More than half of Montreal startups with artificial intelligence and disruptive technology and 42% of those working with software as a service offer unilingual English websites, according to data compiled by The duty. A search that reflects reality on the ground, people in the field say.
The duty visited nearly 250 active sites from the lists of companies listed on the Startup Radar of the organization Bonjour Startup Montréal. The platform, which went online last summer, is information-centric on companies. Note: some of these may have already been retrieved and others may not yet appear on the list.
Result: the majority (52%) of these companies use artificial intelligence and disruptive technologies (deep technology) offers unilingual English sites. For their part, the home pages of bilingual sites in these sectors (46%) are equally divided between English and French.
Although less pronounced, the observed trend is similar in the software as a service (SaaS) sector. The share of unilingual English -speaking sites at this time represents 42% of the sites listed on the Startup Radar platform, while that of bilingual sites represents 52%. Regarding bilingual sites, 55% offer English on their home page.
None of the stakeholders interviewed by The duty was surprised at the results. These figures correspond to reality observed on the ground. “In fact, the percentages may be higher and I’m not surprised,” said Liette Lamonde, CEO of Bonjour Startup Montréal.
Also the Executive Director of Montréal Inc., an organization that supports young businesses in their development, Ms.ako Lamonde recounted an anecdote two years ago: “For a scholarly program we have, about 50% of applications are filled out in English, while half of the leaders who apply do not speak English. . The language question is “hypersensitive” and represents a real challenge, he acknowledges.
The noticeable presence of English in the world of start-ups will reflect the particular business environment in which these companies thrive, according to Louis-Félix Binette, director general of the Mouvement des accelerateurs d’innovation du Québec. Their growth model, which is fast and expensive, was inspired by organizations in Silicon Valley and Boston.
Internet sites, “for those who have it”, typically serve as a facade for companies for future customers and investors. And their playing field is then “inevitably global”.
“The framework was established in the United States and all of it was subsequently exported here and elsewhere. So was the terminology and language used,” he says. The term “start-up” itself is an example of if what’s going on there. “When we stopped there, we saw that we hadn’t yet found a real equivalent in French, because the word” courriel “could be for”E-mail ” he says.
Innovative companies? The term does not refer to the size or stage of expansion. Start-ups? “Does a start-up shop, restaurant or hair salon have the same reality as a company that is into medical or disruptive technology? No, ”said Mr. Binette. As for the term “start-up”, many entrepreneurs in the industry simply reject it.
In the start -up stage, translating a site remains costly for a young company, underlined Julien Billot, general manager of Scale AI, Canada’s artificial intelligence supercluster. “He raises funds and, as a priority, he will speak in the language of the markets he is targeting, for clients or investors.»
Obviously, if their clients are from Quebec, the French reality will be more considered. He cited the example of Dialogue, a young telemedicine company in Montreal that went public this week and growth has been meteoric over the past five years. “His site is available in both languages. When they have the means and they are based in Montreal, start-ups remain very language sensitive.»
Julien Billot believes that this “problem” may be related to broader sociolinguistic characteristics. “Sadly, but the truth is most Francophones in the area speak English, but very few Anglophones speak French. »
And this fact can also be observed in large companies, said the male CEO of Yellow Pages in Montreal from 2014 to 2017. “The headquarters are in Montreal and 90% of the people there speak French. But in meetings with teams in Toronto where people don’t speak a word of French, well, the meetings are in English. »
The fact remains that many companies in the sector have English as their linguistic DNA. Isn’t there a risk that the sector will evolve essentially into English and the language of use will be that of Shakespeare?
When asked this question, Liette Lamonde takes a few seconds before answering: “Sure. She immediately clarified her thoughts:” But I can’t measure how sensitive the new generations are to the use of French, at the risk of disappearing our language and culture. The risks may be high if they live well in a language other than French. »