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Hubert Haddad Northwestern University Crowe 2-130, Crowe Hall 633 Clark Street Evanston, IL 60208
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School of Life by Nicolas Vanier The Avalon Theatre 5612 Connecticut Avenue NW Washington, DC 20015
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Gérôme Truc Harvard University, Room 110, Barker Center, Boston, MA

Highlights From the 2nd Annual French-American Digital Lab


From October 17th to 26th, 2016, New York welcomed the second edition of the French-American Digital Lab, an exchange program for startups from the cultural and creative industries, co-produced by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy and Business France. During this 10-day program, participants enjoyed a full experience filled with individual meetings, creative sessions, networking events, and site visits to New York’s cutting edge tech institutions. They emerged with a deeper understanding of the American market and valuable insight into adapting their products for a foreign audience. Here is a quick photo report of the highlights of this intense and amazing experience!

The Faces of the 2016 Edition of the Digital Lab NYC
Discover the 6 entrepreneurs selected by a jury of 10 professionals who made the trip to NY, from left to right, top to bottom:

Arnaud Dressen from Wonda VR- Wonda VR enables users to create and publish interactive videos for virtual reality masks.

Lionel Guillaume and Yoann Chasme (bottom row) from 44screens- 44screens creates singular interactive visiting experiences combining augmented reality, virtual reality, and games for cultural and historic sites.

Pauline Guesné from INDUO®- INDUO® develops high performance fabrics for fashion.

Pierrick Chabi from Wakatoon- Wakatoon creates coloring book pages which, with a single photo, can be turned into personalized cartoons.

Stéphanie Plasse from Augmented Acoustics- Augmented Acoustics has developed a unique technical solution that enables live concert viewers to have an unprecedented, immersive sound experience, customizable and flexible according to their tastes and listening profile.

Hélène Fromen from Wellcut- Wellcut allows brands, the media, and fans to share their favorite video moments instantly.

Our program partner, the Made in NY Media Center by IFP, was also home to the startups during the program. Sabrina Dridje and Annie Laurie Malarkey hosted most of the sessions in the Media Center DUMBO location, where we welcomed the participants on Monday October 17th with Coperaco coffee and croissants– the French way! Our entrepreneurs were honored to receive opening remarks from Sree Sreenivasan– Chief Digital Officer for New York City– on his very first day in office! He captured the special occasion with a selfie (see picture above). This first day was full of inspiration from Alban Denoyel as the closing speaker, who spoke about how his startup Sketchfab scaled in the US. During the course of the program, the participants attended various classes including “Doing Business in the US” with Business France and legal, accounting, and human resources experts from Union Square Capital Advisors, CDAS and Bastille Agency. Another class entitled “Crafting Your Story for the US Market and Pitching to the Press” featured the dynamic Terri Trespicio, and “A Venture Investment Overview” featured Cecily Mak from Flipboard. We wrapped up the program in the company of Amir Beshay, who explained how the Economic Development Agency of NYC (NYCEDC) supports the startup economy.

The program began even before the six French startups set foot on the US soil with a pre-incubation at the Orange Fab Lab who exceptionally offered their accelerator program to the Digital Lab participants.

The Digital Lab is also a hands-on program where the startups can work on their projects during practical workshops. They practiced their elevator pitch in English from day one, receiving valuable feedback from top professionals Noah Harlan (Two Bulls) and Noah Rosenberg (Narratively). The second day took place at the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator, a Pratt Institute Initiative, our other program partner, for a full day dedicated to Design Thinking. During this session run by Deborah Alden (BF+DA) and Stephan Clambaneva (DESIGN Studio by Dassault Systemes), the participants worked on prototyping, brainstorming, and interviews with potential customers. The Strategy Hack workshop led by Josh Ness was another key moment of the program, as the entrepreneurs crafted their marketing plan for the US customer base with the help of two to three leading marketing strategists in NYC chosen for each startup.

