Building in Bordeaux

I spent about two years having my belongings in a bag, moving from places to places, never unpacking it fully.
I took some time to notice what other people were doing (building companies, projects, etc.) and realized that the somewhat nomad lifestyle I had was in the way of achieving the same thing. To build stuffs, one needs to build the relationships, to build the trust, to build the friendships, to become part of a community or several; to take a place in a social graph. Building, I believe, is a collective process.

I guess the way the building started was when Liam Boogar and I were working in a café and were annoyed that it wasn’t really appropriate for work, yet the best thing. In a way, through our discussions, we sort of re-invented the idea of a co-working space. We tweeted about our thoughts and got contacted by Alexis Monville and he told us about the story of coworking in Bordeaux. That at some point, there were 2 associations, “Bordeaux Coworking” and “Coworking Bordeaux”… Just from the names, you can imagine the rest. They attempted to merge, but humans happened and all positive energy on the topic went away for some time.
Alexis also told us about this other association called Aquinum (digital professionals, about 200 people). He also told us that the City of Bordeaux was planning on opening a coworking space and called for proposals from companies/associations and Aquinum was planning on sending a proposal. We got in touch with them. Liam moved to Paris, but I kept in touch with Aquinum. I sent the proposal with them, we won, I also became a member. That’s how Le Node started (but opened about a year later for various technical reasons). Benjamin Rosoor, Aquinum President back then tried to get the no.de domain for Le Node, but soon enough found out it was already taken🙂 bxno.de will be the domain in the end.

Wait no. It also started at the second barcamp in Bordeaux, where I got to meet a good number of people. I remember the event and the people quite clearly. One person I met was a man slightly older than me, somewhat long blonde hair. We talked for a moment, among other things, I told him I was just starting a PhD. Later, when he was about to leave the event, he handed me his card and told me that if I was looking for work, I should contact him. He then remembered about the PhD and added something like “…after your PhD… in three years”. Something weird and long-forward looking in proposing work three years in advance, but so is Thomas Parisot.

The irony will want that I left the PhD in late October and he posted a job offer in December. I answered, he and the other founders interviewed me, and I joined Dijiwan. It was a promising startup. It raised half a million to begin with which is quite unusual in Bordeaux. I got to meet and work with Amar Lakel, Guillaume Marty and Nicolas Chambrier (who was a remotee from Lyon). When it came to building a product, to write code, we felt invincible. We were a team.

In parallel, at one Happynum (Aquinum gatherings), I got to meet Suzanne Galy with whom I became friend. Among many of her talents, she’s a journalist. We’ve had good discussion about education, education to code/data (a topic dear to my heart).
One day, she told me that with the school of journalism in Bordeaux, she had started the Data Journalisme Lab, a project with student journalists which aimed at making production involving visualization of open data. I volunteered to be a developer in two projects.
Not-so-secretly, the production were a mere excuse to have journalist get in touch with a different culture (design and code). They learned. I did too interacting with them; probably more.

Dijiwan crashed in bad circumstances. Money ran out, the CEO hid the situation from everyone even the other co-founders until I discovered it via a rejected check… and all the terrible decisions that comes from someone who can’t admit to himself he’s wrong, but with all the employees we sticked together; it certainly participated in making us closer.
Le Node opened at that time. People talk in the Aquinum/Le Node community. People knew what was happening at Dijiwan. I remember the solidarity and support. They couldn’t act, but were supportive. We never really heard back from the CEO. I think he understood in a way that what he had done was not acceptable by this community and I think he intuitively kicked himself out of this community and probably Bordeaux as well. Indirectly, I see a community being able to organically kick out those with unethical behaviors. Maybe I’m over-interpreting. Maybe not.

Back from an event, Thomas decided to start the BordeauxJS. A monthly meetup at Le Node dedicated to discussing JavaScript, Front-end stuffs, Node.js and web technologies in general. After the Dijiwan debacle, he left for London to work at the BBC and handed off the BordeauxJS organization to me. It’s some work to organize, find speakers, communicate about the event, but it’s always an enjoyable moment (damned! Need to find a speaker for December and January!!).

Education to technology dear to my heart… When I came back to Bordeaux, I tried to submit a project to the City of Bordeaux where I’d go to schools educating kids on computers. I expected that the project would be judged out of the idea and they would open the doors of schools for me. The first question I was asked was whether I had a school director already following me… Didn’t happen.
Fast forward to the first Le Node anniversary, I organized a Coding Goûter; an event where kids and parents come learn the basics of programming. Following this event, I and Aquinum, got contacted by City of Bordeaux Representative to see if we could work together to teach programming to kids in school… It won’t happen this time because time was too short to prepare anything serious, but we’ve got the contacts, know the people, the intentions. Next time, most certainly!
But something more important happened at the first Coding Goûter. Hélène Desliens‘ daughter kept programming afterwards. We had offered t-shirts (very good call Chloe!) after the event and she’s wearing it proudly at school. I’ve been told by her parents that she had found something she loved doing, a means of expression, something her sister doesn’t do; her own activity. They told me her self-confidence had grown… Shit… Something I did can have this sort of impact on people?

And many other events, many other people.

There has been a second Coding Goûter, there will be others. I hope we’ll eventually work the the City too. It didn’t work out when I was on my own because I was on my own, part of nothing; a nobody. A graph with one node. Being part of Aquinum, Le Node, making the first Coding Goûter happen were all part of creating circumstances that made the same idea suddenly becoming something that has to happen. An idea is never good for itself. It’s good only if it matches the right circumstances.
There will be other events, other projects like the Data Journalisme Lab. There will be other people or other circumstances with the same people. Maybe other people inspired. And I can be part of it only because of the inertia created from being here, from staying, from building. From building trust, relationships, friendships, successes, also from other failures like Dijiwan.

I could start over somewhere else, but I’d have to throw away all the inertia, the ability to organize a Coding Goûter in a fingersnap. I could start over somewhere else, but I’d have to give up what I’ve stayed for to build.
I’m not afraid of not being able to do it all over again somewhere else. I just don’t want to. I want to keep building on the existing foundations, see how far things go.

Not-so-coincidentally written listening to these songs

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