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

I'm in Paris for the entire week meeting with French geeks. Despite different languages we all speak 'geek'...
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

[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...

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