Jirafe – yet another US company who does their R&D in France


When was the last time you heard about a US start-up building an operation in France and considering this as an asset? Usually you hear about French entrepreneurs moving abroad, but not American companies building offices in Paris; and those who do mostly consider this a necessary constraint, but not a strategic decision for their company.

Not so Amit Shah, CEO of Jirafe.

How surprised was I when I met him at Bargento 2012 trade fair last week at Paris’ La Defense business district. I participated trying to make contacts for my new E-Commerce business when in the middle of a pure French E-Commerce community I saw Jirafe’s booth.
If you’re an online merchant chances are that you know his solution already. If you don’t, then I recommend you take a look. Imagine Jirafe like Google Analytics tailored for E-Commerce. They have extensions for the major platforms, like Magento and Prestashop and for the moment it’s still free. They have competition, but I asked around and the feedback is very positive.
Other international exhibitors at Bargento had their local sales offices represent them at Bargento, but Jirafe was there with the CEO who came from New York and travelled back the next day. That’s a strong commitment to France. He introduced Jirafe to me as an French-American company and after speaking for a while, I understand that this his how he really sees his company.
It has even a stronger weight once you realize that Amit is a sharp business person and experienced entrepreneur. Find out in the short interview why he decided to have his HQ in New York, but R&D in Le Mans and sees France as significant market for his product.

Amit, can you describe Jirafe in a few words, and also give us some background about you and the co-foudners and the idea?

Jirafe helps online merchants make smarter marketing and merchandising decisions.
My co-founder (Scott Switzer) and I previously had started a company called OpenX that helps online publishers make better advertising decisions. After my time at Magento I saw that many merchants still struggled after going live with an ecommerce platform and wanted daily guidance to help them become successful.
That is the goal of Jirafe.

Your HQ is in New York, but you also have offices in London and Paris (Le Mans – correct ?) How did you pick Paris (Le Mans) and what do you do in your overseas offices?

Our headquarters are in New York city but we do have offices in London and Paris (Le Mans). The reason for this is that both Scott & I spent nearly ten years each living in Europe and found a lot of great technical talent in France and the UK.
In particular, France has many passionate and talented open source developers and as a company we believe a lot in open source so this is a good way to participate. We also use many open source technologies like the Symfony web framework and Scala.

Compared to the US, and as you’re American, what is the most surprising element when you start looking into France for an operation?

We were surprised by the great quality of French developers. Although France is more world famous for fashion & luxury goods you have many excellent IT development companies were these individuals get a lot of good training. Now we can offer them the opportunity to work for an international software start-up and even spend time living in the US if they want!

How big and important (honestly!) is France as a market for you? Or do you look beyond France and see Europe as market for Jirafe ?

When I ran sales for Magento I developed many great friendships and partnerships with development agencies in France and saw how fast moving and open large French retailers were to new technology. I know this is not what people think of when you talk about France but it is one of the world’s largest and most important economies and for retail and fashion a leader in the world. So for Jirafe France is as important as the US!

You’re not a Fashion Label, but you have operations in New York, London, Paris, which aren’t the cheapest locations. What’s the reason for your company to consider high rent, high salaries, high social charges and high taxes?

We are not a fashion label but our customers are retailers and fashion companies so we need to be close to our customers which live and run their companies out of cities like New York, London and Paris. Having offices in these cities also makes it easy to recruit employees as most people would like to live in one of these amazing cities in their lifetime.

Anything else you want me to talk about – please feel free. Tell us everything a CEO wants to say 🙂

Try Jirafe and help make a French software company successful ; ).
Thank you very much Amit for the time and good luck for your venture. I will definitely try Jirafe.