Last week Futur en Seine, a digital festival in Paris, kicked off its 10 day event, with both Fleur Pellerin and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault making appearances. The event falls somewhere in between a SXSW for France and some sort of museum of modern innovation, with school children of all ages making field trips to come talk with startup CEOs. The were several big themes, like Data & 3D, that saw some very interesting applications: Orange’s giant “we’ve got 4G” booth, AFP’s geolocalized news map for public display screens, and Ubisoft’s giant 3D games display were all cause for intrigue (not to mention the 3D scanner that was 3D Printing people’s heads!).
I got to meet some pretty cool founders, and I thought I’d share some of my experiences and some startups I’ll be keeping an eye on:
Azendoo – Get Sh!t done
Integration with Box, Dropbox, Evernote & Google, these guys have been killing it – though you already know that if you’ve read any of our posts about them (here, here & here). When asked by one person what they do, CEO Greg Lefort casually responded “teamwork online,” and he isn’t kidding. The service revolves around workspaces, and team members attached to those spaces get a live news feed of the tasks/projects they follow – instead of following people, you follow ‘sh!t’ you want to get done, for comments, attachments, updates. The service has no dependencies (subtasks, tasks that start when another is finished, etc.), because, as Greg said, the users wouldn’t like it. For their one year anniversary, they have lifted the limit of 5 team members per workspace (on the free model) to let as many people get on as possible – if you’re bouncing between project management softwares (Zoho, 37Signals & Redmine, oh my!) like I am, I recommend signing up before July 12th here.
KissKissBankBank / HelloMerci.com
We just covered the HelloMerci.com launch a few weeks ago – it’s a micro-financing platform – so I won’t get into that too much, but KKBB has made a big showing, essentially representing the entire crowdfunding ecosystem in France. KKBB even got a personal visit from Ayrault – no surprise, as crowdfunding reform was one of Hollande’s recent announcements – who played their “are you bankable?” game, which has been a hit. CEO Vincent Ricordeau told me at the event that KKBB has recently crossed profitability with their KissKissBankBank platform, something he says the platform owes to the rising trend of discussion and announcements of reform, as well as the entrance of competition like Indiegogo.
Orée – Wooden Keyboards. Seriously.
The picture says it all – it’s a keyboard made from a solid piece of Maple (seen right) or Walnut wood, and it’s smooth to use. I caught up with founder & CEO Julien Salanave, who told me that earlier in the day, a blind woman had come past his booth, and her caretaker had put her hands on the keyboard, and said “what’s this?” He said her face lit up as she said “it’s wood… but, but it’s a keyboard… but it’s definitely wood!” – the company brands itself as Wood + Tech + Design, and have been wildly successful at selling their bluetooth keyboards, priced at around 150€.
RichAnalysis – find out what’s AroundMe
A pretty simple premise: “What can I get to in less than 15min/30min/1hr if I walk/bike/bus/car?” RichAnalysis has been showing off the technology AroundMe, which integrates public transportation information in cities all over the world to allow developers to integrate an intuitive UX of “I want to see something in X minutes.” Frankly, I’m quite surprised that this doesn’t already exist as some Google Maps feature, but I was pretty impressed. To show off how accurate it is, the demo app lets you choose a place, a time limit, and a means of transportation, and it lights up all the places on the map you could get to in that time limit. Definitely worth checking out.
Melusyn – Project Management for Storyboarding
I didn’t actually get to see the guys from Melusyn at Futur en Seine – I passed by their booth and they had already left, but I had caught up with CEO Octave Bory-Bert a few weeks earlier, and now seemed a good a time as any to talk about them. After a long chat with Octave at a café in May, he was explaining every feature, use-case, etc. for Melusyn, and I looked at him and said “so. You’re doing project management for storyboarding? Is that it?” He pulled out a pen & paper and scribbled that down, mumbling “I’m gonna use that.”
The tool is pretty cool – think of any project management software (Azendoo above, for example), but specifically applied to the process of turning a script/story into a film. The user experience follows the steps to creating a film: break a script out into scenes, make notes of what items are needed to shoot each scene, note potential locations (as well as a location for going to check them out), and you can essentially follow the entire filming schedule in one app.
Set to launch to the public this autumn, I’m excited at the potential – they’ve got a big enough market in France to get traction, as well as to open doors in new markets down the road. There are still a few kinks to work out in the product & business model, and I’m not 100% convinced that the current team will be the ones to accomplish this, but I’m certainly curious.
Overall, I was impressed with the number of companies & products that I hadn’t heard of; there’s always going to be a large world of ‘startups that don’t even think to make noise or do PR or come to tech events’ that I will have to seek out, but there were also some familiar faces, like that of Airbnb, whose booth was boasting their recent study on their effect on the Paris economy. Those guys really know how to penetrate a market. I don’t think I saw one other Silicon Valley startup there, which might explain why they all have such a hard time entering the market – no local presence.