Posts Tagged ‘USA’
This article is one of a series, “Sixty Entrepreneurs Who Are Developing the Region,” published in the Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace (DNA) on April 3, 2012 and written by Antoine Latham. Alsace is a small but significant region that sits on the eastern border of France.
Born in Strasbourg and deeply attached to his region, Jean Georges Perrin is the founder of digital start-up, GreenIvory, a bicontinental tech company with locations in France and in the United States. Perrin’s dedication to the technological community has been recognized for the fourth year in a row through his designation as “IBM Champion,” a developer or IT professional who has taken a leadership role in technology and has made significant contributions to the tech community. Jean Georges is proud to be recognized by IBM as one of the few French Champions.
Perrin manages his company from his Haguenau home, but our meeting took place in an office of the Reichstett telecentre, a local technology center, where the GreenIvory team holds its weekly meetings.
In the courtyard of the former company headquarter, Uhl Bonaventure Informatique, where storks have built their nest atop a lamppost, GreenIvory’s boss looks content. “We all meet here once a week. The rest of the time, GreenIvory employees are traveling or working from home.” With a decor reminiscent of the 1970′s and a cafeteria improvised around a massive carpenter’s bench with a venerable throne time clock in the lobby, Jean Georges describes the origin of his company’s unique name.
GreenIvory is a combined metaphor of two ambitions cherished by the entrepreneur: continuous growth, (like the tusks of elephants throughout their lives), and sustainable development, (less paper, less travel, less waste).
Ecologically virtuous perhaps, but with only 10 employees in France and one in North Carolina (United States) and with 230,000 euros (about $300,000) in revenue, GreenIvory is still not the size of an elephant. “We are small now, but that will change. I feel a clear acceleration of our business. We had to rearrange the box [Fr. slang: company]; everybody plays the game. We originally had a very technical company profile, not commercial enough. Without being pretentious, I don’t think there are many “boxes” like ours in Alsace, that invest so much in research and development. We have had setbacks but we are still here because of our clients… We will always have the mindset of a start-up,” said the leader, who wants to grow, but who categorically opposes the suggestion of going public: “To lead a business to success and sell it is tempting, but I don’t want to sacrifice the company. There are talents—people of great talent—in GreenIvory, and these skills must remain in Alsace.”
Born in Strasbourg on October 5th, 1971 , Jean Georges Perrin spent his childhood in northern Alsace and moved with his family (to follow his father’s career in an American multinational company), to Morocco, the Netherlands, and Finland before returning to Strasbourg, Alsace to attend the Couffignal High School and later earning a master’s degree in advanced computer science. The father of two boys, for whom he protects his weekends and projects, Jean Georges chose to anchor his family in Alsace.
Perrin has a history of interest in innovation. “In 1995, I participated in the creation of Pandemonium, (a leading provider of Internet access in the country), which was sold in 2000 and was affected by the bursting of the dot com bubble. Some know-how remained.” This ‘know-how’ led him to his next post at software company, Four J’s Development Tools, in Schiltigheim. Four J’s promotes tools that allow developers to be innovative and efficient resulting in faster turnaround time and a less-expensive bottom line. Jean Georges notes nostalgically, “It was with this company that I took my first trip around the globe.”
In 2002, Perrin created Awoma, a company dedicated to developing solutions (Note: development tools) in Java: “A good idea, but one that has not yet found its market…,” says Jean Georges Perrin soberly. Following Awoma are what he calls, with a touch of self-mockery, “the wilderness years.” It was in 2006 that his experience and ideas were emulsifying, leading to the birth of GreenIvory in September 2007.
“I had observed how companies that create their website spend a large sum to create it and then tend to forget it completely. They forget that the site needs to be nurtured to create traffic. “To boost its clients’ sites, Jean Georges Perrin offers an application, MashupXFeed, that has a watch on the internet and automatically “pushes” content that may be of interest to the customers’ site. VoiceObserver is especially dedicated to the automatic watch on the company’s online reputation (Note: brand management). GreenIvory serves a ranges of customers including a distributor of agricultural equipment, a private company in northern Alsace, a program of access to public markets dependent agency of the regional council.
“Going forward, GreenIvory will focus on the creation of customized tools. We will build tailor-made tools for specific outlets. We have great research and development projects and many ideas in our boxes,” says Jean Georges Perrin. He adds: “I like projects that simplify people’s lives.” He hopes to offer new solutions for intelligence in intellectual property and counterfeiting.
His company has been awarded the Young Innovative Company status (Note: Jeune Entreprise Innovante, or JEI, in French) of the French authorities. “We are one of the only companies authorized by the Ministry of Research to do private research in Alsace. We just received our accreditation from 2011 to 2013. In other words, the French government considers us a private lab. This is an advantage for our customers, who can deduct the expenses through their research tax credit (Note: Crédit d’Impot Recherche, or CIR, in French).”
