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Paris Mayor: Je T’aime, Tech Entrepreneurs

Crowds Attend Memorial Service At Notre Dame Cathedral In ParisCrowds Attend Memorial Service At Notre Dame Cathedral In Paris
A crowd gathers outside the Notre Dame Cathedral for a memorial service honoring the victims of Friday's terrorist attacks on November 15, 2015 in Paris.Photograph by David Ramos via Getty Images

I had the plaisir of spending a few days in Paris last summer, a combination of work and fun (with emphasis on the fun). It was toward the end of July, several months before a series of coordinated terrorist attacks rocked the European city on Nov. 13. Back then, the only security risk on my mind as I traversed several arrondissements to familiarize myself with Paris’ tech scene, was the possibility that disgruntled cab drivers would target my Uber ride, smash in the windows, and cause me to be en retard to a meeting.

France is no stranger to terror—the massacre of 11 Charlie Hebdo staffers happened less than a year ago. Still, the size and scope of this latest round of attacks, aimed at the social fabric of the city, have hit hard.

Ironically, just as France’s terrorism problem boils over, Paris’ tech industry is bubbling with reinvigorated energy.

According to the office of Mayor Anne Hidalgo (the first woman to hold the office in Paris), the city is home to more than 80 co-working spaces and 20 fab labs. Close to 1,500 startups are set up annually. Startup incubators, like The Family and NUMA, are popping up with more frequency. Next year, the world’s largest business incubator (at least according to the Mayor’s office), will open its doors in the renovated Halle Freyssinet building. Notably, Hidalgo is providing financial incentives for entrepreneurs to stay close to home, including aid money to compensate for the lack of local access to seed capital. Even more important, some entrepreneurs are trying to convince their startup brethren to return to Paris.

Fred Mazzella, founder of ridesharing service BlaBlaCar—one of a very small handful of local startups valued at more than $1 billion—is one of several French founders attempting to lure other entrepreneurs back to Paris. His effort has produced a web site, Reviens Leon, which posts job listings and even helps techies returning to France find schools and apartments.

To be sure, the country still has had an image problem when it comes to being a launchpad for successful businesses. In 2012, President Francoise Hollande’s 75% “supertax” on earnings over 1 million euros pretty much cemented France’s business-unfriendly reputation. But increasingly, those familiar with the local tech industry insist that things are changing. And as for Hollande’s supertax policy? It was recently dropped.

It’s too soon to tell whether the recent horrific events in Paris will affect the city’s ability to nurture its fledgling startup scene, especially when it comes to convincing more entrepreneurs to return home. As Mayor Hidalgo wrote me in an emailed response after my trip to Paris over the summer: “I want to assure the world’s innovators that Paris will always be a venue for all forms of energy, dreams and daring.”

Let’s hope so.

This article first appeared in the daily Fortune newsletter Data Sheet. Subscribe here for a daily dose of analysis from Adam Lashinsky and a curation of the day’s technology news from Heather Clancy.