Early results are encouraging. A recent listing by GrowthPlus of Europe's 500 "Most Dynamic Entre-preneurs" includes some very entrepreneurial ventures. Take for instance Sweden's Proffice AB, which offers temporary staffing solutions. The company grew from 663 employees in 1995 to 8,300 in 2000. Or take France's Umanis SA, a consultancy that grew from 53 employees in 1995 to 1,380 in 2000. Or take Belgium's Ariane II, a computer serv-ices firm that grew its staff by more than 1,200 percent over the last half decade, to 1,650 people.

We are not talking the likes of Sam Walton here, yet. But it's a start.

Freedom to Fail
It's lunchtime in Geoffroy's firm, so we walk across the street to a tiny restaurant where offerings are scrawled on a chalkboard. I order salade de poulpe, or octopus salad, for starters. Geoffroy and Richard Bruyere, one of the founding partners of Advention Business Partners, the startup consulting firm where Geoffroy works, make faces and opt for chicken. So much for French culinary fearlessness.

But when it comes to business, it is another matter. Between mobile phone calls, these two sound almost American in their entrepreneurial musings. "The Internet wave really changed mentalities here," explains Richard, who used to be a banker accustomed to flying business class, but now proudly hands out generic business cards on which he scrawls his name. "Expectations have been reformed. People are much less willing to devote themselves to a firm. They want to work for themselves, and they want their work to have content."

Geoffroy nods. "It is the freedom not to have to wait and suffer in a big company, and then still maybe not succeed. It is the freedom to try and fail now, so you can try again."