Walking into the foyer of Epitech, I felt a little too much like I was back in college. Overly dressed up students awkwardly searched for eye contact, groups that came together huddled together, and older gentlemen in suits tried to blend in – seriously, had I just walked into Orientation? I navigated through the crowds, who of course had huddle in front the sign-in table, not knowing where else to go, and I quickly saw a list of differently colored name tags. I was asked if I was searching for a project, had a project, or was just ‘curious.’ I said I write a blog, and was given a non-discriminate, white badge. I say ‘non-discriminate’ because it was at this time that I realized that the badges were not organized alphabetically, but by type and color. Red badges went to those who had a product, yellow to those who were curious, and green to those who were looking for a project/internship. This wonderfully reminded me all too much of the Stop Light parties at UCSD, where guy/girls would wear red, yellow, or green colored clothing depending on their availability (taken, curious, available) – of course, just as in these parties, yellow nametags were everywhere.
“…giant graffiti art covered the walls…”
Having scouted for familiar faces in the foyer for a few minutes, I followed some wanderers down a garage entrance, not too sure if they knew where they were going, and discovered the foyer with the check-in was just that. Down in the garage of Epitech, giant graffiti art covered the walls, with the corners drapped with oversized chairs, abandoned basketball hoops, and miscellaneous pieces of wood. In the middle of this giant garage stood 250 chairs all faced around a quite decorated stage. I took my seat in the ever-empty front row, occupied by a few photographers with whom I have become quite acquainted.
An event simulcast across France
The event kicked off with a few announcements, most of which were news to me.The event was being simulcast in various major cities in Paris (Bordeaux, Lyon, Toulouse, etc.) and from the looks of Twitter, the groups there were quite active. Because audiences were spread out across France, they made use of the Balloon app, which polls audience members for questions – I personally don’t find this to be too good of a method of taking questions, but I applaud the effort to include remote audiences. From what I understand, the primary interest in remote audiences comes from the fact that Mash Up is currently looking to expand outside of Paris, having completed three events with relative success.
The Suit and The Jeans…
For the first hour, two entrepreneurs put on the gloves for a Q&A and story-sharing experience that ultimately excluded the moderators. MeilleurTaux founder Christophe Cremer, “The Suit”, sat opposite Melty founder Alexandre Malsch, “The Jeans”. The Suit took every occasion to re-read his work history to the crowd, his responses can be summarized and paraphrased to “I’m pretty awesome – I’ve raised a bunch of money and experienced everything.” Meanwhile, Jeans, young and fresh, made an attempt to connect with his ‘peers’ in the audience, debunking common myths and talking about how Tech people and Sales people think differently. The questions coming from the audience signaled that of an audience unsure of where in the ocean of the startup world they should dip their toes, and the responses came back equally as vague – after all, ‘vague’ is the ‘unsure’ of the confident. While it is enjoyable to listen to Entrepreneurs recount their experiences, Alex and Chris seemed to stereotype their differences, disagreeing and competing for the microphone at every question.
Most commonly used phrase – “…if I could just add a little story to that…”
After the panel finished up, Mash Up jumped into the pitches. A few Clones came through, a few familiar faces, and a lot of undeveloped ideas. I personally enjoyed hearing the pitch of Chef Jerome, as I had met the pitcher months back at a talk at LeCamping, and was happy to see how they had developed. Jerome offers a very simple interfact that allows you to take a recipe on a website and turn it into an online shopping list for any of the large French grocery stores. 3 Day Startup was also there announcing their first event. If you are unfamiliar with 3 Day Startup, they have a similar concept to Startup Weekend and BeMyApp, with their differentiation coming from the fact that you must sign up and be accepted into the day – through this, they hope to groom the participants into the most efficient division of labor, with only the most interested candidates. Sign up will be between October 15th and November 15th, and the event will take place January 20th-22 and ESCP Europe. 40 Participants will be accepted, and mentors and sponsors will be around intermittently throughout the weekend.
Going To Le Web….. For Free!
The best announcement came at the end of Mash Up, where they announced that Mash Up will be giving away two tickets to Le Web – more details are available on their website, but one if for recent graduates contributing to the Startup World (ME!!!!!!) and the other will be selected by a Mash Up Jury (me?). Starting October 15th, contestants can post on the wall of Mash Up’s facebook page, and whoever receives the most likes will receive the ticket – you can all be forewarned that I will be harassing you thoroughly for likes. I apologize here and now.
As I have spent the last month going event to event across Western Europe, I don’t think I was able to fully appreciate this event. Its target is students (events take place at universities), and provides a first look for students into the world of entrepreneurship. One particular part that I enjoyed were the Pitch summaries and Job Offers of companies attending that they handed out at the event. I hope that the speakers debunked a lot of misconceptions for the audience, and that some Reds found some Greens, and some Yellows jumped off the fence and into the startup world.