And now the French Web 2.0 Wave

France leads Europe in its enthusiasm for Web 2.0 startups, an industry that has doubled in size across the continent since 2005. According to Dow Jones/Venture One data French start-ups raised close to $40 million in venture capital in 2006, accounting for 40% of the total dollars invested in the category across Europe last year ($101 million), and nearly double the money invested in British Web2.0 companies.What are the forces behind this French 2.0 wave?

Broadband and Cultural roots, for starters!

France is one of the biggest broadband countries in the world, allowing its 15.3 million odd broadband users to experiment with some of the latest technologies over blazing fast Internet connections. Free WiFi is becoming commonplace. It is no surprise that one-in-five of us has a personal blog, a website or has published personal audio or video content on the Internet. France’s leading blogging platform, Skyblog, hosts 9 million blogs now, and according to Alexa, is the second most-visited web site in France after Google, (It is the 32nd most-visited site, globally!)

The easily availability of super-speed connections has made video and essential part of French Internet life. France’s leading a video-sharing platform, known as Dailymotion, already gets 35 million unique visitors per month. Dailymotion is the #2 video site behind YouTube, with France making up a big component of its traffic. According to ComScore, French consumers spend a greater percent of their total hours online viewing streaming video (13%) than do consumers in the UK (10%), in Germany (9%) – or even the United States (6%)!

Secondly, France, also has a financial infrastructure to support the start-up activity, with 25 venture capital funds of various sizes, that specialize in early-stage financing, among them Soffinova (France’s largest venture firm), Iris Capital, i-Source, and Innovation Funds (FCPIs).

Third, is the a small but active group of entrepreneurs who tasted success with their earlier companies and are now investing in other start-ups, much like Silicon Valley angels. These include Jean-Baptiste Rudelle, founder of Criteo; and Loic LeMeur, who till recently led U.S.-based Six Apart’s business operations in Europe.

As successful as they’ve been in the consumer space, French startups are now busy taking Web2.0 plays into the enterprise: BlueKiwi, which just raised $5.4 million (€ 4 million) from Soffinova, specializes in Web2.0 software solutions (a mix of blogs, wikis and other social networking platforms) for big corporations such as Danone, Dassault and the French postal services.

French entrepreneur Jerome Archambeaud founded and sold two startups, Avence and VRTVStudios, both in the early 00’s. Previously, Jerome served as Skype’s country manager for France and Belgium, and as a marketing director at Walt Disney Europe and Nestle Brazil. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School.