The Digital Lab was a great opportunity for the startups to meet with professionals in their field and benefit from their knowledge, experience, and advice. Stéphanie (Augmented Acoustics) met with Eric Shans, electronic music producer, and DJ. Pierrick met with Nick Fortugno (leading game designer, narrative, and story expert, co-founder of Playmatics) to test Wakatoon. Lionel and Yoann (44screens) gained a better understanding of how museums operate in NYC thanks to Elyse Mallouk from the Whitney Museum, while Helene (Wellcut) learned about media with Johann Rodriguez from Hearst. Mike Woods (White Rabbit VR) explored the numerous opportunities of Wonda VR with Arnaud and Guillaume, and Pauline (INDUO) exchanged ideas with the independent designer Althea Simons.

Another mentoring session was organized later in the week with 20-minute one-on-one discussions with five mentors focused on business development: Clara Buchanan (Hypergrow), Jess Kwan (Archer Gray), Chris Pfaff (Producers Guild of America), Andy Saldana (NY Tech Alliance), and Warren Wilson (YARDSTK).

Part of the program brings the startups to the headquarters of leading tech or innovative companies for off-site sessions, allowing them to feel the spirit of the NYC startup community. A rainy Friday led them to the impressive Kickstarter offices in Greenpoint. There, they learned the components of a successful crowdfunding campaign, and how to use a campaign as a tool for visibility and market research. The event was led by John Dimatos, leader of Design and Technology, on his last day in office.  Wrapping up the week, the group headed to the New Lab to meet with Simon Ellison and Berk Ilhan who gave a presentation on their work at 10xBeta. Following the presentation, participants each received a set of their Spuni ergonomic spoons. The conversation continued late into the night at the Rooftop Reds.

The French entrepreneurs kicked off the second week with a visit to Samsung Accelerator. There, Heidi Braunstein and Nick Nigam introduced them to one of the leading accelerators supporting startups related to emerging needs in the VR, IoT, payments, and consumer businesses for mobile, wearables, and TV development. The team also discovered Pentagram, one of the world’s leading multi-discipline design agencies, with a presentation by partner Natasha Jen.

Individual Meetings
A significant amount of time of the program was dedicated to individual meetings to foster business partnership between the French startups and major US institutions and companies including museums, concert venues, broadcasters, media, universities, fashion brands.

Various networking events took place throughout the program and served as opportunities for the French startups to meet with the local ecosystem. After an intensive first day, the Welcome Drink allowed them to relax in the Made in NY Media Center by IFP with BF+DA startups. They pitched in front of their peers at French Founders, and had the opportunity to learn from the experience of other French entrepreneurs who already made their way to the US. The Digital Lab finished on a high note with a Demo Night at General Assembly that gave the startups the opportunity to pitch before an assembly gathering American and French officials, and professionals of the tech and cultural sectors, VC, and media. They finished by enjoying glasses of Laurent Miquel wine, and continuing their conversations.

The French-American Digital Lab in the Media
The innovative products and services offered by the participants caught the attention of the press, and several interviews took place before, during, and after the program. Over the summer, Thomas Michelon, Deputy Counselor of the Cultural Services, was invited to BFMTV in New York to introduce the second edition of the French-American Digital Lab. The French news channel also conducted live interviews of Helen Fromen (CEO of Wellcut), Pauline Guesné (Co-founder of INDUO), and Yoann Chasme (Product manager of 44screens), and France 24 followed Pierrick Chabi (CEO of Wakatoon).

Press coverage also included the Huffington Post and L’Usine Digitale.

The team documented their adventures on Twitter and Instagram via #DigitaLab, and on Facebook on the page of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.

What’s Next?
We hope to soon welcome the six participants of this second edition back to NYC, as the aim of the program is to help them build strong business partnerships, and ultimately expand to the US.

We are also excited to announce the first Parisian edition of the French-American Digital Lab which will take place on December 12th-17th, 2016. This six-day intensive program of workshops, conferences, one-on-one meetings, and networking events is targeted to American entrepreneurs of the cultural and creative industries looking to expand in Europe.

The call for application is open until November 15th. Products or services may be in the domain of museums and cultural sites, visual arts, performing arts, audiovisual and cinema, music, fashion and design, video games, or publishing, among many other areas. They should combine cultural content with digital media (though they may not be primarily tech-based).

If you have any question about the program or you would like to know how to become a partner, a speaker, or a participant, please contact: digital-lab@frenchculture.org