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Employment: French start-ups are not (yet?) in crisis

Despite a drop in demand in certain sectors and all the uncertainties that the pandemic is bringing to bear on the future, the start-ups present in France seem confident. The proof is in the pudding: they continued to hire in 2020. According to data from, provided exclusively to JDN as part of a partnership with Syntec Numérique, their total workforce grew by 7% between March and December 2020. Motherbase is a platform that aggregates economic data on companies by scanning their websites and social networks.

Beware though. If employment is growing in start-ups, it is certainly because some sectors are benefiting from the crisis (see below). But it is also because the most affected benefit from the many aid measures put in place, including partial unemployment. We will therefore have to wait for the State to withdraw its safety net to see the real extent of the damage.

To obtain this employment data, Motherbase uses LinkedIn profiles of employees who say they work in France for companies listed as start-ups. This data is like-for-like, meaning that we compared the change in the number of employees in a sample of over 6,000 startups between the first month of the crisis, March 2020, and the rest of the year. These figures therefore do not include job creation or loss by new startups launched between March and December 2020, but only those that already existed in the early days of the crisis and were already listed by Motherbase.

This increase in startup jobs is not evenly distributed across the country. Two regions are close to stagnation, Occitania (+1.1%) and Hauts-de-France (+2.8%). Ile-de-France is in the middle, at 6.3%. This is not surprising, since it concentrates nearly two thirds of jobs in start-ups in the country. But many territories are doing better, approaching or exceeding 10% growth in the number of jobs in their start-ups: Auvergne Rhône-Alpes (+9.6%), Normandy (+10.3%), the Grand-East (+11.7%) or the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region (+13.6%).

The inequalities are even more striking when we look at the sectors in which start-ups operate. Among the most significant increases in staff numbers are those in emerging sectors or sectors that have taken advantage of the crisis to promote their digital solutions. These include proptech (+18.1% of employees), fintech and insurtech (+15.3%) and retail and e-commerce (+11.7%). On the other hand, jobs are increasing little or decreasing in three sectors that are experiencing difficulties: mobility (+3.7%), martech (-0.2%) and especially smart city (-8%).


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