From TechCrunch France to Infinity…and Beyond!

Ladies and gentlemen. Mesdames et messieurs. Big changes are about to take place. Good changes, great changes. Now that it’s summer and class is officially over, it’s time for me to make a professional transition to a full-time position. (What, did you really think I was going to talk about vacation?)

C’est l’été, Blog au soleil.”

I have been the Editor of TechCrunch France since March 2010 and has been a fabulous adventure – which I fell into completely unexpectedly. And now that I am transitioning to a new role,  there is absolutely no way that I will let the site go down again, if I can help it – I’m not about to abandon the French entrepreneurs, my team or my readers. So, as of July 2010, Selma Bekkaoui and I will be Co-Editors of the French site and I will also continue to cover the French market en anglais for TechCrunch Europe and when I can.* Like me, Selma also works full-time in addition to TechCrunch but I’m sure we can make it happen. And we’re still planning on puting on our local TechCrunch events – Recipes and Remix – as planned.

And I would like to thank the Academy…

The journey has been amazing and I owe a lot of people for their help and support. I guess I’ll take a moment to give a very special thank you to both Mike Butcher and Cédric Giorgi who believed in me and coached me from the start. And I’ll never forget Mike’s amazing words of encouragement when I didn’t know what to write on the site the day after the relaunch: “yeah, just write something.” 🙂 You are two remarkable people and I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to work with you both. I also need to thank my fabulous TechCrunch France contributor team. They have been absolutely fabulous and have really made the French tech community come to life. *End Cuba Gooding Jr. Oscar moment here*

Now for anyone who is interested, here’s a look at my last year or so at TechCrunch…

If at first you don’t succeed, launch and relaunch again.

Many people don’t know that TechCrunch France had been one of the leading tech blogs in France from 2006-2008. During that time, Ouriel Ohayon was running the site. After Ouriel, Alain Eskenazi took over for a few months. In July 2009, the blog was more or less abandoned and the famous “C’est l’été, le blog au ralenti” post (literally “it’s summer, the blog is slower/idle”) was left on the site for the next 8 months to follow. I admit, that post always makes me laugh – it’s a piece of TechCrunch France history.

Accidental blogger.

New Year’s eve 2009-2010 I launched TechBaguette (too much champagne?). I had been away from Silicon Valley for a few months and at school I missed being surrounded by creative, entrepreneurial people. My classmates at Sciences Po thought I was crazy but I didn’t really care. I figured I would be one of the few people to cover the French tech scene in English and it would give me a good excuse to get involved with the local entrepreneurial crowd. 2 weeks later, Mike Butcher contacted me wondering if I would help cover France for TechCrunch Europe. I was over the moon.

De bon Augure.

When I first arrived in Paris in September 2009, I started working for the Paris Region Development Agency (ARD IDF) doing something similar to what I had been doing at Invest in France in San Francisco for 2 years: working with startups and tech companies that wanted to set-up shop in France. Then, in February 2010 I started a new part-time job with a local startup called Augure – mainly to help run the company’s social media. This new position at Augure was to last through the end of August, when I would move to London for the second year of my degree. So, when we relaunched the French TechCrunch site on March 24, 2010, I was a full-time student with 20 hours of class per week, working 18 hours per week at Augure and doing TechCrunch on top of that. I wasn’t about to abandon Augure. Thus most of the time, writing meant missing class, blogging during class (oops, sorry Professor), or even writing from 10pm to 2am. But honestly, it didn’t matter. I absolutely loved what I was doing.

From cheese and wine to beer and scones.

Several months passed. Priceminister got acquired, Exalead got acquired and I officially joined the TechCrunch team. But shortly after, in September 2010, I had to leave Paris for London to do the second year of my program. I contemplated dropping out of school to stay in Paris but ultimately knew I had to finish my degree.

It’s funny, I feel like way more of a foreigner in London than I do in Paris. In London, people always ask me if I’m on holiday – maybe it’s the accent ? And I’m not going to lie – in the beginning, blogging from London was depressing. No, not because of the weather but because I was still covering the French market – only now I was confined to emails and phone calls rather than events and meetings because of the distance. Bor-ing. I didn’t get to see any faces and blogging became, well, blogging – and nothing but. But I promised myself that I would go back to France at least once per month. Most of the time, I paid for the trip myself (not cheap for your average student!) and Céline Lazorthes from Leetchi would let me sleep on her couch whenever I was in town. It was my version of bootstrapping, if you will. But it was important to me to see the entrepreneurs and to be visible and accessible for the local community. And usually just one or two days with the local entrepreneurs was enough for me to feel recharged and ready to go.

Oh, AOL.

The same month that I set-up shop in London Town, TechCrunch was acquired by AOL. The acquisition didn’t really change too much for the TechCrunch France team. We were only 3 people at the time and I was the only contributor that was employed by TechCrunch.

Un-lovely bones.

