The reputation of French engineers is impeccable. People are working hard to make the tech ecosystems in New York or San Francisco as welcoming as possible toward French entrepreneurs, engineers and designers. But most importantly, after having spent just a few years in the U.S. and the ideal business environment, most will never come back. By Philippe Mora (@philippemora)
San Francisco, 03/28/14 - I left France 20 years ago to work in Japan then to California to study at Stanford and then went on to my first startup company in Sunnyvale. I was a firmware engineer, writing millions of lines of code over my 10 years engineering career. After we went public in 1998, I went on to another company, and on, and on, and 20 years later I am a seasoned Silicon Valley veteran who has enjoyed his journey in America, fully and thoroughly, every step of the way. Contrary to the stereotypes, the French love America and are part of the rich history of this country. But twenty years ago, by leaving the country and start an international career abroad, I was clearly the exception. Today, for French young creative and knowledge workers, leaving the country, and its ways of crushing true entrepreneurship and innovation, is the norm. France has always prepared its youth very well for being creative and productive world citizens. But today, converting this investment into a thriving entrepreneurial economy (as this was the case until mid 20th century) has stalled and the brain drain is accelerating.
“The attraction of the American revolution transported me suddenly to my place. I felt myself tranquil only when sailing between the continent whose powers I had braved.”
—Lafayette, Letter to the Bailli de Ploën.
France has been shaped by its own history. One of the most overlooked aspects of the French history is how important Lafayette was. He rallied the French army to fight alongside the American people during the American Revolution, drafted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, and inspired the French revolution.
Today, French entrepreneurs are moving abroad much more easily. All they have to do is board a plane, be lucky enough to obtain a visa and leave much of their lives behind them. Yet, they are making a sacrifice, and many people tend to forget that — it’s hard to get out of your comfort zone.
Following Liz Alderman’s article in the New York Times, a debate has been going strong — why do French entrepreneurs leave France?
Many people answered this question. Some said French people should stop bashing their own country. Others said French people should stop obsessing about entrepreneurs leaving France.
I believe there is a much deeper cultural explanation. The Silicon Valley-shaped definition of entrepreneur is incompatible with France’s entrenched value of universalism.
When it comes to the tech world, this newfound mobility is France’s greatest strength. Entrepreneurs leave because it’s smart for them. And we should celebrate these courageous entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs Leave To Become Great Entrepreneurs
When you hear about French entrepreneurs doing great things in San Francisco, New York or London, the natural reaction is to wonder why they didn’t do these great things in France. But it’s a chicken and egg problem. These entrepreneurs are doing great things because they left.
It wouldn’t have been possible for them to build the same startups in France, because timing wasn’t right, investors looked the other way, or early adopters were elsewhere.
I’ve spoken with many French entrepreneurs who are now based in the U.S. They all have different reasons for leaving, but these reasons are valid.
Ilan Abehassera stayed in New York to start Producteev, because he felt New York was a better environment at the time — in 2008, French VCs were still recovering from the 2007-2008 financial crisis. Mindie moved to San Francisco because theycouldn’t find investors in France. Algolia moved to San Francisco because they were accepted into Y Combinator. Curioos founder Matt Valoatto moved to New York because it is “the epicenter of digital art”. Pierre Valade and Jeremy Le Van started Sunrise in New York because they were already living there, working for Foursquare.
There are countless other examples. All these people have one thing in common, they didn’t leave because they felt like leaving. They left because it made sense for their companies. Can you blame them?
At the same time, when talking with them, they don’t blame France for anything. They grew up in France, learned in French schools and still sound annoyingly French. They can feel this special connection with France when they meet in the U.S., Berlin or London.
In most cases, They wouldn’t have become great entrepreneurs in France. Different ecosystems are looking for different startups. Investors, early adopters and talent pools can help these French entrepreneurs. They shouldn’t pass on this opportunity.
France’s Soft Power
French entrepreneurs, engineers and designers now come and go from France all the time. It greatly contributes to establishing a new sort of soft power. High-skilled French workers learn many things by working with talented entrepreneurs and engineers in the U.S. Sometimes they come back and raise the bar in development, design or growth hacking.
