Even though Alimentation Couche-Tard, Cascades and Cirque du Soleil have conquered the world with names in French, young Quebec entrepreneurs often prefer to adopt names in English, which does not prevent them from receiving public funds.
In recent months, Investissement Québec (IQ) and the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) have invested in companies such as Hopper, Hivestack, Breathe Life, Classcraft and Busbud. Websites of firms like Hivestack and Breathe Life are practically only in English, in flagrant violation of the Charter of the French language.
Of the 61 Quebec companies in the recent list of the 400 companies with the strongest growth in the country, 22 have social names in English, or 36%. The proportion is even higher for tech-oriented start-ups.
“It’s good that we are talking about it, to draw attention to this issue,” recognizes Michel Leblanc, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal.
“But what I wouldn’t do is throw the stone at entrepreneurs who, in good faith, said to themselves: how I can, with a brand, with a name, illustrate what I do internationally ? », He adds.
Guillaume Caudron, CEO of Réseau Capital, sees no problem.
“Our members invest in companies according to their skills and their potential and not according to their name”, he says.
French for close friends
This summer, Investissement Québec invested in BuyBack Booth, presenting it as a “Montreal-based” company.
Its chief technology officer, Dominique Dion, however, claims that BuyBack Booth is an American company and that its parent company has a name in French: À la carte media.
Judith Fetzer, CEO of Cook it, a home-delivered meal company, explains that she chose the name to “include the word kit, for cooking kit”.
“Looking back, if I hadn’t thought about this on my own in my living room, I surely could have found a word like Google. But from the top of my very little experience, it gave that, ”she confesses.
To comply with the Charter of the French Language, Daniel Kudish changed the name of the photography company he co-founded. The Image Salon thus became Image Salon, “which gave us a bilingual name,” he says.
Flexibility and realism
But according to him, Quebec should relax Bill 101.
“We are entirely for the preservation of French in Quebec and Canada, but the approach is not always the best, in my opinion,” says Mr. Kudish.
The founder of Startupfest, Philippe Telio, does not believe that it is realistic to translate the names of all young Quebec companies into French.
“LuminoVite instead of Lightspeed, PasseBoîte rather than PasswordBox or RespiVie for Breathe Life, it would not be easily understandable for English speakers, who are often the target customers or buyers of startups from Quebec. But on the other hand, if the startup targets Quebec, it should not use an Anglo-Saxon name. “
▶ The Regulation respecting the language of commerce and business, which derives from the Charter, allows businesses to use a name that is not in French provided that it is accompanied by a “generic”, as is the case , for example, Goodfood Market.
A question of dignity
A pillar of the Quebec investment world believes that state-funded companies that turn their backs on French with an English name should be accountable to Quebecers.
“The company should report on its behavior and business practices with regard to language in its accountability,” thinks Léopold Beaulieu, former CEO and founder of Fondaction CSN.
For the builder of one of the largest Quebec funds, whose net assets are now close to $ 2.3 billion, it is a matter of respect.
“When we import products here, it is the quality that interests us, the name of the company, whether German, Spanish, French or English, is of secondary importance”, continues the former trade unionist. .
Léopold Beaulieu therefore does not understand why it should be different when the reverse is happening.
He insists: in Quebec, the official language is French. The very dignity of the Quebec people is at stake, according to him.
“There is a drift that can be explained by a certain negligence, a certain relaxation,” explains the former number 1 of Fondaction. It is a question of respect, affirmation and dignity ”.
When asked what he thinks of the speech 100% in English by the mayoress of Montreal, Valérie Plante, delivered two years ago to welcome British companies, he calls for responsibility.
“French, the official language, has requirements. There is a role for the public authorities, which must be able to express itself. There is support for businesses. French must be the language of work and business, ”summarizes Mr. Beaulieu.
A sign of ambition
It is the international ambition of young entrepreneurs here that pushes them to adopt names in English, insists Sylvain Carle, one of the tenors of the startup community.
“There are more and more of them who want to do big international companies,” he says. The question of the name therefore arises, much more than before, at the very beginning. “
Mr. Carle has founded start-ups and worked at Twitter. He now advises young entrepreneurs. “I would like more companies to make the effort to find a name that works in French, English and other languages,” he says.
Sylvain Carle himself gave in to the temptation of English. He participated in the launch of FounderFuel, an accelerator based in Montreal.
“What is good with this name is that it stands on its own and it doesn’t need any additional explanation,” he explains.
Neologisms are sometimes an interesting solution, underlines Mr. Carle. This is the path Icentia, Wavo, Creos, Nucleom, Osedea, Genyk, Kinova, Coveo and Nuvei have taken. Recently floated on the stock market, the latter is worth $ 6.5 billion.
“Today, it’s not easy to find a good name that is available on .com, on Twitter, on Instagram, everywhere,” notes Sylvain Carle. So there are many advantages, sometimes, to Frenchifying your name a little to have more chances of finding something that does not exist. You can see it creatively. “