La French Tech at the Consumer Electronics Show 2017

The Chinese calendar’s Year of the Rooster will soon begin, but attendees of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas were already seeing roosters everywhere thanks to yet another strong showing by La French Tech.

In recent years, France has dominated the show’s famed Eureka Park, an exhibition space within CES where startups showcase their innovative products. This year, there were nearly 200 French companies in Eureka Park alone. To put it another way, France accounted for about one-third of all startups in Eureka Park.

Mais pourquoi?

What is it about the French that makes them excel as entrepreneurs? And why the seemingly recent upsurge in talent?

As a French to English translator specializing in innovative technology, I’ve been following La French Tech online for a few years. But I hadn’t yet experienced it in person. So I decided to spend a day at CES this year to witness La French Tech in action.

La French Tech Press Conference

My first stop after picking up my attendee badge was the La French Tech press conference.

The press conference was moderated by Romain Lacombe, CEO of Plume Labs, a company whose technology helps consumers track air quality. He outlined three factors behind France’s entrepreneurial success and modern relevance, including:

  • highly talented engineers with a strong background in mathematics
  • the role of design in French culture, given the increasing focus by consumers on design and integration of tech into daily life
  • rising movement of risk-taking and venture financing

Lacombe pointed out that, while “entrepreneur” is a French word, the startups at CES all have a global strategic focus. He then allowed representatives of four La French Tech startups to speak individually about their companies. The featured speakers were Grégory Veret of Xooloo (integrated technology coach for children), Stéphane Jaubertou of Sevenhugs (streamlined smart home control), Luc Pierart of PKparis (painless blood glucose monitor watch), and Evelyne Raby of CybelAngel (online data security monitoring service).

Next to speak were two representatives from the investment side of French innovation: Ben Marrel of Breega Capital and Nicholas El Baze of Partech Ventures. They mentioned the strong education system in France, the talent of French engineers and their worldly perspective, the “cool” factor of entrepreneurship among new graduates of French universities, the strong ecosystem of support (La French Tech), and of course, the large amount of investment happening in France specifically and Europe as a whole.

To inspire upcoming startups, the next speaker was Quentin Sannié of Devialet, creator of the premium Phantom audio system and considered a unicorn among French technology companies, with its tremendous global growth and success.

The final speaker of the press conference was Axelle Lemaire (pictured above), France’s Secretary of State for Digital Technology & Innovation.

Lemaire spoke about the government’s role in promoting innovation in France in recent years. Faced with a struggling economy and high unemployment, a decision was made in 2012 to proactively invest in innovation in order to add value and create future jobs. She identified the requirements needed for truly successful innovation:

  • people: good engineering and business schools/universities in France, which are free to attend and therefore highly accessible to students. Also, coding is now a requirement in children’s education, and the government has allocated funding to train teachers. The government also offers training in web design and development that has proven highly successful in terms of job placement.
  • infrastructures: France has invested €21 billion to provide the entire country with high-speed broadband by 2021. The government has also invested in creating a vast data infrastructure, thereby creating new integration opportunities for businesses.
  • regulation: support for investment in startups. Example: legal framework for crowdfunding, reducing corporate taxation, creating favorable stock option and profit sharing plans, promoting public funding, a research and development tax credit, and more.
  • policies: La French Tech and the Alliance pour l’innovation ouverte (Alliance for Open Innovation) initiatives to help entrepreneurs.

Eureka Park

Before I got downstairs to the exhibition hall, the thought crossed my mind that I might not be able to distinguish the French companies from the others.

Yeah…. not an issue. La French Tech roosters as far as the eye can see!

I spent all afternoon visiting booths and talking with French entrepreneurs about their products, their success stories, and their future plans. I geeked out, asked lots of questions, traded business cards, posed with a robot, saw a 3D-printed violin, sat on a sound-vibration enabled couch, had my skin computer-analyzed, talked about my kids, and talked about other people’s kids.

Hopefully, I will have an opportunity to work with at least some of the companies I met to help them reach their goals as their products launch in North America and require translations into US English.

Afterthoughts

What I hadn’t grasped prior to CES was what an incredibly optimistic and supportive group La French Tech has formed for its many innovators. They posed for group photos together (or “family photos”, as they adoringly call them), visited each others’ booths, eagerly pitched their inventions, and won numerous prestigious CES Innovation Awards.

