What do Louis Vuitton and Sacre Coeur have in common?

I wrote a (rather exaggerated) post a while back about how French startups seemed to be going after 3 basic areas: food, fashion and flirting. And since writing that post, I’ve discovered even more e-commerce and dating sites popping up. In fact, I’m at the point where I almost don’t want to write about another dating startup for a while. Don’t get me wrong, I love new ideas and I love innovation. But I’m kind of baffled as to why everyone is trying to cram themselves into the same little space. Are all these new sites really making any kind of a difference? Or better yet, do they even generate any revenue?

The startup help-o-meter.

At the end of that same article, I pointed out how I was rather surprised about how there were so few French sites that seemed to address the needs of tourists and international students – who flock to Paris with money to burn pretty much non-stop. If France is the world’s number one tourist destination and I’m still getting people sending me an email everytime they want to know which hotel to stay in or how they should go about renting a flat, there is clearly a need in the market for a good service that specifically addresses a foreign (cash-baring) population. But when there are still needs that are clearly not being addressed and room to innovate, why-o-why is everyone trying to cram themselves into Meetic’s space?

Chasing Meetic’s dream?

Naturally, Meetic’s success has helped local entrepreneurs realize the potential of the dating scene. And obviously, Meetic still has room to innovate. Last year, Marc Simoncini mentioned to me that 2011 would be “the year of the mobile” for Meetic – although the site has yet to bring itself up-to-date with social integration and whathaveyou. So some of the dating newcomers may in fact be addressing the needs of a developing market that Meetic may soon struggle to keep up with. Still, part of me can’t help but wonder if there is some kind of a “Meetic dream” whereby entrepreneurs hope to either have Meetic-like success or get acquired by other dating giants. Or maybe tweeking the Meetic idea is less risky than actually coming up with a totally fresh idea? Then again, perhaps we can witness a similar phenomenon in Vente-Privée’s space as well. Anytime an idea hits the jackpot, entrepreneurs innovate the living hell out of it – but sometimes get so caught up that they don’t see opportunities elsewhere.

Tourist love.

What I think is hilarious is that the government went out and launched France.fr, recognizing that tourists in fact need an online resource with information on France. Several millions were invested to make a very official-looking web portal with your standard France-promo material – but no redirection to a single business site. So I can share articles on visas and whatnot on Facebook and Twitter but I’m very unlikely to get redirected to a hotel website. It may seem odd but let’s not forget that we’re talking about the State. But hey, this still leaves a nice little space in the market for a number of tourist-oriented online services.

If you’re going to launch Groupon in France, do it in English.

Or Arabic. Or Chinese. Or Russian. In fact, if you launch an English Groupon clone with hotel deals only you’ll probably hit the jackpot. I had a conversation not too long ago about how American technology pretty much sells itself – Google, Facebook, Groupon, etc. all has a special stamp of approval just because it’s “made in the USA.” The same can be said for German cars. And for several French industries including fashion, luxury goods and perhaps tourism. Thus, in a land where you have products like Louis Vuitton and Sacre Coeur that pretty much sell themselves, maybe it doesn’t make a lot of sense to want to be a Facebook or Google. French culture has done a rather phenomenal job at marketing on an international level. Now, just add internet.

9 thoughts on “What do Louis Vuitton and Sacre Coeur have in common?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention What do Louis Vuitton and Sacre Coeur have in common? « TechBaguette -- Topsy.com

  2. Of all our French tech success stories, it looks like the younger entrepreneurs are mostly trying to copy Marc Simoncini (Meetic) by going after dating, or Jacques-antoine Granjon (Vente privée) and Pierre Kosciusko-Morizet (Price Minister), by going after e-commerce.

    But we don’t hear as much from people trying to copy Pierre Haren (ILOG) and Bernard Liautaud (Business Objects) by going after enterprise software, or Xavier Niel (Free), by going after internet and mobile…

    Why is that?

  3. I find the end of this post a bit depressing. Not just for tech but for France in general. Is Paris becoming a museum like Roma ?

    Other French trademarks are Freedom and good taste. Let’s use that instead and build whatever we want with brio.

  4. @Ronan very good point – possibly because such businesses require less of an initial investment ?

    @Emmanuel…nobody said France was ONLY fashion, tourism and luxury goods. I’m just surprised that fewer people have gone after these markets, given how strong they are. That was the point I was trying to make. As for selling Freedom and Good Taste, I await your killer business…

  5. Caught this ‘techbaguette release’ a bit late.

    French + “selling freedom and good taste” = killer business… until there’s a grève! 🙂

    I love it. And I hear your point.

    To play the devil’s advocate, I’d like to add an ironic example demonstrating how a small team of dedicated frenchmen are teaching the world english. HUH…? Not fashion, but, yes, english.

    I work for a small company in Brittany that produces great e-learning tools for English as a second language. The apps are good enough to be sold by ETS as their promoted test-preparation.

    ETS is the company that publishes the well-known international tests TOEIC, and TOEFL, which allow international professionals to show off their english skills to get a better job, or to give international students a chance to study in english-speaking countries.

    So, if a few smart french entrepreneurs from a remote but wonderful corner of France can convince the Princeton elite that they can help the world improve their english, well, then there has to be some SERIOUS untapped potential in more noteworthy ‘french’ skills, right?!! (throwin another log on the fire) 🙂

  6. Pingback: Where Does Innovation Come From? « TechBaguette

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