The starting point: winning the Criteo Code of Duty 3
In late October 2013, Criteo organized Code of Duty, a big hackathon in its Paris office for the third edition, which 120+ coders attended. As the lucky mentors of the winning team, we had the extreme chance to participate to the tremendous gift: a geektrip in the US to meet remarkable people and learn from the best companies of the American tech world! New York and San Francisco, here we code come!
Tech in the Empire state
Our first stop was the big Apple, which is home to a rapidly growing start-up scene. Let’s start with an amazing visit at Spotify in the heart of New York! This office is simply crazy – no walls, it’s all stretched strings, so every room is not actually isolated. Everyone there is encouraged to take part in every part of the business and challenge every preconceived idea – just like teenagers 🙂
There we met with Jason Richman (@jayrchiman), head of Monetization as Spotify. We discussed topics as varied as the user base of Spotify, the commercial use of the data, how to enhance the user interface and A/B test the changes brought to the application. It turns out the potential for innovation is huge! Spotify is working hard to create and maintain a strong user base, but profitable products are rolling out.
After this thrilling visit at Spotify, we’re off to meet with French entrepreneurs who made it in New York. This is the first time we meet with French people in America, but they won’t for sure be the last :). Eric Barroca told us how he helped his company Nuxeo grow a sound business in France and then set up offices in New York. He made it clear that the labor market and the fiscal laws are much more business-friendly in America, which in turn helps sustain a growing economy even during the crisis environment we all know. Nuxeo builds enterprise document management systems and boasts being used by a large part of the leading French companies. It’s now quickly expanding in America – and being strong in France is a real asset (more on that later).
On with the amazing tour! Fabrice Grinda (@fabricegrinda) welcomes us in his office, the place from where he manages his portfolio of investments. Fabrice is probably the closest thing to a Ferrari in the human kind. Being constantly looking for maximum efficiency, he got rid of all material issues such as housing, transportation and laundry – he outsources everything! And his business mantra is in line with his ethos: technology is now a commodity, all you need to have is a good business sense, a large network, substantial intelligence and a bit of luck to start a successful business. Thus, he introduced us to his latest and very prolific investment: Adore Me, an online competitor of Victoria’s Secret. Who knew one could actually compete with Victoria’s Secret? What a feat!
The next morning, we were delighted to meet Florent Peyre (@florentp). He is the co-founder of Placemeter, a company which develops an interesting technology with possibly infinite business at hand: counting people in the streets. This seems simple at first sight, but imagine what you can do with it! Get rid of waiting lines at restaurants. Yield management by price adjustment during the day. Telling companies about their visibility to the public. Dynamic billboards tailored to the pedestrians in the street. Crazy!
Our last stop in New York was at RebelMouse. We met with the former CTO of the Huffington post, who told us how he scaled his team from 3 to 350 in 18 months. Yes, that’s right – skyrocketing. RebelMouse enables you to populate a blog form any social network – and this simple idea puts RebelMouse at the central spot of all social networks out there. Interesting.
The Silicon Valley
The geeks dream about it and we’re finally there! Silicon Valley – this name brings up may legends such as Google, Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Amazon… Let’s get started!
First stop: SlideShare. Founded in India but acquired by LinkedIn recently. Then again, we were told a spectacular success story that led to Slideshare’s acquisition. However, things are heating up now, thanks to the integration with LinkedIn – people can now share slides and documents directly on their online resume. Think about detailed project summaries, recommendations, online courses…
Then, in a row, we visited RelayRides (a company that helps people share cars for better efficiency and reduced costs),
Docker (an company providing a Platform As A Service [PaaS] product), Soasta (large-scale, cloud-based performance and scalability testing) and MoTwin (server-side platform to push data and notifications to mobile clients).
The high point was definitely Square, a rapidly growing company that provides a revolutionary payment system. With a simple “square” that you plug into the jack entry , you can turn your mobile phone into a powerful payment terminal. No more cumbersome card readers and the like… Square is the answer.
We also visited two incubators: 500 startups and Y-Combinator that taught us one thing: being in the right environment is paramount to be successful and innovative.
Back to Paris
A very learning trip that was quite an experience. A special thanks to Phil Jeudy who made it possible. We also shared with them our FrenchTech touch – and I am confident one can be a successful tech person here. Just look at Criteo’s astounding success. Stay tuned for more!
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