I unfortunately didn’t have time to meet with all of the French companies at CES 2017. Next year, I’ll plan to spend more time at the show, and by then, perhaps France will account for half of Eureka Park. Pourquoi pas?

The High Price of Bad Translation

It can be fun to laugh at examples of bad translations on the Internet. A poorly translated menu in China. A nonsensical sign in Russia. Indeed, if you have ever traveled abroad, you yourself may have encountered some poorly translated texts in brochures, menus, or other texts.

Harmless, right? Not always….

In 2009, HSBC Bank spent a hefty $10 million to correct a mistranslation of its “Assume Nothing” tagline, which had been wrongly translated into other languages as “Do Nothing”.  The company opted to change its tagline to the more translation-friendly “The world’s private bank”.

The Swedish company Electrolux famously blundered when introducing its “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux” marketing campaign in the United States, where “sucks” is slang for “bad” or “unreliable”.

In 1980, an 18-year-old man was admitted to a Florida hospital in a coma. His family and friends, who could only speak Spanish, described him as being “intoxicado”. A bilingual hospital staff member understood this as meaning that the man was intoxicated, and doctors then proceeded to treat him as if he had a drug overdose. However, he was actually experiencing food poisoning (another meaning of “intoxicado”). The misdiagnosis and improper treatment left him quadriplegic and landed the hospital with a $71 million malpractice settlement.

Of course, these three situations could have been avoided with the help of a professional translator or interpreter. Paying a professional upfront saves big money in the long term.

Translation mistakes in advertising are highly visible. But what about mistakes in crucial financial reporting by international banks or in the drug development process by pharmaceutical companies? The wrong terminology can add up to huge losses for the company.

Doing translation right the first time can also protect a company against damage to its brand reputation. Potential customers may be turned away from a poorly translated brochure or website and choose instead to spend their money with companies whose brands appear more professional.

How do you put a price on that?

It’s understandable to want to keep costs low in your business, especially if you’re a startup operating with limited funds. But when you’re doing business internationally, there are simply no good shortcuts for professional translation services. A good-quality translation can have a ripple effect on your international growth, leading to a stronger brand reputation in your foreign markets and higher profits for your company.

Wait! Before you go….

Can you spot the mistake in the image above?? Let me know in the comments below!

Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks… Oh My!

You’ve worked hard to develop an innovative idea. The last thing you want is for someone else to steal your intellectual property or take credit for it themselves, whether it is your brand, an invention, a design, or any other creation.

When expanding your European business into North America, there are a number of options for protecting your intellectual property in the United States.

Patents

Patents protect inventions, including methods and apparatus implementing such methods.

Patented inventions must be novel, useful, and non-obvious, and the process of obtaining a patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is costly and time-consuming. Once approved, patents remain valid for 14 or 20 years, depending on the specific type of patent. Due to the necessity for uniqueness, it is important not to publicly disclose ideas that you intend to patent. If another inventor (individual or legal entity) applies for the patent before you do, you may lose your rights to the intellectual property.

Copyrights

Copyrights protect written or published works, such as books, songs, films, online content, and artistic works.

The good news is that such works are automatically protected by copyright, provided that they are original (no copies please!) and fixed over time. Copyrights do not need to be registered, but it may be a good idea to register yours anyway, depending on what your works entail. Registering a copyright establishes a public record of ownership and helps protect your rights in court.

If the owner is an individual, a copyright is valid for the life of the author plus 70 years. If the owner is a business or legal entity, a copyright is valid for 95 years from publication or 120 years from creation.

Trademarks

Trademarks protect signs, symbols, logos, words, or sounds that uniquely distinguish your products and services.

Trademarks must be registered in order to be protected, but that’s not enough. You must also actually use the trademark as intended in order to protect your ownership of it. Unlike patents and copyrights, there is no time limitation on trademarks. As long as you continue to use your registered trademark, it will remain yours.

Lawyers…. Who Needs ‘Em!

You do.

Sure, I can translate your patent from French or Spanish into US English, no problem. But when it comes to legal advice, you’d better hire an attorney in the United States who specializes in intellectual property.

An IP attorney can explain the details of the law, help prepare your patent application, help you register your copyright or trademark, and represent you in any disputes involving intellectual property protection or infringement.

Innovative markets move quickly. You need to keep up, while also maintaining a firm grip on protecting your intellectual property.

Alternatives to Silicon Valley for Your North American Headquarters

Congratulations! You’re ready to establish the North American headquarters of your Europe-based business! But what city should you choose?

