Danish CEO explains why she would choose France rather than China to invest in production
FloodFrame is a Danish company created in 2015 by Susanne Nielsen and Peter Blyme. They conceived an innovative solution to protect properties against flood damage. After trying several other countries to develop and grow their business, they finally expanded in France, in the Occitanie Region, where they benefited from a €100,000 funding to support their project.
We asked Susanne Nielsen to share her experience and explain how her preconceived ideas about France have changed during the process.
The origin of the project in France
Since the creation of their company, Susanne Nielsen, CEO of FloodFrame, and her husband had a global perspective. Indeed, flooding is a worldwide phenomenon, and Denmark is still a limited market. In their search for new markets, they first thought about the United Kingdom because the enormous floods of the 2013 winter originally inspired the project. They finally started in the United States in Texas. Along with their work in Texas, they began investigating the neighboring European countries.
In her research, Susanne did not opt for France at first because she thought investing in France was a rather tricky task. However, her meeting with Rémi Alquier, now General Director of FloodFrame in France, changed her mind. It appears that there was much response in the country. What’s more, some French programs subsidizing up to 80% of the homeowners when it comes to flooding stood out.
Smooth collaboration with the different actors of the project
The Danish Embassy in Paris quickly directed Susanne Nielsen toward Business France Nordics. Hence, Linnéa Hassner, Business Development Manager in charge of Denmark, introduced the company to ADD’OC (the Regional Economic Development Agency in Occitanie) and local partners to both receive support in creating a legal structure and the research for possibilities of creating a demonstration site.
According to the Danish CEO, “it is essential to have a French partner to understand the Region’s role.” What’s more, Susanne Nielsen explained that the AD’OCC Region (the Occitan Region) was the ideal location to be established. It was a natural choice as her business partner lived there and because, in the CEO’s words, “Toulouse has a background in aerospace and technical solutions and these hard skills fit [the company] very well.”
€100,000 funding from the Region
FloodFrame has beneficiated from €100,000 to develop further and pilot projects in the area of camping grounds. According to Susanne Nielsen, this funding originated from the AD’OCC Region and was “quite unbureaucratic and uncomplicated to apply.” Indeed, for the CEO, this smooth process was precious as starts up often take too much time trying to get those types of funding instead of focusing on business.
Susanne Nielsen pointed out that “in France, there is support if you want to invest, create workspaces and have innovative ideas whereas in the UK, they don’t really implement the policy on the subject and in the US there is little support.”. Moreover, thanks to this fund, the company developed a cheaper version of FloodFrame’s solution that adapts to mobile homes, opening a whole new market.
Producing in France rather than in China? “Definitely!”
When asked if she considered basing its solution’s new version in France, Susanne Nielsen answered a confident “Definitely.” Indeed, the CEO would like to have the production closer as it would be more practical to locate it where the market is. “We have China as a possibility to set up production, but we’ve also looked into France to see if it would make sense to have manufacturing there.” However, she stressed that the company would need to get the proper funding to compete with the Chinese prices.
“France is better than its reputation.”
The first thing Susanne Nielsen told us is that “France seemed less bureaucratic than [she] thought.” According to FloodFrame’s CEO, one of the issues that deter people from investing in the country is the labor laws: “You think that if you recruit somebody, you would never be able to get rid of them, but it is not the case. It is quite liberal!”. She then explained that even though France has issues with digitalization, investing in the country was easier than she would have thought. Indeed, her preconceived ideas have been proved wrong. In her words, “France is better than its reputation.”
Finally, the Danish CEO underlined the existence of a good system of subsidies for students. Hence, it is easy to hire interns in the company, which is an intelligent way to “get some help from young people, who are very capable, with the flexibility and the low cost that makes it possible.”