By forcing yourself to adapt to a brand new way of thinking and working, you learn much more rapidly. In the end, when these people come back, they contribute to the French economy.
But what if they don’t come back? They are defending our values abroad. A French engineer is different from an American one, because the school systems are different and they don’t have the same background.
It’s a great asset for American companies. That’s why you will find many French engineers in Silicon Valley’s most successful companies. In a report for French minister Fleur Pellerin, Tariq Krim highlighted 100 developers who were key in many tech achievements.
These engineers work at Google, Apple, Pixar and Box. These engineers shaped Debian, Open Stack and VLC. These engineers founded Docker, Criteo, Dailymotion and Eventbrite.
Recently, Partech Ventures associate Corentin Kerisit told me that you can find a great French engineer in every tech company in the U.S. (including TechCrunch with Nicolas Vincent). He’s involved in While42, a very efficient French tech engineers alumni network founded by Julien Barbier. In San Francisco, they meet regularly and often hire each other for different projects.
Once again, this is one of France’s key strengths. The reputation of French engineers is impeccable. People are working hard to make the tech ecosystems in New York or San Francisco as welcoming as possible toward French entrepreneurs, engineers and designers.
France’s Greatest Strength
In fact, many great tech successes are in some way linked to France. For example, Jean-Marie Hullot started working for Apple in 2001. He is the one who convinced Steve Jobs to work on a phone. Apple built a secret team in Paris to build prototypes of new Apple devices. In 2005, when Apple decided to bring back the iPhone team back to Palo Alto, he decided to quit and stayed in France.
Finally, I personally am very passionate about these issues because I left France to come and work for TechCrunch in New York. I wanted to be as close as possible to one of the teams in New York or San Francisco. I needed to learn what blogging meant. My writing would be much worse if I didn’t make the move. I recently moved back to France and am trying to contribute to the French tech ecosystem as much as I can.
When you are lucky enough to have the chance to easily move from one country to another, you should jump on the opportunity. You will learn a lot. French people in all the major tech cities will welcome you. And you can always come back to France.
Of course there are some drawbacks, including leaving a comfortable life in France. So it’s not an easy choice. But seeing that more French people are making the leap is a great sign. It’s a refreshing hands-on, pragmatic approach. Lafayette was a forerunner, and we’re now all following in his footsteps. And in fact, being flexible enough to move abroad is becoming France’s greatest strength in tech.
[Read More Here. Thank You TechCrunch 03/25/15]
Cloud storage company Box has 25 million users, large revenues, and larger losses: That cloud storage and collaboration can be useful is hardly in doubt, but the prospects for Levie’s company in particular and the similar but more consumer-focused Dropbox remain unclear. - by Philippe Mora (@philippemora)
Philadelphia, 03/26/14 - We're seeing yet another tech story that defies gravity, everybody is rolling their eyes, and yet, the gravy train is once again making the headlines. Don't get me wrong, Box is a really good product (disclaimer: I've been a dropbox premium customer since 2008) however here we're looking at the numbers. A public offering is fundamentally a funding event aimed at helping a company grow. In order to grow, you must first have a proven business model that is profitable and makes money. Growing a money losing business logically only grows the hole deeper. Today we're back in 1999-2000, when IPOs were all about giving the VCs their money back on the dime of the US investors: Box does not make money, the company's loss is widening, and it is in an industry where its competitors are thriving, and making real dollars.
Cloud storage collaboration company Box announced its intention to go public and raise $250 million. We profiled the company in November (see “The Continuous Productivity of Aaron Levie”), when the company’s colorful cofounder, Aaron Levie, summed up his company like this:
“It’s about real-time, collaborative, synchronous information sharing. It’s going to change work. Not just the technology of work, but work itself.”
