Paris diary: Meeting French startups and the lingua franca of 'geek'

Paris diary: Meeting French startups and the lingua franca of 'geek'

Summary: I'm in Paris for the entire week meeting with French geeks. Despite different languages we all speak 'geek'...

TOPICS: CXO, Browser

[I'm in Paris all this week as part of the Traveling Geeks, a collection of journalists, bloggers, and PR people meeting with French startups and also attending LeWeb, France's premier Web 2.0 developer and business conference.]

I took the EuroStar train from London on Sunday afternoon and in less than 3 hours I was in the middle of Paris. That trip always amazes me and it is so much nicer, (and greener) than flying.

When I arrived it was raining off and on but that didn't matter because I was back in Paris after a ten year break.

I had to find my hotel, about a couple of miles from my terminus at Gare Du Nord but being short on cash I decided to walk in roughly the right direction, trundling my wheeled travel bag across cobble stone streets, and relishing being in one of the great cities of the world.

Because it was Sunday, there wasn't much traffic and there were few pedestrians, it was a rare and almost private experience.

I rattled along, enjoying the old buildings, and noticing the wonderful street names such as Lafayette, in honor of the heroes of the American revolution. And Place Stalingrad, and lots of narrow streets and tiny squares named after many fallen heroes from many countries.

At times it seemed as if the entire city were dedicated to the memory of all those that had struggled for liberty, equality, and fraternity

That evening I met up with my fellow Travelling Geeks. Eliane Fiolet, publisher of the excellent gadget news site, Ubergizmo in San Francisco, and a native Parisian, picked out a modest little restaurant for dinner.

There were about 20 of us, half local French geeks and entrepreneurs. And it wasn't long before it felt as if we'd all known each other for years, laughing, showing each other family photos, and comparing notes about life in Paris and Silicon Valley. Yet another miracle of shared food, shared experiences, ... and red wine.


Monday was a very full day, lots of meetings with French startups, lots of presentations by French geeks. I'll have more to say about some of the great business ideas we came across in later posts, but right now, I wanted to say how similar the Parisian geeks are to our Silicon Valley geeks.

They have the same way of dressing ( a tad more stylish), the same way of talking about technology, the same passion, the same understanding of the issues we think about and talk about all the time in Silicon Valley.

Even though we sometimes struggled with each other's broken French and English, it was remarkable how we still shared a common language, and how much we understood each other. We all spoke Geek, this became our lingua franca.

I had a similar experience in the summer when I was with the Traveling Geeks in London and Cambridge.

It's as if there really is an international fraternity of geeks, a common culture that celebrates innovation, and transcends language and borders. And that's very encouraging...

Topics: CXO, Browser

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  • A moveable feast

    ... is what Hemingway called Paris, and that's still very much true. :-)

    Your use of the term "lingua franca" is neat: literally it means "French language"! Nice pun.
    • why not use the net to check your definition?

      "Lingua franca" does not mean French Language. In some circumstances it refers to French or English or in this case nerd speak.

      Encyclopedia Britanica says "language used as a means of communication between populations speaking vernaculars that are not mutually intelligible. The term was first used during the Middle Ages to describe a French- and Italian-based jargon, or pidgin, that was developed by Crusaders and traders in the eastern Mediterranean and characterized by the invariant forms of its nouns, verbs, and adjectives. .... "

      pjotr123 You have almost limitless resources to check? Why you do not check? How many other false beliefs clouds your judgment?
  • @provincialplace

    And why don'y you take the time to read? He said
    "literally", in which, we do
    not take the general meaning but the one we would
    get by translating each word
    directly and out of context.

    Franca refers to Frankish, as pertaining to those
    tribes. The Frank language had
    a great influence in Northern France, and is the
    root by which both the country
    and the language get their names.
    • Thank you for pointing out the origins of the words.

      Disclaimer : 1- I am no linguist or ethymologist, and English is not my first language.
      2- I am having fun with language and ideas and mean no offence to anyone.

      My comment was about precision. In the shadow of the climategate debacle it seems precision or truth often takes the backseat to opinions and perceptions.

      Literally Franca means Frankish. Not Francais or French. They have a common root but are 2 different meaning...literally.

      "Franca refers to Frankish, as pertaining to those
      tribes. The Frank language had
      a great influence in Northern France, and is the
      root by which both the country
      and the language get their names."

      I liked the article by the way. I did not always understand that my culture was significantly influenced by the tech world. It took me a few years to realise that through my work I had acquired a new language and culture.

      I used to believe, as I was taught that my culture was given to me at birth from my family. What a strange concept it seems today.

      It does not matter which language we speak, when we have shared experiences we always find a Lingua Franca.
      • Yay, reasoned debate!

        Cool, cool.

        It's interesting your comment about culture at
        birth. I have certainly met many people with
        that feeling, who simultaneously believe in the
        superiority of their culture. I've always found
        these to be at odds. How can you be certain of
        something you've always had, never compared,
        contrasted or revised from experience.

        I completely agree with you. In my mind a
        culture of open and honest sharing, across
        boundaries and outside comfort zones, is
  • It's all Geek to me

    Sorry, I had to say it. That's a nice feel-good story about how what we do crosses cultues--I love it.

    Vive la technologie!
  • RE: Paris diary: Meeting French startups and the lingua franca of 'geek'

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