March 5 & 6: Paris

On Tuesday, our group took the EuroStar train from London to Paris. It is amazing how fast and efficient the train service is. It is so easy that 300,000 Parisians have moved to London to find work and start businesses as a result of the poor investment climate in Paris currently, a statistic one of the Economic Officers from the State Department at the US Embassy in Paris shared with us today. 

As we came into Paris’s northeast side, there was a clear distinction between London and Paris. France’s current economic struggles are clearly visible in Paris, with trash on the ground, shanty towns under bridges, some items in disrepair, etc. However, as we moved towards the Arc de Triumph in the center of the city, it began to look like the image of Paris that one expects.

Upon arrival, we took a walking tour to Montmartre, or Mount of Martyrs. This was a fantastic tour in which we visited the Basicalla of Sacre-Coeur (or Sacred Heart). THe area of Montmartre was home to the work of many artists, including: Van Gogh, Picasso, Dali, Monet, and many others. The village on a hill also provided a nice contrast to see “tourist” Paris and local Paris (albeit a wealthier neighborhood).  After dinner, a large group went and found the Eiffel Tower at night to view it be lit up at night.

Tuesday the 6th was a day of business visits. We started by meeting with Paris Pionneers, which is a business incubator for women owned businesses. This was a remendous visit. The passion and energy in the facility was felt. We met with one of the client tenants in incubation who shared her company with us. The Q&A was so interesting that we ran over and ended up late to lunch. 

We ate lunch at a nice, traditional french restaurant.

From there, we visited with Economic Officers of the US Embassy in Paris. Re-discovering the long history of the US-France relationship was good (i.e. Benjamin Franklin was part of a small group of ambassadors that went to King Louis at the Palace of Versailles to ask for money to help start the revolutionary war. Our working relationship was continued and expanded since. We also received an inside look at the French economy and the economic-political issues they face.

Our last appointment of the day was with a Chicago-based firm named Heidrick and Struggles. They are in the Executive Search business (as their primary business). They are one of the 5 largest in the world. It was fascinating to hear about their work and how they go about it. Their firm has placed individuals such as Eric Schmidt (CEO at Google), Lou Gerstner (former CEO of IBM), and Jeffrey Immelt (CEO at GE) to name a few. 

From there, groups divided – some walked around the city, some ate nice dinners, and one group headed to the Louvre. 

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