That cloud storage and collaboration can be useful is hardly in doubt, but the prospects for Levie’s company in particular and the similar but more consumer-focused Dropbox remain unclear (see “Dropbox Founder Simplifies the Cloud”). Here are five nuggets from Box’s S-1 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that shed light on how the company is faring and the challenges it faces:
[ Read More Here. Thank You MIT Technology Review 03/24/14]
Every business presentation will have plenty of moments when the audience will have to work hard and pay attention to grasp the material. I am suggesting that your results, and your reputation, will improve when your audience finds you and your content fascinating. -by Philippe Mora (@philippemora)
Philadelphia, 03/24/14 - We have all been at trade shows and conferences listening to boring presentations delivered (poorly) by individuals whose talent and claim to fame was probably to be able to achieve the career title they dreamed about all their lives - with the PR machine that goes with it, and the opportunity to present other's people work and take credit for it. See, to be a speaker, you need to be competent, know your stuff in and out, and be a lover - loving of others that makes you thrive to transmit your knowledge, experience and thoughts to audiences. It's both a skill and an art. And like everything else, you'll need to go through a sometimes painful trial and error process until you find the right mix, glue, that will dazzle your audiences and get your message across efficiently and (power)fully.
In my mind, there are two kinds of attention: neck down, and neck up. Neck-up attention is when the listener has to make an effort to pay attention. Neck-down attention is when the listener is riveted to the speaker: she can't help but pay attention.
Please note that, in our language of English, attention is paid because attention is a valuable currency. When listeners pay attention, they are rewarding you with arguably the most valuable currency in the world.
Here are 10 techniques that are guaranteed to earn you more attention without losing any of your professional credibility.
1. Start with the unexpected. Start with a bang, not a whimper. Smokers like matches that light with the first strike, and listeners like presentations that ignite interest with the first sentence. For instance:
"We stand today at a place of battle, one that 40 years ago saw and felt the worst of war."--President Ronald Reagan
"I stand before you today, the representative of a family in grief, in a country in mourning, before a world in shock."--The Earl Spencer, brother of Lady Diana.
"I wish you could have been there…"--Patricia Fripp, CSP, Former President of the National Speakers Association.
Each of these opening lines makes us lean in, lend an ear, and wonder where the speaker will take us. They jump right into the subject and create suspense, intrigue, curiosity. They capture neck-down attention.
2. Make it about them. Now that you've gotten listeners' attention with your magnetic opening, make the story about them. Increase your You-to-Me-Ratio. Talk about their goals, their aspirations, their anxieties. Cicero, a Roman statesman and orator, and one of the greatest speakers in the history of the world, said, "Tickling and soothing anxieties is the test of a speaker's impact and technique." He meant that you can capture attention if you remind an audience of a felt need, a pain point, or a threat to their well-being.
"Ring around the collar," was a 1968 ad in which a housewife protected her husband from loss of social status and career disaster by using Whisk on his shirts. And many consultants I know use something called FUD to sell their projects: Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. A smattering of FUD gets our attention. When I feel it, I feel it in my chest.
3. Keep it concrete at the start. Show a prop. Use language that appeals to the senses. Don't tax the audience right away with abstract reasoning or academic concepts. Better to hide your smarts than to wear them on your sleeve. Storytelling is a powerful way to get into a topic because we are hard-wired to absorb information through storytelling. Tell a good story and you'll get neck-down attention.
I once heard Robert Kennedy, Jr. speak about conservation on a boat on the Hudson River. He began by pointing south. "If you look in that direction," he said, "You will see the channel that for millions of years has been the largest spawning ground for sturgeon in the world."
Of course, when I looked where he was pointing, I saw nothing but gray polluted water, not a sturgeon in sight, but I had the image of millions of large fish teeming so densely on the surface of the river that I could have walked across their backs to New Jersey.
Only then did he dive into the data about the poor, languishing Hudson.
4. Keep it moving. Not just in terms of pace, but in terms of development. Make sure that every new bit of information you provide builds on what came before. We lose interest in movies when nothing is happening, or novels that stop while the author describes a bucolic setting for two pages. Our brains are saying, "I want action! Drama. Suspense." The same holds true for your listeners. They are time-pressed, content-driven, and results oriented.
