That’s where I live now. You may think about better places to start up a new company, but I see it as the fertile ground I chose for my next project. Read on to understand why.


Where is Nancy?

I suspect even many French readers ignore the exact location of the city of Nancy. All they know is that it’s far East, where the winters are long and the people are sad because the region used to be an industrial spot, but has long lost its attractiveness. What people usually know about Nancy is that it used to have a great football team in the 70s (that’s where Michel Platini comes from), that it was the spearhead of the Art Nouveau movement in France in the early 20th century, and that it’s where the madeleine and the quiche were born… well, a long time ago.

What many people ignore even in France, is that Nancy is a large urban area with more than 250 000 inhabitants, that it offers a beautiful midtown with buildings from the 18th century, that it’s a young city full of students, that the cultural life is vibrating, that people are much kinder than in Paris or Lyon, and that it’s only 90 minutes far from Paris by train.

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Why Would Anyone Choose A City Like Nancy To Build an IT Company?

Where would you establish your next company if you could make the decision? The first answer is probably: close to your customers. But no one is in better position than the IT crowd to do remote work. So even if your prospects are in Paris, Lyon, Luxembourg or Berne, as long as you can get there within a day, nothing prevents you from choosing the location I prefer.

To build an IT company, you must be able to attract IT workers. It turns out that the Eastern part of France is full of great universities, and that it produces thousands of Computer Science graduates each year. Nancy is the 5th French city in number of students.

The only problem is that many of those students go to work in Paris because they think that it’s where the interesting projects currently are. But they still have friends and family in the Far East, and they would love to come back there for work – especially if they have kids and can’t find a decent accommodation in the Paris area.

To create any company, you must avoid overcrowded areas in your field, unless you’re prepared to fight with stronger competitors. In the IT business, competitors fight for their employees rather than for customers. Choosing a city with less IT players than say Nantes, Lyon, Toulouse or Marseille is a key to a growing staff.

A smaller city reduces expenses, and allows for cheaper prices. These days, customers watch every Euro coming out of their budget, and working in a smaller city helps to stay competitive.

And lastly, in order to keep your employees happy, your company must be located in an attractive place, offering good accommodation at a reasonable cost, and lots of great opportunities to spend free time with friends and family.

Many places would satisfy all these requirements. If one wanted to create The Best IT Company, then Paris might be a good choice, although I’d recommend the Bay Area, Berlin, or Shanghai instead. But when you create a company that is not destined to rule the world, a company that will just allow a bunch of passionate people to make a living while doing what they love, well, any place is a good fit. Nancy is a good fit.

The only challenge is to get exciting projects to work on. I’m taking care of that.

Change For Good

Many of my (Paris) friends don’t believe that such a move is possible. Why would anyone abandon the cultural and social wealth of the French capital city to go to the 22nd French urban area?

France is very Paris-centric as far as IT is concerned. But it's not as if Nancy had never given birth to famous web companies (see Boursorama for instance). And lots of great businesses bloom in smaller French cities.

I chose Nancy because too many people around me are afraid to move, and are convinced that nothing is possible outside of what they know. I know that change means both risks and opportunities. I like both.

I chose Nancy because it offers all I need to create a great business with the opportunity to grow large.

I chose Nancy because I love the city and the region around it, and because I have friends there.

But the real reason why I chose Nancy is because I truly believe that the “center” is where you choose to pin the point of your compass. It could be anywhere. It’s just your decision.

Published on 03 Oct 2012 with tags not technical

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