Disclosure: Organizers of the “France is AI” conference paid travel expenses for the reporter to attend and moderate several sessions at the event.

Tucked into a courtyard in central Paris, the 35 employees of Snips are hunched over their computers trying to put the finishing touches on a new version of the company’s artificial intelligence app for smartphones.

The company is packed full of big brains, many of them products of France’s leading universities and a culture that is historically strong in mathematics. And they’re not afraid to let you know it. Etched into winding wooden staircases that lead to Snips offices are a series of math puzzles that job recruits are asked to solve as they work their way upstairs.

Snips' headquarters in Paris.

Above: Snips’ headquarters in Paris.