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Let Them Eat Pizza! Geeks Occupy Parisian Palace Once on Marie-Antoinette's Social Circuit

June 24, 2013

Let Them Eat Pizza! Geeks occupy Parisian

Mozilla, which relies largely on volunteers worldwide to help perfect the code behind Firefox, started working in France out of Nitot's living room. Photograph: Mozilla

Move over Marie-Antoinette. Make room for the geeks, who are getting the royal treatment.

Computers, sleek desks and a foosball table now sit where the last queen of France used to visit Austrian Ambassador Count Florimond-Claude de Mercy-Argenteau in his 18th century Paris home.

Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox Web browser, this month moved its French staff to the count's restored home as the non-profit expands its European business and gears up for its global mobile push with Firefox OS.

"One of the reasons we've got such nice offices is to attract the best talent," Tristan Nitot, Mozilla's European head, told visitors at an inauguration party.

Mozilla is the latest example of a tech company in Paris using the old to stand out in an industry where almost everything is shiny new as a way to attract top-notch engineering and programming talent. When Google opened its Paris office two years ago, it chose the Hotel de Vatry, a 19th-century mansion in Second Empire style. French billionaire Xavier Niel set up his phone company, Iliad, in another Parisian jewel: the 18th-century Hotel Alexandre, near the neoclassical Madeleine church.

Not exactly the spaceship-shaped headquarters that Apple is building.

Mozilla, which relies largely on volunteers worldwide to help perfect the code behind Firefox, started working in France out of Nitot's living room.

"The second home of Mozilla was founded here in Paris," Mozilla founder Mitchell Baker said. "It was a risky venture then. There was no product, no capital, no nice office."

Now there are 25 paid workers -- with 20 more on the way -- working out of an office with gilded mouldings, marble staircases and a party room decorated by Charles Garnier, the architect who designed the 19th century Paris Opera.


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