Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

31 August 2010

All the French Tech News That's Fit to Print

Hi, honey, I'm home! And with the changing leaves come a new project.

Frenchweb, which covers news in tech among French startups, has launched an English site, Frenchweb News (@FrenchwebNews). I'll be helping get it on its feet, which means you - anglo compatriot! - can expect a couple of articles summarizing news in French tech for that week, coverage of industry conferences, and video interviews in native tongue.

Why read Frenchweb News? I can think of a few reasons:
  1. You want to penetrate the European market, so you'll need a sense of the atmosphere and potentially useful partners.
  2. You're looking for promising French firms to invest in and scale.
  3. You want to broaden your sense of trends that may go global - and not just from home turf.
When I arrived in France a year and a half ago, I wanted to help make European creative more accessible to the American agency audience. To varying degrees I'm still doing that, and the vice versa, over at Culture Buzz, which also has a healthy EU readership.

But I also discovered something else. The French are inventive tech-wise, but terribly discreet - which means discoveries rest among them and are eventually eclipsed by an anglophone version. The latter typically gets the credit, for reasons that have less to do with unfairness than, well, the way the ball bounces:

  • It's easier to secure investors cash in the anglo world, as French ones draw from a smaller pool and are generally more risk averse. This means dev moves faster in the US or UK - and with speedy development often comes fast adoption.
  • Most tech-forward countries prioritize learning English, which makes geeky English-language applications more adoptable elsewhere.
  • Anglos have no problem self-promoting. Here, it's more or less bad taste unless you're reeeal subtle about it.
  • Anglos in general tend to have a more open-source attitude about their projects, which enables achievement to spread while improving. Failure isn't the end, and it's no reason to stop; it's a learning opportunity. That's not quite the case in France. This is simply cultural.

A few notable French inventions include Minitel, a World Wide Web precursor that was wildly successful here but limited to France. Then there's Vente Privée, a retail community that offered those in the know discounts on high-end brands. (Founded 2001. Americans have since conquered this market with offerings like Shop It To Me and others, but it was the first and remains #1 in European private sales.)

More recently, there's DisMoiOù ("tell me where"), a mobile geolocation resto reviews app that predates Foursquare by three months. Most French geeks now use Foursquare, which is too bad: in France DisMoiOù is faster and more likely to have the obscure locale you're trying to check into. Plus it's in French, incorporates features of Yelp (aggregated reviews) and has a stable means of making money via real-time incentives from businesses to users.

You can read more about the latter in my synopsis of hot French mobile applications on Frenchweb News. It's also worth checking out this breakdown of where French investment is going.

Feedback welcome, as always. I'll see you there.

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