Here are 8 French startups you should know
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The La Defense financial district in Paris. Photo credit: oatsy40 / Flickr

The La Defense financial district in Paris. Photo credit: oatsy40 / Flickr

Beyond wine and cheese, France is the new land of engineering and startups

It’s no surprise that France is the most visited country in the world. Although everyone may know about sought after French attractions like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, only those who are actually born and raised there truly understand what it means to be French.

The acts of the brave individuals who made history during the French Revolution instilled the core characteristics of French citizens today: to be inquisitive in nature and to have the strength to push for what you believe is right. These values imbue the French education system and in turn, inspire many citizens to go into math, science, engineering, and hi-tech.

French schools emphasize the importance of analysis in curriculum

It is not about only finding the correct answer, but understanding why the answer is correct and proving it by showing work 100% of the time. Without supporting answers with explanations, answers are actually considered wrong, even if they technically were right. This education style encourages students to genuinely understand material and does not allow for shortcuts.

Ultimately, this repeated use of formulas and research breeds students who pursue careers in math and science, many of which become engineers. The French talent pool has over 1 million well trained and hard-working engineers.

Here are some of the top startups in France’s impressive ecosystem

A number of these individuals have chosen to take what they’ve learned and relocate to different areas of opportunity, a large portion drawn to Silicon Valley. As a result, the French tech ecosystem continues to grow with two central initiatives connecting French engineers and entrepreneurs all over the globe: La French Tech and While42.

I’d like to highlight a few of these well regarded French engineers-turned-entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and beyond:

1. Bitproof

Photo credit: Bitproof

Photo credit: Bitproof

Bitproof was founded by 18-year-old Louison Dumont, who started coding at age 8! He was accepted as the youngest-ever entrepreneur to Boost VC, the California Incubator. Boost VC aided Louison in founding Bitproof, the creator of SealX, a tool that enables customers to create frosted contracts that are sealed forever and valid worldwide. This allows for users to easily certify documents, business contracts, or any digital information in the Bitcoin Blockchain.

2. Holberton School

Photo credit: Holberton School

Photo credit: Holberton School

Holberton is a disruptive project-based alternative to college for the next generation of software engineers. Founded by experienced software and operations engineers, Julien Barbier, Sylvain Kalache, and Rudy Rigot, these three young visionary and execution-focused talents started the school as a result of their passion for education and community.

Holberton School has no teachers, courses, nor formal curriculum. Students are assigned programming challenges that become increasingly difficult and are only given minimal direction on how to find the solution. The school places an emphasis on “learning how to learn,” in order to ensure students constantly develop new skills and are adaptable to the changing world around them.

3. Docker

Photo credit: Docker

Photo credit: Docker

Docker is a Y Combinator-backed open platform for developers and system administrators to build, ship, and run distributed applications, whether on laptops, data center VMS, or the cloud. With Docker, IT organizations shrink application delivery from months to minutes, frictionlessly move workloads between data centers and the cloud and can achieve up to 20 times greater efficiency in their use of computing resources.

Docker was founded by a French engineer, Solomon Hykes, who currently serves as the company’s CTO. Solomon is a Forbes 30 under 30 with experience in engineering, IT infrastructure management, and software development.

4. Scality

Photo credit: Scality

Photo credit: Scality

Scality was inspired by customers who wanted a system that could “route” data to and from individual users in the most scalable, efficient way possible. Giorgio Regni along with Scality’s other founders began a non-traditional approach to building a storage system that no one had imagined before. This ultimately lead to the creation of the Scality RING, software-defined storage that provides completely reliable storage with unmatched performance for capacity-driven workloads.

5. DJiT

Photo credit: DJiT

Photo credit: DJiT

Jean-Baptiste Hironde, a student of engineering who used to mix for student parties as an amateur DJ, founded DJiT. He wanted to bring music creation to the masses by producing DJ equipment that was simple to use, affordable, and yet high performance.

He and two of his peers, Nicolas Dupré and Charles-Marie Déjardin, launched DJiT, a music software, hardware and technology company that designs, develops, and markets mobile applications devoted to music. Today it is considered the world’s 10th largest music app editor (according to App Annie) and has received millions of global downloads.

