StartInParis: What it is and what it could be.


This evening, Laurent Kretz and Jonathan Benoudiz will host the 14th edition of Start In Paris, arguably the only startup event in Paris worth attending every. single. time. For those who don’t knowF, StartInParis is a FREE event that takes place once a month, and allows 5 Paris startups to pitch to an audience of 300. In addition, there is normally an entrepreneur who recounts his tale of woe and (ultimately) success. For anyone who just arrived in Paris and is looking to get their toes wet, this really is the crash course in the who’s who and what’s what of the French startup scene. Not only do you get a grab bag of five startups picked by the community out of an initial candidacy group of fifteen, not only do you get the chance to pose them questions, but it all takes place in a Bar, unlike most events, and so you get a great social environment in which you can approach whoever you’d like.

Quickly: who will be presenting tonight.

Because it would be a little rude not to mention tonight’s speaker and startups, I’ll give you the lowdown on who will be holding the microphone tonight:
Laurent & Jonathan, in addition to hosting StartInParis, they are also the co-founders and creators of FreeApps365, an android app & website which highlights the best free apps on the Android Market in France – oh, and they just passed 100,000 downloads this past week! Laurent claims the idea for StartInParis came from his days of living in New York and going to their startup meetups.
Maxime Valette, the founder of Beta & Cie, the company which launched VieDeMerde, though some of you may know of it by its subsequent equivalent version: FMyLife. He’ll be talking about his experience creating the 2nd most dominant acronym (after LOL, of course) in the vocabulary of every teenager.
Le Petit Balloon: Yet another wine startup which offers you 2 bottle of wine per month with subscription. I love the idea, but expect this obnoxious American to ask them to name 5 of their competitors (I’ll have a few in my head: Vins By Me,  Ecce VinoLot18, Nicolas, ….)
Critizr: a mobile application for geolocalised ideas – seriously, that’s it. As an example, Critizr proposes that if you are waiting too long in a supermarket, you could say “why don’t they pen up another checkout stand?” and the supermarket would see this and then, of course, listen.
Ben & Fakto has been to the Players Bar to pitch before, though it was for Social Apero Entrepreneur, a one-time event put on by Apero Entrepreneurs. This social startup invests 10% of each order into entrepreneurial projects across the world. Not bad, eh?
Peexter: “Peexter inspires and allows you to discover fashion tendancies in a simple and amusing way by looking at images taken from the four corners of the globe.” It seemed better to translate their elevator pitch than to write my own.
Guideapolis: Guided visits of France on the internet. Simple, Clear.
If you haven’t noticed above, I like to give StartInParis startups a hard-time, and you can expect me to drill them in the Q&A session after each pitch. If you’ve got questions you’d pose one of them, or if you think I’m being too harsh, drop a comment below and I’ll take it into consideration.

StartInParis – What it could be.

Above, I talked about some of what makes SIP interesting: it’s free, it’s social, and it’s the only event in Paris that has people coming every month; however, I spent last week talking with Laurent and I had a few pieces of advice for him on how SIP could take it up a notch:
This is just a given, but if we’re going to vote by mobile phone to decide who wins, can we at least get some 3G or wireless? I know it’s hard, and I know it’s free, but I can even hear Laurent feeling a little embarrassed each month as he asks people to send texts or go online from the cave that is the Player’s Bar.
Improve the Audience: now, I’m sure this is where a lot of people will take issue, but personally, whether it’s StartupWeekend, Mash Up, or SIP, I’m sick of hearing people ask stupid questions: “How are you going to get clients?” “Is that legal?” “Will you raise money?” – I think that the ROI for a startup pitching at one of these events is based on the feedback that the audience provides, and frankly, a more experienced audience panel would provide better questions and more practice to the startups.
The dreaded money question: If Sarah Prevette has trouble with it, I understand that Laurent Kretz does, too: asking people to pay for your service is hard, because it means you have to put a real price on your time and ask people to commit. But honestly, if I had to pay five euros each month to get good Wifi, to offer the competiting startups some nominal prize (like a meeting with just one notable VC associate/partner), I would throw down in a heartbeat. I mean, we’re already paying the Sentier district’s ridiculous alcohol prices, why not throw a little to the startups? For now, Laurent and Jonathan do everything pro bono, which is awesome; but they are putting in a lot of effort, and if we want them to put in a little more effort (which I do), then we need to tell them that we are willing to pay for their time. I think a little money could bring better startups, better crowds, and could do more for the Paris startup scene.

This is the part where I tell you WHY I’m saying this:

StartInParis isn’t just good right now, it’s great. It’s the only event people look forward to and for which people make sure to leave room in their schedules. They could go on doing the same format for years to come, and eventually, perhaps, another event would come and slot itself in the ‘next step’ that I’ve talked about above, and that would be great as well – but how long will it take for another event to come and lift people up to that level?
I’ve spoken a lot with Laurent and Jonathan about how I feel about this, and they have perfectly good reasons for keeping StartInParis the way it is – it’s safe, it’s secure, and there’s no risk. Is that really the spirit of a startup ecoystem, though?