It is an inevitable part of any startup to have to venture to the Silicon Valley. Whether it be to find funding, clients, partners, or press, the fact of the matter is that all roads in the tech sector lead to the Silicon Valley. Deciding when it is time to make your first trip out there is one question that floats through every European entrepreneur’s mind – Accelerator programs like Seedcamp focus a lot on answering these questions, as well as putting you in a position to maximize your time in the US; however, there is always one card that French entrepreneurs can play to get a leg up in the Silicon Valley. France.
Knowing people to reach out to in the Silicon Valley – the Loic Le Meur‘s, the Carlos Diaz‘s, and the Jeff Clavier‘s of the world – is a great way to get feedback from people who would be otherwise unreachable if you didn’t have a common origin; however, there are a few network resources available to French entrepreneurs that are quite well-developed in the Silicon Valley.
Ubifrance: In addition to putting on the annual French Tech Tour to bring companies like Criteo, BIME Analytics & I-Dispo to the Silicon Valley, Ubifrance – the French government’s export agency – provides a service to set up meetings between French tech companies and valuable contacts from the Silicon Valley: executives with buying power from potential clients, decision-making employees from potential partners, etc. While the service isn’t free, it is heavily subsidized by the French government, and with the New Technologies, Innovation and Services (NTIS) division being headquartered in San Francisco, the organization really has placed itself in the middle of the Tech Ecosystem.
HubTech21: Once you’ve made initial contact with networking contacts, and assessed the potential of the US Market for your tech company, you’re going to want to follow-up – this is where HubTech21 comes in handy. Providing services specifically tailored to French companies launching in North America, the company has offices in Boston and San Francisco, and helps companies launch, expand, close deals, and otherwise succeed in the US. It’s client list reflects its Boston origins – mainly hard tech companies – however, software companies like Videodesk and Wimi have also been among their recent clients, and I’ve heard great reviews of their service. One of the hardest decisions is deciding when to invest in a new market with men on the ground; HubTech21 provides a great bridge between initial contact and placing men on the ground while you test the waters.
For French tech companies, don’t forget that services like that of HubTech21′s falls squarely into line with the Coface grant for French companies going abroad.
BNP l’Atelier: One of LeCamping’s private sponsors, BNP Paribas “workshop” provides services around “online communication, online marketing, e-commerce, CRM and company innovation.” Their San Francisco office provides a subset of these skills, including helping Franc’es top publicly traded companies (CAC40) with Social Media, Mobile, eCommerce and Payments. l’Atelier is also an online media which does offline events as well. While I would say that most of the services are outside of a startups grasp – though they may disagree – l’Atelier has been very supportive of startups in France, and I’m sure there are things they can do to give you a boost at first just by reaching out to them.
Orange Fab / Orange Silicon Valley: we covered the launch of Orange’s new SF Accelerator “Orange Fab,” and while Orange Silicon Valley and Orange Fab seem to have the goal of learning and harvesting technology and innovation from the Silicon Valley and internalizing it – part of what makes them an “Innovation Killer” in my opinion – but there are some unintended consequences that can potentially be very beneficial to startups. I’ll be meeting with Orange Silicon Valley next week to see how they can help the Paris scene come over to the Silicon Valley a bit more – I’ll keep you posted.
French American Chamber of Commerce SF: It’s two primary missions are as follows: “Serving the needs of the French American business community, Support of French and American companies with their trade needs.” All that aside, they are probably one of the largest communities for French businessmen living in the US. They are hosting an event next Tuesday for their Business Booster program which will feature Bluekiwi founder Carlos Diaz speaking about 10 dos and don’ts from a serial entrepreneur – I’ll be attending, so expect a recap.
While some of these services might break the bank for bootstrapped startups, most of them realize that investing in young startups is akin towards maintaining them as clients once they succeed, so don’t be shy about reaching out and saying “I need help, but can’t afford you. What can you offer me?” Public or private, most of these organizations have in their mission statement the goal to help French companies expand in the US, and that includes helping scrappy startups survive.