Pardon my French

The French for some reason get a lot of crap about their English. Ok, it’s got a little ring to it but that’s not really anything to write home about.

Accents are charming. Period.

What’s not charming, however, is limited market reach – which you unfortunately get if you’re going to limit yourself to a non-English language. I can’t even count the number of times I have discussed the topic – if you want to go global in today’s world, you kind of have to speak English, too. Duh.

Dictionary bilingue.

I actually think that French start-ups understand that they need to be bilingual. France has made remarkable progress, linguistically – and the TechCrunch Paris event that was held entirely in English last week goes to prove it. Plus, I think I’ve brought up before that there are numerous local start-ups, like Silentale, that don’t even have French on their websites.

I still, however, stand by Deezer’s French Twitter account – which was attacked by Robert Scoble last year at LeWeb. Seriously, would Deezer have 11 million users if their Twitter didn’t address the local population? Don’t think so. I sound like a broken record…

So while French start-ups are definitely beginning to think more global – they should also make sure their company name doesn’t handicap them. After a conversation I had earlier with someone at Advent Venture Partners (funded French companies like DailyMotion), it became more than apparent that French companies may also be limiting their growth by selecting English-unfriendly names. And yes, English speakers are particularly good at butchering beautiful French names – like Vente-Privée, or anything with a “privée” in it for that matter. But on the flip side, this type of name may work in the luxury industry, as French names carry a certain marketing weight that English names never will.

But hey, this isn’t specific to France. Another example of a company that may eventually have a pronounciation identity crisis is Germany’s Qype – or even Xing (can we not just put a “z” in it already?).

Dismoiou (Tellmewhere) is one of the few French companies that I’ve seen that has actually gone out and translated its name for the respective markets. I find this to be another interesting approach that Dismoiou has actually executed very well.

Shame on you, Steve Jobs.

And no – American companies are not fool-proof either when it comes to internationalization and language. I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked how to correctly pronounce “Linkedin” in France (it’s leenkt-in).

But one thing that really shocked me was the iPhone (yes, I dare to criticize the almighty Empire) – which is surprisingly French-unfriendly given its particularly wide adoption in France. Ok, so it’s no secret that typing on the iPhone keyboard requires ridiculous talent. But for French speakers wanting to include accents in their emails or texts, it’s essentially game over. It may seem minor but the devil is in the details. I don’t know what lousy or malicious engineers designed that layout for Apple – but they surely weren’t French.

The Most Expensive of the French App Store

Génération Nouvelles Technologies recently published an article on a study by userAdgents done on the French iPhone App Store. FYI, the study can be requested for free on their website.

A numbers game. 

The study found that in the beginning of February 2010 the French App Store had 76, 976 applications from 23,942 publishers, with an average of 280 apps being added per day. With the average price of an application at €1.35, 74% of applications are less than €1 (with 40% of applications being free) – and the most expensive application apparently costs €719.99 (FYI the article says €799.99, which is incorrect).

I am rich.

€719.99 for an iPhone app? You must be joking. Paying more for an application than the actual phone is just nuts to me. But hey, the app must be pretty damn special.

 One of the first most-expensive applications, called “I am rich”,  used to do nothing more than show off one’s ability to buy an iPhone app for $999.  Apple now sells this application at €0.79 in the French App Store, after some (not rich) users complained to the company when they purchased the application thinking it was a joke.  Whoops.

A not-so-French touch. 

Get this: turns out the most expensive application in the French App Store isn’t even French – it’s the iRa Pro developed by Illinois-based Lextech Labs. What does the almightly expensive application do? It allows you to view multiple live video feeds from cameras directly onto your phone – that’s right, surveillance. I’d love to know how many people there are in France that need to view multiple live video feeds on their cell phones – but hey, maybe somewhere off in the French countryside this is how farmers monitor their cows (while video surveillance is surprisingly big in France, let’s not forget that a majority of government officials are not equipped with iPhones for professional purposes) . The company also sells an (identical) application called the iRa Direct, which is some €300 less expensive (€399.99).  

Foreign invasion.

The 2nd and 3rd most expensive apps aren’t French either – in fact a majority of the expensive applications in the French App Store are foreign. After rummaging through the App Store (which doesn’t let you rank applications by price = very annoying), the most-expensive French-produced iphone app is most likely between €80 and €100 (I’ll have to verify this in a later post – unless someone cares to step forward with the most expensive French-made app).

A little less bling bling.

So if the French price their applications as cheaper than foreigners do in the French App Store, does this also reflect something about their preferences and how they view application pricing? Or are they just gaining momentum?

France goes to Silicon Valley: French Tech Tour 2010

Just a quick note for French tech companies interested in developing activites in Silicon Valley or establishing relationships with some of the big US tech stars:

La Mission Economique and UbiFrance are now accepting applications for the 2010 French Tech Tour.

From June 4-11, 15 leading French companies hand-picked by the following list of leading IT companieswill have a chance to meet with:

Adobe, Apple, AT&T, Cisco, eBay, Fujitsu, Google, Intel Capital, Microsoft, Nokia, Qualcomm, Sony, Sprint, Symantec and Verizon.

French companies can apply online through March 1, 2010. More information can be found here (in French).

Companies that have participated in the past include: A-Volute, CodaSystem, BinarySec, Smart Quantum, Vision SAS, Digitrad (, Orcanthus, Paytap, Taztag, Calinda Software, Gigatribe, Twinsoft, Delcrea, Bobex, Exaprotect,, TellMeWhere, NewScape Technology and Momindum.