Smart Money: French companies get creative with funding

I’m considering starting a weekly tradition where I give a shoutout to a French company that is doing something I find particularly innovative. Well, this week that company is Lyon-based Regioneo – who launched a user-investment campaign, which I detailed in TechCrunch Europe.

Why is there no translation for “bon appétit” in English?

In case you are unfamiliar with Regioneo, they’re essentially the French equivalent to Foodzie. I thought the idea behind Regioneo was dynamite even prior to this week’s innovative investment initiative, because obviously local artisanal foods in France have an appeal and quality that their American substitutes don’t.

Have your cake and eat it too.

But as much as I like their platform, I’m applauding the innovative way they decided to raise funding this week – which brought them to just under €50,000 in 5 days. Plus, not only did Regioneo raise money, but it brought together a group of high-profile entrepreneurs (or “ambassadors”) to support their cause. Money plus marketing. Yum. Translation: they can have their cake and eat it too (avoir du beurre et l’argent du beurre, en français).

Keep your friends close and your investors closer.

This is not the first company, however, that is leveraging social means for funding. In fact, FriendsClear is another example of local company that is putting a new spin on investment; the P2P lending platform is oriented specifically towards investors and entrepreneurs. Maybe something for Sprouter to consider?

Investitude.

Surely if Ségolène Royal was allowed to make-up words during the last presidential campaign, local entrepreneurs can also invent their way out of roadblocks. In Silicon Valley where it rains VC money on Sand Hill Road, entrepreneurs are possibly less-likely to get creative with funding. And while funding in France is not the monstrosity that everyone makes it out to be, the local VC scene is simply less developed. Which is why I’m sure we’re likely to see more innovation in this space along the lines of what Regioneo and FriendsClear are doing.

l’Académie française: Has Micro-blogging Killed le Vouvoiement?

Disclaimer: this post is probably more for myself than anyone else. 🙂

Remember that terrible 80’s song by The Buggles, “Video Killed the Radio Star”?

Well, if video killed the radio star, I’m pretty sure that the evolution of web 2.0 – with my figer pointing at micro-blogging in particular – has killed le vouvoiement.

French 101

For anyone that doesn’t know, vouvoiement refers to the French use of a formal “you” to address someone with respect. It is often the default “you” when meeting someone for the first time, in business relationships and when in doubt. Vouvoiement naturally creates a distance and establishes a hierarchy between two people – which isn’t found in English.

Micro-blogging: guilty as charged.

I don’t think web 2.0 as a whole is to blame. I highly doubt many people on Linkedin are going to dare to immidiately bypass vouvoiement when initiating contact, for example. Generally, the closer we get to an email-type format, the more traditional the language gets. But Twitter and the integration of micro-blogging on various platforms (Facebook, Linkedin…) has dramatically changed the hierarchical communications patterns.

@vous?

What I can’t seem to figure out is why. Is it because, with the 140 character restriction on Twitter, “vous” is simply illogical (4 letters versus 2)? Is it the combination of realtime web and the @whoever function, which creates a more chat-like and casual environment? What?

Yo, Monsieur le Président.

Part of reason may be a result of the current French demographic currently using social media and various micro-blogging platforms. At the end of the day there may be certain people – like, oh, Sarkozy – that will never shake off their protective layer of respect, even on Twitter. Or maybe they will, who knows (we’ll need to get him on Twitter to figure this one out, perhaps).

L’Académie franglaise.

In a way, I think it could be beneficial to shake off the hierarchical power structure. At the same time, we are talking about messing with a linguistic tradition. What’s funny to me is that the Académie française (which some jokingly call the “French language police”) sits around making up a French version for the word for “email” (“courriel”, which nobody uses) but has turned a blind eye to the lack of vouvoiement on micro-blogging platforms.

For any French companies that use Yammer, on the other hand, I’d be interested to know if the same phenomenon is observed.

French companies you probably didn’t know were on Twitter

The other day I bought a box of tea from the French brand Kusmi Tea. For anyone who doesn’t know Kusmi, their teas are amazing but somewhat expensive. And despite having somewhat modern packaging, the company’s history dates back to 1867. So you can imagine I was surprised to discover the company had a Facebook application – which I rather ruthlessly called “somewhat pointless” on Twitter.

Not your average leaf.

Not only does Kusmi have a Facebook application, but also a Twitter account – with over 1,000 followers. Next to Guy Kawasaki this probably sounds rather miniscule but let’s not forget they’re a 19th-century French tea company. I never would’ve expected them to pick-up on my comment and start following me in a million years. Kudos to their community management team, by the way. (PS: To anyone who isn’t convinced, Mariage Frères – an even older and more traditional French tea company – is also on Twitter.) And this got me wondering – what other French (not necessarily tech) companies were unexpected Tweety birds.

I spy.

Loic Le Meur was on the hunt for non-US companies with good social media efforts in place earlier this week. I thought to myself  “that’s odd, I know tons of French companies (and I’m sure Loic does too) that are good at that.” But they’re pretty much all start-ups and/or in tech. So I thought I would quickly test the CAC 40 to see if any of them had made an attempt at Twitter.

Get this: only 5 companies listed on the CAC 40 are NOT on Twitter.

You name the sector – construction, banking, telecom, defense – they’re almost all there (yes, I checked). I hate to single-out the 5 late adopters, but – if I’m not mistaken – they are: Total (wtf?), Vallourec, Vinci, Unibail-Rodamco and STMicroelectronics (there is an account but it doesn’t look too convincing). All the others – from Michelin to Société Générale – are on Twitter and a majority are rather active. Youpi!

The bigger, the better?

Obviously these are all huge companies that can afford to invest in a silly Twitter account – even if it doesn’t really seem essential to their business. It may seem like a no-brainer that they’d have a Twitter account, to follow if nothing else. And obviously, an active Twitter doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve got social media down. But this just goes to show – once again – that even large French companies that often get a bad reputation for being bureaucratic and traditional may be more malleable than one may think.

Testing 1, 2, 3…

In an earlier post, I mentioned that only 5% of France was on Twitter according to an Ifop study. Additional studies have estimated that around 1% of Twitter users are French. Even so, it’s rather pleasing to see that the larger companies didn’t hesitate to get on and get moving.

Facebook: Still Not the Leading Social Network in France?

01Net published an article on Friday based on a recent study by Ifop (The French Institut of Public Opinon) on the progression of various social media platforms in France.

Facebook is still not #1.

According to this study. Of the 1,002 people to participate in the study, 49% had an account on French social network site Copains d’Avant versus 37% with profiles on Facebook. Even Windows Live beat Facebook, making their 350-million person platform #3 in France. Weird. Then again, let’s remember that this info is only based on the limited group of participants in the study.

What about Twitter?

The same study found that only 5% of France was on Twitter, however, in November 2009 – the same month that Twitter became available in French – Ifop released a slightly different figure via a similar study on the status of Twitter and microblogging in France. 

60% of the 1,052 participants had heard of Twitter and only 9% had a Twitter account.

And get this: 79% of French Twitter users claimed that their main use for microblogging was to discover special offers and promotions.

RIP Yammer and Friendfeed.

Sadly only 4% had heard of Friendfeed and only 1% had heard of Yammer. I guess they may want to consider Tweeting in French.