Virginie Simon, based in San Francisco, elected best French business woman in California

With her UTC engineering diploma (majoring in Biotechnology) and a PhD from University Paris 6 (Pierre & Marie Curie) in genetics, Virginie Simon co-founded the company MyScienceWork in 2010. This digital platform – with offices in France and the Luxemburg initially – designed to share and analyse scientific and technological publications – opened a business sub-office in San Francisco as of 2014. Virginie was singled out by the Franco-American Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco and awarded a prize for her successful installation on the US West Coast. She answered some questions from Interactions:

Virginie Simon, based in San Francisco, elected best French business woman in California

Do you see this award as a major step in your business career ? This year, for the first time, a new category was created, exclusively for business-women, among the French American Business Awards. I was awarded the Golden Globe in this first edition. It is the sort of event that points, I feel, in the right direction. In the Silicon Valley, there are very few women holding managerial, executive positions, notably among the Net Giants. And the situation is even less favourable in France. However, let me just add that things are changing - various polls carried out by investment funds show that initiatives launched by mixed teams carry less financial risks.

What key evolutions has MyScienceWork undergone since it was created?

The contents of MyScienceWork have been extensively enriched with a free access offered to some 70M scientific papers in a wide variety of specialties, ranging from nanotechnologies to scientific software programming. Over the past few months we have also put 12M patent claims on line, from the EPO (European Patent Office) and from the US Patent and Trademark Office. In January 2017, we launched Sirius, a Big Data service offer. Thanks to the size and quality of our own data base, we can now propose studies to analyse on request the ‘state of publications’ in a given specialty area. Statistical tools and graphics also allow us to display numbers, authors, evolutionary trends and types of documents related to a given subject matter. Our product is especially well adapted to public institutions and private companies who wish to define their business/research strategy in a scientific industrial area. Currently, to illustrate this, we can note that a French engineering has entrusted us with a mission to study Blockchain

How did your installation in the USA go?

Well, before we decided to set up shop in California, we had a sort of 3 month immersion period in Silicon Valley. That allowed us to get a better insight into potential markets for our products and also to learn ‘hands-on’ another way to operate a business, viz., in California, Here the working hours and the places to work are very flexible. Americans are highly organized and talk straight. Meetings must be short, to the point and the allotted schedule must be complied with to the minute! In the Silicon Valley, it is not difficult at all to meet the top executives of the major companies but you feel sort of overwhelmed by their sheer size and the distances involved. Finally, we chose to locate ourselves in San Francisco which is a human-scaled city with an important financial centre. This is a setting conducive to start-ups and entrepreneurs registered from all round the world. For a certain time, my start up MyScienceWork was housed in an open-space office with15 other nationalities!

What advice would you give to French start-ups if they wanted to follow in your footsteps?

The decision to “set up shop “in the USA must be taken seriously. There are numerous administrative formalities (both in respect to the company and the founder(s) individually: driving license, work visa …). It takes several years before you are in order on all these questions. It is better to do a fund-raising operation before you go rather than attempt this in the US. At MyScienceWork, we have no remorse at all for accepting the challenge – the US has become our primary market, followed by China and France.