Paris has grown up, and so have its Founders

Oct 27, 2015
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This week is a week of reflection for me. Rude Baguette is turning four years old this Saturday (didn’t you ever wonder why our blog colors were orange & black?), and it seems clearer more than ever that the ideas we spoke about in the first article I ever wrote about why Rude Baguette was created – the aptly named “Let’s talk about France, baby” – were not only right on the mark: they’ve arrived and are in full swing:
Back then, Rude Baguette fought for the little guy: we picked on LeWeb for not featuring enough French entrepreneurs, we called out the government when they targeted companies like Netflix & Amazon with anti-Internet policy, and we waved our arms up and down screaming at anyone who would listen that there were things happening in France – good & bad.
This past year has proven that we don’t need to scream anymore for French startups to be taken seriously. Andreessen Horowitz co-invested with Alven Capital in Wit.ai, Fred Wilson’s USV packed La Ruche qui Dit Oui, and startup after startup after startup raised $100s of millions in venture fundraising.
This past month, UK-based Nesta released their European Digital City Index, which ranked 35 cities in terms of their startup activity. Paris placed 6th place, ahead of Berlin (ahead of Hamburg, Stuggart, Munich & Cologne, too) & many other cities – I didn’t take this number too seriously, as its pertinence is measured by whether you believe their ranking formula is accurate. What I did find interesting were the variables (and sub variables) they used to write their formula: Access to Capital, Business Environment, Market, Skills, … 10 categories in total, each with 3-4 subcategories, and every category & subcategory ranked cities by that variable alone.

Some of the takeaways may debunk stereotypes….

Paris came in #2 in terms of Access To Capital (behind London, of course) – it was ranked #1 in terms of access to Early-Stage capital (#2 in terms of late-stage funding & crowdfunding, to London of course). The source for this assessment: the European Venture Capital Association. It came in #6 in term of Entrepreneurial Culture, including #4 for risk taking. Meanwhile, Paris ranked #28 for lifestyle, due to its high standard (#28) & cost (#32) of living. Paris came #1 in terms of download/upload speed for Internet; however, despite Xavier Niel’s price wars, cost of broadband (#19) & availability of fiber Internet (#23) both ranked poorly against other European cities.

…Others reinforce them

 It came in #2 for coworking space access; however, #34 (of 35) in terms of cost of office space. It came in #24 for cost of labor & #21 for English language skills. Despite being ranked high for Inter-city transit (#3), Paris’ Non-Digital Infrastructure was ranked #13 due to its poor quality intra-city travel (#20). Not all stereotypes are bad, though: Paris’ R&D intensity (#6) and quality (#5) saw its “Knowledge Spillover” (think, academia) ranked #2 in Europe.
There are things to be improved, and there are things to boast about – sounds like a startup with a working product & traction to me.

France no longer needs Rude Baguette…

Rude Baguette is no longer France’s defender. In the past two years, the ecosystem has grown beyond the need for a cheerleader, a role we were never meant to play, and so have we: we now cover France’s technology market the same way Bloomberg covers Japan’s financial market – as outside analysts, weighing in on how key economic drivers will effect business for French & International companies. At the same time, we laid down a groundwork for a new class of technology events in Paris – both through our sector events like Connected Conference, a 3000-person hardware event with its 3rd edition coming up next May – and through our market events, like #PSJF and, this Wednesday, Paris Founders Event.
Paris Founders Event has grown up over the past two years, from a monthly meetup for founders & entrepreneurs in a bar, to a 1,000 person quarterly event that launches new products & makes announcements on stage, and that talks with founders who are making headlines on stage. For this edition, we’re partnering with the city of Paris, who recently announced a partnership with New York City that will see the two tech hubs cooperating in sending local startups to each others’ cities to encourage international expansion. New York City & Paris are already as close to each other as London & Paris – it is the US office location of choice for most French startups, and capital is flowing freely back and forth between the two hubs.

…So Rude Baguette will evolve

In 2016, Paris Founders Event will take on its latest evolution, as we seek to fill a void in Startup Conferences in Paris. LeWeb’s postponement in 2015 will leave a void in Paris – an annual event to connect Paris Startups to the rest of the world – and, just as the Paris Startup Scene will continue to grow, so will #ParisFounders evolve into an event that will bring more people together, to break down barriers between markets, putting France on the global stage and bringing the World’s top founders to Paris.
Rude Baguette will continue to evolve as well. This past year has seen us turn Rude List, a project that sought to quantify Rude Baguette’s knowledge for its readers, into Omniscient, a communication platform between all journalists & their sources. I have personally been banging my head against a wall trying to figure out how to build a media business that wasn’t unhealthfully dependent on advertisement (not because I don’t like money, but because business models drive editorial line, and advertising’s editorial line is “quantity beats quality”), looking at how to make journalism scalable. Defining scalable journalism will be for another day, but  Omniscient is a big step towards making quality journalism more efficient, and we continue to onboard new beta testers each week as we learn how the intricacies of the journalist-source relationship work.
As we round the bases for a fifth time, I hope we come full circle to this European Digital City Index. I see so many cities on that list, whose economic activity I am oblivious to. And yet, they might as well read Cincinnati, Chicago, Seattle, Austin & Miami, so closely tied together these cities are, geographically and economically.Two years ago, I promised we’d launch in Germany with the Rude Pretzel  – I leave the landing page up to remind me of the question I asked myself “how does a media company scale up its editorial team?” – and one year ago I admitted it was going to be harder than I originally anticipated: it seemed the only known strategy was to throw money at content creators, and hope they generate enough traffic that advertisers throw more money at you before you shut up shop or have to get acquired to continue operating.
Today I can tell you that we know how to scale up an editorial team, and we know how to align our editorial line with a scalable business model, and we know how to turn every Clark Kent into a Superman. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.