Once in a while, you meet someone who has the kind of energy that is as impressive as it is efficient. After a chance find on Twitter, I met Laure de Boerio for coffee to talk about her brilliant business project Paris Helpline. I asked her for a meeting with a blog post in mind, but I was thrilled to not only come across a great subject for an article, I also encountered a true kindred spirit and a truly good soul.
Paris Helpline is that one thing that tourists need in Paris, that no one had yet thought of. Shocking, yes, but true ! Well, actually Chéri had thought of it back in 2001 way before smartphones, but his project Paris in Your Hand was thwarted by 9/11. So I was ecstatic to know that the idea had light-bulbed itself over someone else’s head.
Just exactly how did Laure get the idea ??? One day, while driving her scooter over the Pont Alexandre III, she noticed an Asian couple, tourists, with a map on the sidewalk, most likely on a romantic trip to Paris. As she drew closer to the couple at the traffic light, she realized that they were in fact having a very heated argument, seemingly having something to do with the map and directions. The argument escalated to a point where the woman threw the map at the man and they both stormed off in opposite directions.
Laure thought to herself, how she could have helped them find their way in seconds and thus helping them avoid this disastrous turn of events on their romantic trip to Paris. There aren’t any real services for tourists out there who need help navigating Paris, and not only it’s streets, but it’s cultural cues and difficulties. Those things that Parisians know without batting an eye, are mere mysteries to foreigners and tourists. A few things were essential to Laure’s plan, centralized information, a contact who is fluent in the foreigner’s native language and familiar with their cultural codes, and smartphones, the perfect tool to facilitate the two other essentials.
Two years of diligent and relentless work and Paris Helpline was launched in March 2015.
So what is the service exactly???
It’s a smarphone, delivered to your hotel, with all the accessories, and apps (Paris Helpline app, and other apps that can be helpful to tourists or visitors). But more than just a phone, it is also another human on the other line, someone you can call for whatever you need. You are in a taxi and feel like you are being taken advantage of? Call. You are in a neighborhood you don’t know and would like to find a restaurant? Call. You are at the pharmacy and don’t know how to ask for a specific item? Call. It’s like having your own personal concierge in your phone. But this concierge speaks your language, and knows your cultural needs perfectly. It will make your trip less prone to misadventures like that poor Asian couple, and you can spend your time and energy enjoying yourself instead of being frustrated.
What a great idea, right! I was so impressed and taken in by Laure, her ideas and her energy, and her enthusiasm for Paris! I love meeting French people who love Paris (because there is a large part of the population that bitches about the city of lights, believe me). Laure had spent two years in Australia, and came up with this idea upon her return here. I often find that many inspired Parisians have spent time abroad. It helps to live in a different culture, in order to find a new perspective and come up with brilliant ideas. Laure’s idea is to create a relationship, to help and make a human connection with Paris Helpline. She has already won me over, and I’m sure Paris Helpline will win you over on your next trip here!