Think of the difference between a river and a canal. A canal is plodding while a river is dynamic and constantly changing. To please your listeners' insatiable desire for variety,make your presentations like rivers, not canals. Make sure there's always something happening, most especially when delivering webinars, where your audience is likely to be highly distracted.
5. Get to the point. One of the great pleasures the audience has is quickly grasping what you're getting at. They resent you when you rob them of this pleasure.
I once saw an ad for a Seth Godin speech on why marketing technical products was too important to leave to marketing. When I saw the video, the first words out of his mouth were, "Marketing technical products is too important to leave to marketing." It was a no-nonsense speech that moved like a bullet train, straight down the track of that single point. Give them only one point, make it early and often, and they'll carry you out on their shoulders.
6. Arouse emotion. Humor is inherently persuasive. It gives the speaker an unfair advantage because it literally changes the chemistry in the room, and in the brain of everyone present. But don't try to tell jokes if you're not a comedian. Simply allow your natural sense of humor to be present in the moment, and when something comes to mind, allow your humor to reveal itself.
Confessing something personal about yourself can also make the audience feel connected with you. I had a client recently--a senior person in her company--who confessed to her colleagues at a major company meeting that she had been a bar tender, a taxi driver, and short-order cook in order to pay her college tuition. The audience was amazed and thrilled as she drove home her point that we can all do more than we realize if we have the will to do whatever it takes. One definition of courage, she said, is acting out of character.
7. Keep it interactive. Social scientists have demonstrated that an interactive audience is more easily persuaded than a passive one. In many circumstances, the give and take between speaker and audience breaks through the reticence and reserve of listeners, encouraging them to engage with the speaker and play a part in the proceedings.
We see this in certain churches using the call and response tradition of worship. We see it in schools and universities, where an effective teacher, by asking questions, can get monosyllabic students to open up and participate.
And of course the world also witnessed the power of audience interaction in the massive rallies of Nazi Germany when Hitler would cry, "Sieg," and the soldiers replied, "Heil," raising their arms in the Nazi salute. I include this negative example because it is a powerful reminder that what makes a speaker a dangerous demagogue is not his technique, but his moral purpose.
8. Write clear headlines. Write headlines for your slides that express a point of view. The audience will get the big idea and look at the body of the slide for evidence that supports your point.
For instance, "We Can Dominate the Market" is a better headline than, "Market Share." It's better because it implies action, it's brimming with intellectual and emotional content, and it captures the physicality of neck-down attention much more than the inert phrase "Market Share."
9. Keep it short. Stop talking before they stop listening. The mind cannot absorb what the behind cannot endure.
10. Let there be you. The presence of a human being alone on a stage of any kind, whether it's the floor of a small meeting room or the elevated platform of a vast ballroom, is profound. It immediately creates neck-down attention. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "What you are speaks so loudly that [nobody] can hear what you're saying."
Listeners interpret everything a speaker does: they read your face, your inner rhythm, your posture, voice, and stance. In fact, the human mind ascribes moral intention to physical cues having the slightest hint of emotional expression.
The problem is the mind does this in a matter of seconds, and you have to speak longer than that. Plus you may be nervous, not at your scintillating best, so your technical skill at capturing and holding attention could be the difference between success and failure.
Every business presentation will have plenty of moments when the audience will have to work hard and pay attention to grasp the material. I am suggesting that your results, and your reputation, will improve when your audience finds you and your content fascinating.
I urge you to go for the neck-down stuff.
