Smelling French: Not Such a Bad Thing

Paul Carr published an article in TechCrunch a few days ago and naturally the title caught my eye: Cherchez la fame – or why the media’s obsession with Twitter campaigns will make customer service smell French.

A word on smelling French.

What I think is a little ironic in this article is that “smelling French” is phrased to sound like a bad thing – when in fact, it isn’t. What the article refers is simply equality and egalitarian customer service as a result of everyone having an equal voice on Twitter. Carr even concludes by saying that as a consumer, it’s about time for this so-called French influence to set in.

The upside of down.

What caught me even more off guard in this post was that Carr was suggesting that the French potentially have good customer service – that they essentially had the Twitter system in place before Twitter. Now isn’t that a bit odd, since most of the planet doesn’t exactly rave about their customer service experiences in France? Was that an insult via compliment?

Made in France.

It’s funny how adding a twist of French to marketing can almost go both ways. In the US, anything French is considered classy and potentially of better quality; just by adding a “le” or a “la” to any product name, you can smack a few dollars on the price. Hardee’s agrees:

But every now and then a supporter of the “freedom fries era” reminds us that Pépé Le Pew also belongs in this category.

Napoléon who?

What I’ve been noticing recently is that more and more French tech companies and start-ups want to shed their patriotic colors. They don’t want to be associated with France, per say, because they’re worried it will make them seem small and franco-centric.  As I mentioned in a previous post, French entrepreneurs are largely concerned with the limitations of the local market. If a French company writes “everywhere” as their location on Twitter, I question whether or not they would’ve done the same thing had they been in San Francisco. And more often than not, French companies I talk to for TechCrunch ask me to concentrate on their US or international activities and not to draw too much attention to their French roots.

Global is the new black.

In a way, I think it’s healthy and very reassuring that French entrepreneurs are adopting a more global perspective and that their strategies are international from day 1. I even stumbled upon 2 French start-ups – Silentale and Plyce – that don’t even have their sites translated into French (except for the job/recruitment section), and I’m certain there are others.

Vive la France: don’t be a sell out.

While I don’t think French companies need to preach the Marseillaise, I do think they should remember that being French is not something to hide. Having a Twitter account in English is fine but there is no reason to hide a France-based corporate address just to appear more in-line with tech trends. Plus, let’s not forget the tons of crap comes out of Silicon Valley – not everyone there is Google or Facebook.

More than just Loic Le Meur.

I remember when I first started showing Deezer to people in San Francisco, they seemed to think it was just another Silicon Valley music company to add to the list of Imeem, Pandora, etc. But when they found out Deezer was French, well – it stood out. That’s right – the US may be coming around slowly but surely but they’ll ultimately realize the French tech scene is more than just Loic Le Meur.

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A Few Noteworthy French Music Start-ups

Midem (@midemnetblog) – the music industry’s largest international event – is taking place in Cannes, France from January 24-27.  So, why not take a look at some rather interesting French music startups…

MXP4 (@theremixculture)

The company has created an interactive music platform – which lets listeners personalize and mix their favorite tracks – with €6.5 million raised to date from Sofinnova and Ventech. CEO Albin Serviant (@albinserviant), who is also EVP and GM for Vivendi Mobile Entertainment, spoke at Midem last Wednesday about business models for music applications. Details on what he discussed can be found here.

Awdio (@awdio_usa)

A Webradio network lets users stream music live from clubs and venues around the world. The company was founded in 2007 by Vittorio Strigari (@awdiovitto) and has raised €1.5 with Ventech since 2007.

Deezer (@deezer)

France’s hot little music start-up that is was run by youngers Jonathan Benassaya (@JBenassaya) and Daniel Marhely (@blogmusik) and is, quite frankly, way better than Imeem. Benassaya is reported to have left the company,  which closed a second round of funding in October 2009 and has raised €12.2 million to date. Troubled waters?

JiwaMusic (@jiwa)

They may be still in Beta but they’ve signed with Universal and look like they may be getting ready to try and take on Deezer. Oh, and they’re also looking for good people to join their team.

 Musicovery (@needstogetontwitter)

A so-called interactive webradio that works like a moodring. Huh? They’ve been around a little longer than the others, since 2003. The man who runs the show is Vincent Castaignet (@alsoneedstogetontwitter) and they’re apparently not VC-backed.