Silicon Valley is a natural choice. It’s filled with startups, but it’s SO EXPENSIVE! The same is can be said about New York City. Entrepreneurs need to consider a number of factors when selecting a location for their business, and cost is certainly one of them!

Thankfully, there are plenty of other attractive and more affordable cities that boast tons of tech talent and even have direct flights to and from Paris-CDG! Here are just a few of the stand-outs:

Atlanta

Atlanta, Georgia is enjoying lots of momentum these days, with a 21% growth in tech talent since 2010. Home of Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt University, Atlanta offers a low overall cost of living and a low cost of doing business.

Washington, DC

Known more for its lobbyists and politicians and crowded with government contractors, Washington offers loads of tech talent from its many local universities, including those in nearby Virginia and Maryland. With its prime mid-Atlantic location, Washington is home to several well-known educational companies, including Rosetta Stone and Blackboard.

Seattle

No surprises here! Seattle makes this list because it is still more affordable than Silicon Valley and the Big Apple. Home to Amazon, Microsoft, Zillow, and many more tech companies, the downside to this city is that you may need to compete for talent. Each year, there is an estimated 3,000-person shortage in filling software development and engineering jobs, according to the Washington Technology Industry Association, so you’ll need to be ready to offer plenty of perks and an amazing company culture to woo prospective talent.

Boston

Home to the prestigious Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston ranks 3rd in startups and 5th in quality of life. It is also home to companies like TripAdvisor and iRobot. In terms of location, Boston is conveniently just a short drive or train ride from New York and a comfortable plane ride from Paris.

Raleigh

This North Carolina city is the tech hub of the Southeast. Its “Triangle” is home to a thriving startup community and tech scene. Raleigh also offers low taxes and a low cost of living, making it especially attractive to cash-strapped startup companies!

Vancouver

Located in Canada, just across the border from Seattle, Vancouver is the home of Hootsuite, as well as satellite offices of Facebook, Apple, and Twitter. Canada ranks among the highest standards of living in the world, easily attracting top talent, some formerly employed by Canada’s lost-but-not-forgotten export BlackBerry. Other great Canadian cities with direct flights from Paris-CDG are Toronto and French-speaking Montreal.

As you can see, North America offers lots of potential to European innovators seeking to grow! Good luck!

What to Look for in Your IT Translation Provider

You’ve invested countless hours into your product offering. A bug fix here, a new feature there, a tutorial to bring new users up to speed. Planning. Testing. Feedback. Finetuning.

Clearly, your value proposition should extend to your entire client base, regardless of their language. That’s why it is crucial to choose a well-qualified translation supplier.

“My cousin spent a year in New York City during college. He can translate our website into English!”

It’s not enough to be bilingual! Effective IT translation requires a specific set of skills, including expert-level writing skills and technical mastery of your technology. Your translator provider must be a native speaker of the target language with professional qualifications. Never trust your company’s reputation to an automated translation program or an inexperienced amateur! Doing so will damage your image, lower customer perception, and possibly even offend your target users.

So, what should you look for in your IT translator?

Experience

As in any profession, experience is paramount. Simply stated, the more experience your translator has, the better their ability to provide an accurate translation for you. Check how long your potential translator has been in the business, and look for testimonials from satisfied clients.

Industry Expertise

Due to the difficulty involved and the variation between texts, translators typically specialize in one or more fields. Some translators focus on literary texts. Some focus on medical or legal texts. For your IT translation project, your greatest chance of success is to work with a translator with hands-on experience in a computer-related field. The IT industry is constantly evolving, and let’s face it… we’re a judgmental bunch.

You wouldn’t knowingly release buggy software, so don’t risk putting out buggy content.

Native Language

Do you need a translation into English? Hire a native English speaker! It’s simple. Native speakers can always detect the tiny mistakes made by non-native speakers. This isn’t a concern in normal conversation, but in a professional setting, those seemingly tiny mistakes reflect very poorly on your company and on your technology. Hire a qualified native speaker and get it right the first time!

Passion and Professionalism

Finally, your IT translator provider should be actively involved in both the translation community and the IT industry by attending conferences, belonging to professional associations, publishing, taking courses, and continuously enhancing their skill set.

By planning ahead and selecting the right IT translation provider, you can rest assured that your product has an opportunity to thrive in the global market. Trust the experts, and keep your focus on growing your business!