Going Startup in Strasbourg

This is a guest post by Liam Boogar, a Californian-native writing in English about the French Startup scene on RudeBaguette.com

This past weekend I was invited to be a juror for Startup Weekend Strasbourg, one of many Startup Weekend events going on this weekend during Global Entrepreneurship Week 2011. Having never heard of anything startup-related in Strasbourg, I expected to see your standard “1st edition” of StartupWeekend: 50-70 participants, a lack of developers, and a relative ‘youth’ (read: mediocrity) in the ideas – boy was I in for a surprise.

The attendees broke 130 people before organizers finally turned down participants, and at the end of the first night counted 18 projects. I talked with Yann Klis, one of the organizers, about how he got such so many people from so many backgrounds together: “well, after I turned down an offer from Square to bring my entire company to San Francisco, I realized I needed to kickstart this startup scene in Strasbourg, so I got to work calling everyone in my address book.”

One of the weekends initial sponsors was SEMIA, a local incubator run by pharmaceutical entrepreneur Jean-Luc Dimarcq. The incubator is well dug in to the Pharmaceutical network, having helped get dozens of startups funded over the past three years. SEMIA reached out to the pharmaceutical students in its network, and encouraged them to bring whatever ideas they had to startup weekend. One of those ideas was Alzapp , which wants to improve treatment for Alzheimer’s patients. Backed by a team of 4 pharmaceutical students, a few developers, and some “Biz Guys,” Alzapp wants to build an iPad app which will both test the state of the patient, as well as aid in preventing Alzheimer’s from getting worse. While Alzapp is aware that Alzheimer’s cannot be prevented with an iPad app, they recognized that current care is neglectful, and that a little disruption might just be what Alzheimer’s patients need.

when TSA stood on stage and said they wanted to disrupt how ambulances communicate, there was a bit of doubt in the audience (and the jury) – that is, until he changed slides and showed what the current interface for ambulances is. Rambling off statistics on the number of different ambulance firms in France alone, as well as the inefficiency of the current system, TSA ergonomic alpha product that they created in just 54 hours, allowing dispatchers to quickly determine which ambulances were best fit for a job given the location of an incident and of the surrounding ambulances. With years in the industry to back up their claim, TSA is definitely a company to watch in the coming months. They’ve been awarded 3 months of incubation at SEMIA, and already hold a letter of intent from a local ambulance company in Strasbourg.

At a time when European cities need to identify their strengths in order to attract European startups to them (and away from the US), Strasbourg has certainly made its claim: for Biotech companies thinking of going to Boston to launch their product, there might just be another way.