already had nearly 100 applications for the first class of students who'll be arriving for the three-year course in the autumn. They'll be learning design, graphics, Web-marketing, IT and business skills.

A woman typing on a laptop in a park

Students need to know more about of the Internet works behind the screen

"People arrive from school and they're babies," Granjon said. "They don't know what is behind the screen. They don't know anything about what a project is, what a designer is, nothing."

Granjon said he wanted his school to be more practical than traditional French university courses, which prioritize theory and analysis over professional skills.

"E-commerce is new; we have invented a lot of new know-how," he said. "Now it's time that we have people train from school."

Old school, new school

Teachers at more traditional schools have said such universities offer a new combination of skills, but Ian Kessler, who directs the undergraduate program at the Said Business School in the UK, sounded a note of caution.

A keyboard with the word quiz superimposed on a green key

The schools want to test practical skills rather than academic theories

"There are dangers in trying to train up young people to become entrepreneurs and to be useful in these types of organizations without the necessary experience and theoretical and analytical frameworks with which they can take forward and develop their skills," he told Deutsche Welle.

In the first year EEMI is hoping for an intake of 350 students who'll pay between 8,000 euros and 9,000 euros ($10,854 and $12,200) each per year, which is about average for a French private school.

The main selection criterion will be motivation. In addition to the typical interview and aptitude tests, there will also be psychometric tests to work out what students could enjoy.


EEMI is not the only Internet school in town. Sup'Internet - the Ecole Superieure des Metiers de l'Internet is also opening its doors in the autumn in Paris. It's being started by the Ionis group, which already runs 15 business and technology schools around the country. They'll be taking between 120 and 180 students.

The plan is to teach in English as well as French and to expand into other cities in France and other countries in Europe as quickly as possible. EEMI's founders said they hope this will create a community of Web professionals throughout Europe.

Although these schools are a result of the rapid expansion of Internet enterprises, growth for European companies is often limited in comparison with their US counterparts. Granjon said economies of scale currently present a particular problem to Internet firms in Europe.

Two students surrounded by an oversized abbacus

Will these two have an easier time founding European Web businesses?

"The difficulty for Internet companies in Europe in comparison with the US is because the US is a market of 350 million people, with Canada very quickly so it's 400 million," Granjon said.

"When you're French, you're not European," he said. "Europe doesn't exist. That's terrible and we have to create Europe to become global world companies one day."

Author: Molly Guinness

Editor: Sean Sinico

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