Paris is in the process of building a massive new startup incubator, Halle Freyssinet, which will eventually host over 1,000 startups, according to VentureBeat. In building the giant hall, the city will create a few new streets, and Jérôme Coumet, the mayor of the borough where the new building is being constructed, wants to name one of them after the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs (link in French).
While there are streets all over Paris named after Americans who have some connection to the city, it’s not entirely clear why Coumet wants to name one of the new streets after Jobs. A native San Franciscan, he never lived in France, let alone Paris, and his parents were of Syrian, Swiss, and German descent. Then again, Jobs is often one of the first names out of any startup founder’s mouth when tritely asked about who inspired them to start a company, so perhaps he’s trying force some of Silicon Valley startup culture into the City of Lights—which may not be the best idea. Coumet’s office wasn’t immediately available to explain the proposal.
Front de Gauche, a far-left political group that Paris newspaper Le Parisien refers to as “communists,” is staunchly against Coumet’s choice, and released a letter Nov. 30 outlining why. The group said Jobs was a poor choice, partially because of the poor working conditions faced by the thousands of contractors that assemble its products in Asia, as well as the company’s tax practices in the European Union (especially the illegal tax benefits it received from the Irish government). The group also offers a somewhat more reasonable alternative to Jobs for the street name: Ada Lovelace, the Victorian mathematician who worked on the first computer program and computer with Charles Babbage. She, however, was British, which doesn’t seem much better than naming the street after an American.
Perhaps instead the street could be named after a famous French inventor, such as the chemist Louis Pasteur, the mathematician Blaise Pascal, the physicist Léon Foucault, the inventor of Braille, Louis Braille, or even the Polish scientist Marie Curie, who, unlike Jobs, actually spent a large part of her life in Paris.