You might think of Paris as the city of glamour and joie de vivre, of intellectuals discussing weighty matters in Saint-Germains des Prés, gastronomic over-priced restaurants, lovers strolling along the Seine, sophisticated it girls looking as natural and stylish as you can only try to.
And you would be right. But Alice Zagury sees it also as a hub of creative entrepreneurs that need to be discovered.
This 29-year-old passionate gal with stunning curly hair is shaping the future of start-ups in the heart of Paris. Co-founder of TheFamily a creative incubator lodged in the middle of the trendy neighbourhood of the Marais, Alice is shaking up the old way of doing business in the french capital. She tells what goes into building a successful business.
ADAPT TO YOUR ENVIRONMENT
My first job was at a non-profit organization where I started “Le Camping” the first startup accelerator of its kind in France. I’m interested in art and creative communities, and I spend a lot of time reading books on how help foster innovation and the digital revolution. I spent two years at “Le Camping” before starting to question what we were doing. My model at the time was the Y Combinator and the Silicon Valley, but I quickly came to the conclusion that France had a completely different environment than the one in the Silicon Valley. I couldn’t just copy/paste the American way of doing, I had to invent a new one. I wanted to create something radical and bold. Something I did not see in France. So one year and a half ago with my two co-founder Oussama Ammar and Nicolas Colin we started The Family, a place where we could help a new generation of french entrepreneur to launch innovative start-ups.
TACKLE EACH PROBLEM WITH CREATIVE THINKING
From the start, the philosophy of TheFamily was really simple: Let’s adapt to the cultural environment we are in. Instead of complaining about the way french people think and act we decided to list all the factors that were keeping France to rise as an entrepreneurial country and tackle them in a creative and efficient way. France is a pyramidal society, we usually trust people who come from the best schools. The easiest thing would be to protest against the system and be upset about it, but we decided instead to create a cluster of creative, ambitious, talented people. We are not looking for students from élite schools but for hackers, those who get their hand dirty and are not afraid to get things done and taking risks. In France, we love food. We love to have long dinner and lunch. I saw it as an opportunity to organize networking events around good wine and food. It’s our way to grow the community. In France, we usually do business with people who we know and not with those that are more efficient. We crave personal attachments and emotions, and our networking lunch are there to recreate these connections between people.
We started fully funded by private business angels; we didn’t take any money from the government. We started with 250 k. The first office was in a small house in the center of Paris, two years later we have 160 startups a team of 15 and we moved from the little house in a 1200 square meter loft in the Marais. It’s a place for education, where we dispense lessons in entrepreneurship and do meet-ups. I think it’s important to take it step by step and grow in an organic way.
SEE OPPORTUNITIES IN CHALLENGES
In France we have a lot of well-educated people, great engineers, great design and art school. The paradox is that all these great mind never think about starting their own business. It’s still not well accepted to create a business here; it’s seen as too risky. I know the french mentality is challenging to the start-up community, but I see it as a great opportunity. We only need to let some barriers fall so that the young generation can start thinking about entrepreneurship as a possible option. We call it the dark matter, all these hidden diamonds who don’t even know yet they are entrepreneurs.
CREATE A STRONG VISUAL IDENTITY
Design is important to me. You cannot disconnect the visual identity of TheFamily to its mission. My sister is an artist, and she helped me to create the visual identity of TheFamily. Attention to design and branding is something that is missing from many technological enterprises in France. You have these business with crazy innovative technologies, but you cannot sell them because nobody understands it and cannot relate to it. on the other side, you have American companies with no real product, but with amazing presentations that will sell you anything. We have to learn how to present and how to sell. At TheFamily we have launched a series of events called “Get your Swag on” where we meet with different artists, designers and entrepreneurs to talk about how to mix art and design with business.
PUT PASSION OVER MONEY
I firmly believe there is a new way of thinking in the entrepreneurial world. The new generation is more inclined to create projects out of passion than for the sake of making money. We think more about the problem that we can solve and the impact that we can have on the users. Read TheFamily Manifesto here.
– As told to Francesca Mey