Techstars Boston has a French flavor this year

Feb 2, 2012
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France’s last remaining territory in North America (not including the Caribbean) is Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, an archipelago off the coast of Newfoundland with just over 6,000 residents. But if recent developments are any indication, it seems that the French have designs on the startup hotbed of Cambridge, Massachusetts. That’s where two hot Gallic startups, DocTrackr and Psykosoft, will be spending the next 3.5 months as participants in the prestigious TechStars Boston program, which kicked off last week.

DocTrackr, from Paris, provides tracking and metrics for documents. Led by co-founders Clement Cazalot and Alex Negrea, DocTrackr participated in the first session of Le Camping, and has been working with clients, including SNCF, since last summer.

Psykosoft is from Tours, and they make creative software that includes Psykopaint, which allows you to edit photos to make them look like paintings. Co-founders Mathieu Gosselin and Clement Thiery built Psykopaint as a school project  2.5 years ago, but last year they decided to form a company, and their future projects will focus on music and video.They were a Seedcamp company in 2011.

Let’s all feel warm and fuzzy here for a minute

As far as we can tell, DocTrackr and Psykosoft are the first two French companies to be accepted at either TechStars or Y Combinator, so this is a pretty great moment for the French tech scene in general. And they’re both planning on returning to France when the program ends, so we’ll get to learn a lot from their experiences. But there are some more specific winners here:Le Camping – This is another big score for the Paris accelerator program. Although it might seem somewhat odd for a company to go from one accelerator to another, DocTrackr CTO Alex Negrea points out that Le Camping allowed them to validate their idea. “Le Camping accelerates at an earlier stage than TechStars, so it worked out really well for us,” he said.

Foreigners in France – One of the coolest stories here is that of Aaron O’Hearn, currently the program manager at TechStars Boston, and formerly the entrepreneur-in-residence at Le Camping. “Living in Paris and launching Le Camping exposed me to a new world of culture and people,” he said, adding that he encouraged the DocTrackr team to apply because he wanted them to have a similar experience. Aaron didn’t come to Paris speaking fluent French, but he was still able to connect with startups. Even though he didn’t stay, he’s now a valuable connection to the US scene. I’d love to see dozens more Aarons from around the world spending time in Paris as founders, hackers, or mentors, and keeping the City of Lights in mind wherever they go next.

The Rest of France – Psykosoft’s CEO, Mathieu Gosselin, admits that his company might not come from a hotbed of tech entrepreneurship. “There’s not much of a tech startup scene is Tours,” he said. But non-Paris France is big, and there are other hotspots, and we should remember that cool tech can come from anywhere. (Seriously, upload a photo to Psykopaint — it’s cool.)

We hope you guys like eating beans and chowder

The only puzzling aspect is: why would anyone want to go to Boston in the middle of the winter? Well, according to DocTrackr, the timing worked out perfectly. Gosselin, of Psykosoft, was more enthusiastic: “I came to Boston last year and felt much more aligned with the culture and people here than in New York or San Francisco. It’s also the intellectual capital of the US.” We’re not sure we’re ready to believe that last statement, but we are happy there’s a bit of Nouvelle-France in New England these next few months.