Successful First NY Session of French-American Digital Lab Concludes

December 8, 2015 | By French Culture

After 10 stimulating days packed with 11 creative sessions, 6 site visits to American cultural tech institutions, 51 individual meetings, and countless networking opportunities, the first session of the French-American Digital Lab // Connecting Cultures concluded on Tuesday, November 24, 2015. Jean-Jacques Lottermoser, President of the participating startup Monument Tracker, stated of his experience “This program should be a requirement for all startups looking to launch in the U.S.”

What is the French-American Digital Lab?

Established by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and co-produced with Business France, the Digital Lab is a creative and an economic development program for startups and content creators of the cultural sector. The program aims to enable innovators to adapt their products to the French and American markets, while discovering new ecosystems and developing partnerships with local members of the culture industry. Sessions will take place alternately in New York and Paris. 

The first New York session kicked off at Made in NY Media Center by IFP in Brooklyn. Participants heard opening remarks from writer, director, and experience designer Lance Weiler on the Future of Digital Storytelling, in accordance with the first session’s theme, Narration. Over the course of the ten days, the participating startups attended talks given by important cultural innovators and visited world-renowned leaders in the cultural and tech industries including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Inc., and YouTube. 

Creative Sessions with Top Cultural Entrepreneurs

Participants listened to a talk by Martin Rogard, Chief Operating Officer of Dailymotion, who accompanied Dailymotion’s integration into the American YouTube-dominated market. Rogard shed light on the cultural and logistical differences between French and American businesses structures and advised participants that “in France, companies call a lawyer when there’s a problem. But here, the first thing to do is to find a lawyer to anticipate problems.”

Top-notch cultural innovators Allen Bargfrede, founder and executive Director of Rethink Music and professor of music business at Berklee College of Music, and Cecily Mak, General Counsel and Head of Corporate Operations at Flipboard, also led a workshop. They helped participants discover and apply cutting-edge methods of morphing a cultural tech product into a global and culturally fluent tool for the future through investment, IP, accounting, legal, PR, and content strategies. Florence Tison of Business France, which co-produced the French-American Digital Lab, also shared insights in a much-appreciated session on doing business in the US. 

Design Thinking and Strategy Hack for the U.S. Market

Digital Lab mentors led workshops on design thinking and business strategy which helped participants develop a marketing strategy for U.S. expansion and understand the U.S. consumer. The design thinking workshop, led by the brand strategy and product design firm Aruliden, helped participants to think critically about their products and target them to the needs of a foreign client. The strategy hack session brought together 30 branding strategists from various companies to coach start-ups on rethinking their marketing strategies for the American ecosystem. Two strategists from Digital Lab partner Havas Media, Stacey Fuller, Co-Lead at Cake USA and SVP Head of Content Havas Media, and Thomas Minc, Director of Integrated Strategy at Havas Media, lent their lumières during the stimulating session.

The telecom company Orange, also a Digital Lab partner, enriched the experience by inviting Digital Lab participants to join workshops hosted by their Orange Fab France accelerator in Paris for a month before the New York session began.

Top Notch Site Visits (YouTube, New Inc., Kickstarter, and more)

Participants also benefitted from visits to six leading institutions in both the tech and cultural industries including YouTube, Hearst Corporation, Kickstarter, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Inc.(where they learned about how U.S. cultural institutions are leveraging technology to enhance their businesses), and NYCEDC, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which supports international businesses launching in the US.

Extremely Positive Feedback on the First Session

The response to the first session was extremely positive. Said a participant from the start up Update Marilyn, “We are leaving this program with a new vision, enthusiasm, and energy.” A member of the Booxup team continued, “the French-American Digital Lab is a great opportunity to position one’s product in the American market and to thoroughly understand U.S. business culture.” Coline Debayle of Artips added, “This program acted as a true accelerator for launching Artips internationally.”

Poised for Transatlantic Success

All participants agreed that during the fruitful ten days, the foundation for a successful launch and the beginnings of a network of strong partnerships were formed. One hundred percent of participating startups confirmed that they plan to return to the U.S. to launch their businesses between three months and 3 years of the program’s conclusion. Startups look forward to a formal check-in with Business France in six months to evaluate progress and establish next steps for an international launch. 

10 Startups from All Corners of Culture

The ten selected start-ups that participated in the session were chosen on September 10, 2015 based on the quality of their concept, team, and business model; innovativeness; potential for international growth; and pertinence with regard to the first session’s theme. The group of participants—16 in total—represent a diverse sampling of France’s most promising and innovative cultural ideas today. Their products span the spheres of art, books, theater, music, geography, history, and more.

· Actialuna is the developer of the first online comic book store, Sequencity, that provides readers with book ratings and instant messaging with expert booksellers. 

· Artips provides a free, daily dose of art by sending email subscribers a quirky and memorable anecdote about a piece of art that they can read in just over one minute.

· Booxup is a mobile application that provides a platform for sharing printed books.

· Interactive 4D and Transmedia Ready design educational games, transmedia experiences and creative services for cultural organizations, based on an interactive methodology and an innovative gaming platform.

· Keakr is an application that records and uploads musical content to online platforms to facilitate users’ interaction and competition (rap battles) with other musicians.

· Active in 60 cities, the Monument Tracker mobile app reveals the history of monuments in the user’s vicinity and offers themed walks, quizzes, treasure hunts, and accounts that let you save and prepare itineraries.

· SISSO develops virtual tours based on 360° photography panoramas and 3D modeling. This innovative digital medium helps our clients bring their audiences an immersive and lively experience.

· Sonic Solveig invents interactive music that communicates with creative listeners through a first high-level collection of digital musical applications.

· Theatre in Paris uses wirelessly connected eyeglasses to provide multilingual supertitles for cultural events.

· Update Marilyn is a transmedia project that aims to enhance our understanding of Marilyn Monroe. The platform encompasses a play, a travelling installation, a website, and two webdocs. It provides a reinterpretation of « Marilyn’s myth » for the contemporary world.

Read more about the first session of the new French-American Digital Lab on Maddyness, L’Usine Digitale, and Livres Hebdo or watch videos featuring session participants and organizers here.

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