We had the great opportunity to talk to Thibaut Rouffineau for our 2nd French Digital Interview.

Company: WIP Connector

Role: VP Developer Partnerships


French Digital: where are you based? and why. Give us your elevator pitch.

Thibaut Rouffineau: I have been living in London for 13 years now as my wife doesn’t want to leave this city 😀 . I was previously working in France and in the US.

People describe me as “the smiley guy who knows mobile” . Until 2009, I was working for Symbian and for 3 years I worked  with them I have been telling people that they have to write applications for mobile phones, but they acted surprised about why they should do that , even people from Apple did. I’m now working as VP Developer Partnerships at Wip. We are a marketing agency building developer communities for some of the world’s top tech companies.

FD: What is the most interesting trend/ areas in digital at the moment?

TR: For a long time people were only talking about innovation on paper, now they are fighting for it. They want to make it happen. People are happy to start their own start-ups and spend 5 years of their time, earning very little, but it’s actually not a bad choice. Coming with that are the innovation and accelerator programmes – you can see them burgeoning everywhere… with various results. This is the bit I’m watching particularly carefully as people experiment with themes, models and processes.

FD: What is the biggest challenge you are currently facing in digital?

TR: One of the biggest challenges is to understand what will happen next and when, the 3rd phase of the operating system (a lot more web-centric) will become a reality. You had Symbian, IPhones and androids and now there are tens of people knocking at the door to come next with interesting approaches mainly based on web technologies. Many people don’t understand that a lot of these things have nothing to do with how the UI looks like but more about what is going on in the background. Typically how to make a new phone design , make it cheap and be first to market at certain price point or with certain features. One of the reasons for the success of android is because they made an operating systems that’s easy and relatively cheap to stick on standard mobile phone chipset, the rest just follows.

The other big challenge is how will startups be dealing with the “mobile first” paradigm. Building a UI  / UX with mobile first that’s easy, thinking of your service & product in a mobile first fashion that’s much harder. Many people understand app thing, building a company around mobile solutions is more complex. It might be that people understand that it has to be mobile first but web still has a huge part to play… I see a lot of companies starting mobile and finishing just web. The trick is probably to spend a lot of time working on backend services and put the smarts there, it will make pivoting much easier.

FD: As part of your role what other cities are you involved in? What do you do in these other cities?

TR: My company is based in Vancouver, I cover most of Europe mainly Germany, France, Spain, Russia, etc.

I’m mentoring start-ups in all these countries with Techstars, Wayra, Mobicap, Yandex, but also consulting for big technologies companies and organizing some of the events we’re known for. Not environmently friendly but you can’t be part of a community without having a face to face relationship, that’s why I have to travel a lot.

FD: What is the most notable difference from your perspective between working with/in the UK and France

TR: You feel in France that all companies are making ad boosting and you come to London  and you realize that the only companies which are making ad boosting are French. It seems to be a French “mafia”. I’m organizing the biggest Android event in Europe (Droidcon Paris, 17th and 18th of June, more info there) developers meet and exchange. I haven’t done business since a long time in France and it seems to be a lot different. For example, the problem we were facing is that people were saying that tickets weren’t expensive enough to be considered as a training expense by corporate companies. Is it a really good idea for doing things? If people think differently in the first place, give less money to let their employees getting trained, that’s one of the things I don’t understand in France.

FD: Any digital startups/ apps you are particularly interested in at the moment?

TR: The one I have mentored or the one I have invested in. Schmooze, domothings, Apptual (AppStore for Innovation), We are Popup, Flitto…

FD: Any left field source of information?

TR: Every morning I read news about mobile in Africa, they do different things than we do here. M-commerce, M-Payment, M-Health all seem reality rather than far fetched administrative nightmares. The margins are higher there. I’m reading the news feed from Biztech Africa.

FD: Your next city /next country if any?

TR: I would love to spend most of my time in Berlin, summer in Istanbul.

FD: Preferred restaurant/bar in the place you are based in?

TR: Vinoteca in St John Street, modern Mediterranean restaurant, great food and cheap wine :-).

FD: Who should be the next person we interview?

TR: Romain Guy, Senior Developer at Google.


Author: Wyem Dardouri