I remember I came across an article about Michael Arrington’s work habits that was published in Inc. Magazine just after the acquisition. He mentioned how he would wake up pissed-off and how his health had suffered as a result of writing for TechCrunch, etc. At 25, I actually identified with him (scary). Most of the time, I wake up feeling like I’m already way behind – it’s a terrible feeling. And I discovered that the 1 hour time difference between London and Paris can make a huge difference when blogging. The problem with blogging is that if you miss a story, it’s gone forever and all your readers notice. It isn’t like showing up late for work – it’s far far worse. And no matter how much you write, you can always write more. This made it hard to relax and to sleep without feeling guilty sometimes, something that people with “normal” day jobs don’t seem to understand. My parents would tell me “why don’t you just not check your email for a while? Try one weekend without your phone or computer.” But I couldn’t. That could mean that there would be no content on the site. Plus, weekends were when I would catch-up on everything I’d missed during the week when I was in class.

Team TCFR.

In November 2010 we held our first TechCrunch France event called Recipes. It was a wild success (hats off to Cédric Giorgi who did most of the organization), which sold out and was over capacity at Microsoft’s 350-person auditorium. And that very same day, Selma Bekkaoui joined the team as the 4th member of TCFR, after Clément Vouillon who had joined in July. After Selma, Romain Péchard, Julien Mechin, Renaud Euvrard, Julia Buchner and Aurélie Perruche joined the team. They’re incredible people. All of them. Every single person on the team has a full-time activity in addition to writing for TechCrunch France and none of them are paid to contribute (yet!). They all do it because they love being the voice of the local community. Plus, we all feel similarly that there is so much happening in France right now and  it would be a shame for us not to cover it.

Trial and terror.

I was not originally a blogger or a journalist – and learning the ropes definitely meant a lot of listening and a lot of trial and error. Blogging is incredible because you have very limited time to produce content and your readers give you instant feedback. And TechCrunch readers are a special, vocal breed. They are critical more often than not, sometimes painfully so. While it can be frustrating, it also is very challenging in a positive way. I actually feel that my readers have been very patient with me. As a non-native French speaker, it took a little time to figure out exactly how and what readers would react to. I can tell you from first-hand experience that European and American readers respond very differently to more or less the same content – it’s fascinating. Or maybe the TechCrunch audiences differ from country to country. And then of course as a blogger there is the added bonus of being bombarded with information, friend requests, emails, phone calls and whathaveyou. If you want more on my blogging experience and some advice for working with bloggers and journalists, read this.

@FakeMichaelArrington #tcfr

I admit, it’s been great fun being somewhat of a fake Michael Arrington (although I never did any Carol Bartz-like interviews, Angelgate revelations or Scamville call-outs).  Although TechCrunch France and will always have their differences, I think we’ve done a fabulous job of getting TechCrunch France back in the game with very limited resources. We’ve been entrepreneurial and have done the best with what we have – and there is absolutely no way we’re going to drop the ball. And if anyone wants to contribute (in French!) we’ll happily consider additional contributors.

From TechCrunch France…to infinity…and beyond !

So I guess now is the moment where I’m supposed to reveal where exactly I am going next, huh? 🙂 Numerous people have been supportive and helpful in my transition – hopefully you know who you are and know that I appreciate even the tiniest of things you have done for me. And with that, I am thrilled to announce that I have decided to join the team at Startupbootcamp. If you don’t know the organization,  it’s a startup accelerator (the first international affiliate of Techstars) with programs in Copenhagen, Madrid, Dublin – with London and Berlin to come next year. And for anyone who knows me, this should hardly come as a surprise. After all, you all know that I kind of not-so-secretly want to be Paul Graham, right?  No but honestly, Startupbootcamp means more Europe, more entrepreneurs, more investors – and now in the new-and-improved startup accelerator packaging! Woot! Plus, I’ve been obsessed with these types of programs for a while and have written about them quite a bit  (my most accurate opinion is here).

Non, mais, what about la France?!

At the end of the day, I love entrepreneurs. I love innovative, creative and passionate people (especially the friendly ones). And I love France (yes, Britain, I am starting to love you, too – Queen included.). While Startupbootcamp does not (yet) have a program in France, there are definitely ways to collaborate with Le Camping, The Founder Institute, EEMI, Startup Weekend,  the incubators and the local entrepreneurial scene. So if you thought this was me leaving France, well, you thought wrong. This is me bringing Europe to France – and France to Europe (wait, what?). Coincidentally, our next Girls in Tech Paris event is also on the impact of local mentoring programs and accelerators – although I unfortunately will be MIA. 😦

And I’ll continue to cover France on TechBaguette as well, obviously. In fact, I still need to write my thoughts on the infamous banning of the use of “Twitter” and “Facebook” by the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (a very French affair, if you ask me). But you should also expect to see more Europe on here as well, like the time I wrote about the lovely Belgians

Je speak English, yo.

While a number of French tech blogs are doing brilliantly, the one thing that I would really like to see come together for France is a blog about local startups in English. A real one, a professional one. So if you are interested (you don’t have to be a native English speaker but hey, English proficiency couldn’t hurt…) ping me. I’m serious.

*As a journalist, I do not want to compromise the integrity of the publication by publishing anything that could be seen as promotional or a conflict of interest. Therefore, I will avoid writing about anything I am directly involved with and will cover topics that are also being covered on the French site for an English-speaking audience. And just FYI, all the TechCrunch France contributors are not allowed to cover topics that are directly related to their business/company/competitors/etc.

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