Thanks to a complicated series of events and (possibly) mistaken identity, I found myself in Paris this week for three days. A large global bank were under the false impression that I could help fix their doomed business models and funded the entire trip.

I went to Viva Technology — which has usurped the now defunct “Le Web” conference as the biggest in France.

I did a ton of cool stuff, including;

It struck me that France has a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to tech and startups. They think France is lagging behind (compared to London, Berlin, etc), but I saw a really vibrant tech scene on display — full of ideas and energy. They need to believe in themselves more.

However, by far the most interesting stuff happened away from the tech and with the real people I met.

Yes this is about the UK and the EU.

I made a lot of new friends and without exception the French were keen to talk about le Brexit. They were always good-natured, but every conversation was couched in a mood that can summed up as:

“Oh wow, you Brits have really f**ked it up this time”

They tried to console me, but there was an almost-overwhelming sense of sadness in all our conversations — from both sides — and a kind of disbelief that this was actually happening. “Why do you want to leave us?”, they said.

“Well, you are welcome in Paris any time!” — A nice French business man

The stereotypes about French (and particularly Parisian) rudeness are utter bullshit — everyone was really nice, kind and friendly — certainly more so than any tech event I’ve been to in London.

So, à bientôt Paris.

Let’s hope I don’t need a visa to get in next time.