The first in France to receive the title “IBM Champion,” a recognition renewed this year, Jean Georges is feeling pretty proud. The Alsacian company has recently been recognized by IBM. “Big Blue” recently posted a tribute to its Franco-American partner, for its use of IBM database technology. This honor is awarded to the best brand ambassadors. There are 200 in the world and only a handful in France.”
Perrin chose Durham, North Carolina, not far from a major IBM lab, for GreenIvory’s American location. A familiar U.S. visitor (traveling to the states four or five times each year), Jean Georges Perrin knows the country quite well. “Overall, I have already spent more than a year in the United States. This is a great country for skill development. The conferences are exciting and very professional.”
Perrin continues to bring his mission home. “Improving people’s lives is more than a program— it is a vocation and a vision… ” Jean Georges said with verve in Mulhouse, Alsace in his 2010 TEDxAlsace presentation. (Note: first TEDxAlsace in Mulhouse). As a child, Jean Georges Perrin wanted to invent robots: “For years I wondered why. I came to the conclusion that I wanted to improve the lives of my neighbor. I wanted to make working more enjoyable, less stultifying.” Many years later, the man realizes part of the dream of the child by developing tools that make life easier, and Jean Georges Perrin remains convinced that “the tool-improvement curve never stops.” A nice message of hope, no?
The entrepreneur is outspoken, not hesitating to put regional politicians in front of what he considers to be their responsibility. He had, in particular, posted a “rant” in this column, suggesting a wait-and-see attitude, even indifference, of Alsacian politicians toward digital industries. He views this industry, obviously, as a key to the future of Alsace.
“This made an impact, but more must follow.” He had a face-to-face explanation from Francois Loos (former national Secretary of State for Industry) on these topics. Loos is aware of the problems. Says Jean Georges of his meeting, “Politicians have understood, I think, the need to do something. Knowing what to do is less clear”.
- Press article in the Dernières Nouvelles d’Alsace (DNA) on April 3rd 2012 (French). Download of the article on the Adira’s web site, or direct download.
- GreenIvory – Fast performance and scalability deliver seven million web pages a day (on IBM.com, English).
This was fun… Snow everywhere, domination of white over anything (first degree only please). We finally managed to get to the IBM Palisades conference center. The last mile was pretty long.
Located just 12 miles from the George Washington Bridge, 20 minutes from Westchester County and within 30 miles of five airports: Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark, Teterboro and Westchester, the IBM Palisades provides an exceptional backdrop for meetings.
At least, here, you are not tempted by Poker tables, slot machines… I just wished I had more time to go in the surrounding forest. Wonderful landscape under the snow.
It’s not a big secret, GreenIvory would like to extend its operations in the US and extend what we already have in Durham, NC. This is why I am in Boston, MA. this week. I am pretty sure that there are a few Bostonians who want to double the efficiency of their web sites, nope?
Nevertheless, after my meeting, I went to visit two co-working places.
At GreenIvory, we do a lot of telecommuting and we think that co-working spots are a huge benefit in the way we work. We already have some experience with such spaces, thanks the vision of a good friend in Strasbourg.
It made sense to see whether this model could be adapted to GreenIvory on its US operations.
CIC started 10 years ago and it is ideally located on the 14th floor, dominating MIT, the Charles River… Very inspiring. They have different model, starting by co-working spaces, which can turn into nice and flexible offices when the start-up matures. Lovely. A very nice lady showed us the place and drove us around. Prices start at $250/month.
WorkBar is a little more fun. It’s almost downtown Boston, within walking distance from the Federal Building and in front of the bus station. It’s kind of a mix between Regus and a start-up. Evona showed us the place and it was very pleasant, I just wanted to sit, pull-out my Mac and start working. WorkBar has several places where you can isolate yourself if you want. Prices start at $20/day.
A few conclusions from this Bostonian tour…
For us, the consumer, GreenIvory… If I had to start GreenIvory again in Boston, I’ll go to CIC. Wow… this place is incredible in terms of location. Now, as I need some space from time to time, WorkBar is more flexible for people like us… Of course, both are not incompatible as I hope our business to grow here. Definitively such places will help us.
For the other project of doing such an open-co-working space in Strasbourg, I am really surprised by the lack of benchmark from the projects I have seen on my “native” side of the pound. Co-working spaces are small, CIC is about 50 to 60 sq meter (but CIC has a lot more room for non co-working space), can hold 40 people max, WorkBar is bigger, roughly 120 sq meter…
Both CIC and WorkBar are private companies. I don’t see how / why they would be subsidized by the local gov’t. Hey, we are in the US, baby!
I urge my friends in Strasbourg to rethink their model. Boston and the metro area combine 4.5m people, this is about 2.5 times the size of Alsace…