6. XBrain

Photo credit: XBrain

Photo credit: XBrain

XBrain designs in-car personal assistants for automakers, OEM, and insurance companies. Founder Gregory Renard works with his team to design and offer the most compelling driver experience delivering human-like interactions through natural language. Optimized for hands-free use, XBrain’s solution is fully connected to a cloud-based platform.

7. TextMe

Photo credit: TextMe

Photo credit: TextMe

Created in 2011, TextMe is a messaging platform with over 35 million downloads that lets users call or text any phone number internationally, for free. Co-Founder and COO Gregory Kokanosky utilized his background in engineering to help turn any connected device into a fully capable communication device offering free IM, text messaging, voice, and video calling. Prior to his role as COO, Gregory was the CTO of TextMe and was in charge of developing and designing the app’s new features and services on TextMe’s cloud infrastructure. Gregory is also a mentor at Holberton School.

8. Lima

Photo credit: Lima

Photo credit: Lima

Founded in 2011, Lima is a revolutionary technology that enables you to securely build your own personal cloud in seconds. Severin Marcombes, Founder and CEO of Lima, has an extensive engineering background, having earned multiple BAs in different concentrations of engineering and an MA in software engineering. The technology he helped develop for Lima consists of a smart hardware adapter and a multi-platform app, complete with cross platform compatibility, enabling users to access their cloud from all of their devices easily and seamlessly, wherever they are. Lima was selected as a CES 2016 Innovation Awards Honoree in two categories.

France intrigues global visitors because of the sites, but the true value of France is the people who make the country as amazing as it is. The entrepreneurs who own the small bakeries, the architects who built the city, and the everyday people who contribute to the country’s growth and sense of community. Some of these are even individuals who have chosen to relocate to different areas of the globe, but still are grounded by their French roots. All of France’s citizens, no matter where they are or what they do, are fueled to succeed as a result of their inquisitive nature. They will always have strength in that they are continuing the rich traditions to fight for what they believe in and to never stop pushing once their sights are set on creating something wonderful.

The views expressed are of the author.

Geektime invites global tech and startup professionals to share their opinions and expertise with our readers. If you would like to share your point of view, please contact us at info@geektime.com.

Featured image credit: oatsy40 / Flickr

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Romain Serman

About Romain Serman


Romain Serman is the Director of Bpifrance USA, in charge of “Deal Flow” in equity investments and debt financing. Prior to BpiFrance, Romain was the Consul General of France in San Francisco and dealt with the building of a strong business network, mostly in the high-tech sector and was responsible for achieving academic and scientific partnerships between Californian and French universities and research institutions. Graduated from the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA) and the Institute for Political Studies, Paris (Sciences-Po), Romain occupied functions as Advisor of the French President and member of his Cabinet, Secretary general of the “France – Africa Summit”, and Leading negotiator at the French Mission to the United Nations, New-York where he was in charge of leading French negotiator on African crises in the UN Security Council.

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  • phasmid

    Lima does not work as advertised. See their own website’s user forums (at ‘feedback dot meetlima dot com) and the Kickstarter comments page for details. Users have lost all of their data. Most users are never able to get the thing to work. The Kickstarter campaign that raised $1.27million was essentially fraudulent, as Lima lied and claimed to have a working prototype ready for manufacture however CEO Marcombes admitted in an interview in an article, titled ‘Secrets d’entrepreneurs : comment faire décoller son projet ?’ on French-language website clubic dot com, that they did not have a working prototype. “”At the time we launched on Kickstarter, we were only the two founders
    with a first unfinished prototype. We literally had nothing to show
    investors! “” That’s a violation of Kickstarter’s TOS, but let’s call it what it really is: a scam.

    Though supposedly a totally private device, Lima have the ability to remotely access the devices when they are online. Do due diligence and don’t fall for the false marketing and promotional claims nor the fake 5star reviews on Amazon (some of which were admittedly posted by employees of, associates of and friends of the company.) Check the Kickstarter updates and comments; their initial ‘beta’ test was a dog-and-pony show, as the supposed tester was a close personal friend and college buddy of CEO Marcombes and partner Gawen Arab.

    Do you really want to trust your data to that company?!?