Start Me Up

By Didier Allouch, host of Rendez-vous d'Amérique

My dear francophiles, francovorous and francophageous friends, I know “startup” is not a French expression. I know there is probably nothing more American than the concept of startups. The idea of a few brave souls who would give everything to transform it into a phenomenon, knowing that only a very, very, few succeed, matched with a lot of enthusiasm. Yeah, nothing more American than the concept of a startup…

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But if you were at the Consumer Electronics Show a couple of weeks ago, you may have to reconsider the origins of the word “startup”.

The aisles of the Las Vegas Convention Center and all the prestigious Las Vegas hotels where the convention took place were filled-up with exhibitors coming from French-speaking countries. Mostly France, but also Québec, Switzerland, Togo, Belgium, etc. We could hear people speaking French all over the place. It was kind of bizarre, but so representative of the dynamism of “francophone” industries. We knew that things were moving in the French-speaking territories. What we learned at CES is that countries that speak French are not afraid to become leaders in some areas.

Some areas are expected, others way less. Yes, we were expecting a French startup trying to become the leader in the Wine-By-The-Glass market (yes, there is a Wine-By-The-Glass-market) or a Quebecois startup in the race for the ultimate traffic app (have you ever been stuck in Montreal rush hour?)

But what was unexpected was the diversity of innovations that these French-speaking startups were presenting. It could go from the most bizarre (we had a bad breath detector from Poitiers, or, our favorite, a specialist in teleportation dressed as a Star Wars storm trooper), to the very smart and useful. An entrepreneur from Togo was developing an application to allow people to transfer money through their cell phone. Knowing that 65 % of the African population doesn’t have a bank account, one could realize the consequences of such an app on the entire continent economy. There were also those guys developing a super safe bike helmet, and by the time we live in, where everyone could ride a Lime, an Uber Bike or a Bird in the middle of L.A. traffic, those things can really save lives. Oh, and they also look really good...

More than the number of French-speaking exhibitors at the Consumer Electronics Show (more than 400, the 2nd most represented after the Chinese), it’s this diversity that led me to think that the future of innovation could have a French accent and that French “startup” could easily become a very common word of the French language.

To learn more about our experiences at CES and other events that define Francophone culture in America, tune in to Rendez-vous d’Amérique on TV5MONDE USA. Click here for more information about the next episode, which also features the New York production of “The Other Mozart” and Cinema on the Bayou in Lafayette.

Exploring a diversity of culture entwined with the insatiable energy of New York’s theatres, the bright lights of Las Vegas Blvd, the inspirational beauty of Louisana’s bayous, and beyond - Rendez-vous d'Amérique invites you on a journey to discover Francophone culture in America. Your host on this cultural experience is Didier Allouch - reporter, cinephile, and a familiar face at movie premieres. Click here to learn how you can subscribe to TV5MONDE USA and never miss an episode!