French President François Mitterrand, a professed tech enthusiast, visited Silicon Valley in 1984 to meet with an entrepreneur named Steve Jobs. Thirty years later, another French president by the name of François is visiting Silicon Valley — the first presidential visit since Mitterrand’s.
After wooing the D.C. political elite Tuesday, President François Hollande will attempt to do the same Wednesday with Silicon Valley’s tech elite.
Over lunch with Google’s Eric Schmidt, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Twitter and Square’s Jack Dorsey, and Tony Fadell, founder of Nest, Hollande will tell tech executives that France is open for business. The president wants tech companies to invest more in France, which is experiencing a brain drain as the country’s economy remains stagnant.
But he is facing a tough crowd. Hollande — who once said “I do not like the rich” — has been a vocal critic of U.S. tech companies’ privacy and tax practices. Just last week, Hollande, a Socialist, criticized companies like Google for avoiding paying their fair share of taxes.
“This is not acceptable and that is why, at both the European and the global level, we must ensure that tax optimisation … can be called into question,” Hollande said during a visit to a French Internet company last Thursday.
The EU’s legislative body also introduced reforms to global Internet governance Wednesday aimed at reducing U.S. control in light of recent revelations about the U.S. government surveillance program.
Not to mention, unlike the first François, this François has a reputation for being skeptical of new technologies. According to The Wall Street Journal and French newspaper Le Parisien, the president prefers newspapers to iPads and he does not use SnapChat. And when it comes to Twitter?
“I look when they show me,” said Hollande according to the French newspaper. “There’s an addictive side to all that stuff that you need to defend against.”