[Read More Here. Thank You Business Insider 03/05/14]
People who go for a walk or ride a bike four times a week are able to think more creatively than people who lead a sedentary life. When you really need to get something done, get away from your computer and your conference room, and go for a long walk. It’s not a luxury. It’s work. -By Philippe Mora (@philippemora)
San Francisco, 03/19/14 - When you're a creative and knowledge worker, you have know that it is always difficult to deal with periods of uninterrupted, vibrant and elating inspiration, followed by times when you need to recharge and nothing seemingly gets done. I was like this long time ago - could not be able to have a seamless creativity process, when day after after day I do create and advance the enormous amount of tasks ahead. Then I read a really good word of advice from Hemingway: when your inspiration is at it's best and you don't seem to stop being creative and coming up with new ideas, just stop and go take a walk. Recharge your creative self. I've adapted Hemingway's concept to work for my lifestyle: I start every day by running a 5K. Early. Then each time I am unstoppable creatively, I go to the gym and do a strength workout. I call those times my creative times in my sanctuary and that's how I am #BusyGettingStronger. Try it for a while, and then thank Hemingway for the tip. #workinprogress
Every weekday morning, I take a three-and-a-half mile walk around my neighborhood, in pretty much whatever weather my New England town throws at me. I split an apple and give half to each of the horses at the corner of Cross Street. The sounds of their chomps and slurps fill me with vicarious happiness.
When I was a kid I walked to school every day with John Flaherty, Doug Casey, and Rollie Graham. At the end of the day, after debate practice, Bill Bailey, Paul Salamanca, and I would walk home. We never stopped talking for a minute, and we could have used another hour each day to say all that was on our minds.
Part of the reason I created the Breast Cancer 3-Days, a charity walk, back in 1998, was to offer women with breast cancer and their supporters the luxury of having three days to converse, to daydream, and to imagine—without any of the aggravation of day-to-day life intruding.
But we’re wrong to think of walking only as a way to calm the mind, a source of exercise, or as a leisurely luxury. When it comes to work, walking can dramatically increase productivity. In a very real sense, walking can be work, and work can be done while walking. In fact, some of the most important work you may ever do can be done walking.
Last year I gave the closing talk at the 2013 TED Conference. The talk has been viewed nearly three million times and is now one of the 100 most-viewed TED talks of all time. I rehearsed the talk entirely on icy-cold morning walks over the course of about two months last January and February. Far from a luxury, I dreaded those walks, because my rehearsing was hard work. The productivity of that hour was so dense—it was mentally exhausting. Had I stayed home, chained to my desk, where most of us are taught that real serious work happens, the work would have been easier—but far less productive. I’d have gone online every few minutes to check a favorite news site. Grabbed a chocolate chip cookie or a glass of water. Checked my e-mail. Walking affords no such distractions. It’s just you and the work.
A 2013 study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato from Leiden University found that people who go for a walk or ride a bike four times a week are able to think more creatively than people who lead a sedentary life. The British Journal of Sports Medicine found that those benefits are independent of mood. Sunlight also boosts seratonin levels, which can improve your outlook.
These findings are absolutely true for me. The first mile of my walk is just a racket of competing voices of judgment and to-do lists. But after about two miles, no matter how low my mood may have been at the outset, those voices settle down.
Henry David Thoreau said famously, “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” The endorphin increase that comes with climbing hills makes the ideation that happens almost predictable. There are particular spots on my walks at which the ideas begin popping into my head, as if dropping from a magic tree on the side of the road there. Many refinements in essential phrases or visuals for my TED talk came to me at that spot.
But it’s work. The ideas don’t come unless I’ve engaged with the issue at hand. If I had U2 blaring in my ears, which would be a lot easier, they’d stay buried or just out of reach.
Last year my company, Advertising for Humanity, was up against a final deadline for a big branding assignment for a major client, and after months of work the idea just wasn’t gelling. On a morning walk it came to me. The new campaign has been a huge success. Our creative team did a walk together a few months back for another major assignment. The road seemed to be far more effective than a whiteboard for distilling the problem down to its essence. The clearing we created led to yet another big idea that has been a phenomenal success.
Walking is great for professional heart-to-heart talks. When I was running a large business in Los Angeles, I would often take employees on walks down Sunset Boulevard to talk things out. Biographer Walter Isaacson noted that walking was Steve Jobs’s preferred way to have a serious conversation. It’s not a break. It’s a change of scenery, but it’s work. The walking just makes it more productive work. The movement makes the conversation less stiff, more authentic, more responsible, even.
So, when you really need to get something done, get away from your computer and your conference room, and go for a long walk. It’s not a luxury. It’s work.
[Read More Here > Thank You HBR 02.27.14]
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