Building Bridges...with a French Touch

We’ve all heard about how the global economy is becoming increasingly connected (we still believe that’s largely a good thing by the way). But we think it’s about time startups embrace the world of opportunity out there too. Last week, over 600 speakers, startup founders, and business leaders gathered in New York City on June 27th and 28th to discuss entrepreneurship and innovation at La French Touch Conference (LFTC). There was something distinct about this gathering though: the focus was on French-American ties. 

Why would a mix of French and American individuals interested in technology and the startup world gather in New York City? The answer is simple, and relates to an embrace of the philosophy of openness and breaking down barriers that we frequently refer to. In fact, it was the idea of connecting startup ecosystems across borders that motivated Founder and CEO of LFTC Gaël Duval (described as a “serial entrepreneur”) to start the conference in 2014.

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Since then, the event has grown significantly each year. It’s certainly not only about French Tech either. The goal is really to create a space for connecting the New York City startup ecosystem to that in France. And it comes at an important time for France, which is trying to bolster its image as an emerging power player in startups and innovation.

This year, the conference kicked off with the second edition of Pitch in the Plane. Our CEO Jason McDonald calls this the ‘highest, fastest, and most transatlantic pitch competition in the world’. Seven French startups early in their development process are selected to give a pitch in front of seven judges over the course of a seven hour flight. Jason played a crucial role working with La French Touch team overseeing the startup selection and preparation.

The winner of this year’s Pitch in the Plane was Mapwize, an indoor mapping platform for smart buildings (fun fact - we also saw them as part of our collaboration on Cisco’s IoT for Business Lab at VivaTech). A special jury prize was also given to Aveine, creator of a connected aerator for (in true French manner) wine.

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That was just the beginning though. The two days of the conference were jam-packed with different speakers, seminars, and workshops on a whole array of different topics (from IoT security to conquering the U.S. market to investment). There were some fascinating speakers as well: Didier Rappaport, CEO of HappnMounir Mahjoubi, French Secretary of State for DigitalAlicia Glen, Deputy Mayor of New York City; and Renaud Visage, Co-founder of Eventbrite.

And of course we can’t forget our very own Jason McDonald, who helped host talks on Artificial Intelligence and Investment (look out for additional posts with more details from those). 

The value from this conference should be clear: providing a venue for developing connections and partnerships to drive innovation forward on both sides of the Atlantic. This year’s edition, similar to those of past years, attracted big names in the startup world: Partech Ventures, Eventbrite, Kickstarter, and Happn, as well as press from TechCrunch, Mashable, Les Echos, and Le Parisien among others. And while the sheer diversity of topics covered may seem a bit overwhelming at times, with important partners like Capgemini and British Airways getting behind this year’s conference, and positive results coming out of it, La French Touch seems poised to play a big role in making the French startup scene go global. We like that.