The world’s biggest startup campus is opening today in Paris’s 13th arrondissement. Based on a former railway depot known as LA Halle Freyssinet, the 34,000m2 space will accommodate more than 1,000 startups and counts as founding partners companies such as Facebook and Microsoft.
Station F is the biggest startup campus in the world, based in Paris. The building is a 34,000m2 historical monument from the 1920s that has been converted into a massive startup space – it’s literally the size of the Eiffel tower lying down. We consider ourselves a startup campus because we will have an entire ecosystem on-site with startups, investors, public services, various startup programmes and more. We’re also launching a housing extension next year for 600 entrepreneurs to live ten minutes away. So it’s in many ways like a university campus – but for startups. The building is cut into three parts. The first part has a lot of services and event spaces: a 360-person auditorium, private meeting rooms, private offices, public services for startups, an on-site coworking coffee shop open to the public, a fablab, a post office and more. The second part of the building is the startup zone. This area has 3,000 desks and can host roughly 1,000 startups. We host 21 different programs startup programmes in this area, for startups for different verticals or stages of development. These programmes are run by actors like Facebook, Microsoft, Naver, HEC, Numa, Ubisoft and more. And finally, the third zone is a massive restaurant open to the public 24-7. It can sit 1,000 people and has four kitchens and a bar. It will be open a little later this year.
The idea from Station F came about in 2013. Xavier Niel – who is the man behind the project – noticed that the French ecosystem had a lot of great startups, startup programmes, investors, etc. but all very small and dispersed. People would compare Paris with London or Berlin. They would see Silicon Roundabout and Google Campus in London, they would see the Factory in Berlin. The idea was therefore to create a big emblematic space to bring the ecosystem together and provide services and space, especially to young startups that often struggle to find space and resources within their budget.
The initial idea was a massive incubator but over time we realized that we were much more like a university campus with various programmes for startups, event spaces, services, and soon-to-come housing.
Xavier Niel said that the main idea for Station F is to help people coming mostly from poor suburbs. We are launching the Fighters Program – which will be the 23rd startup programme at Station F – dedicated to entrepreneurs from underprivileged backgrounds. This programme is dedicated to people who may not have access to fancy schools or what have you. They may come from poor suburbs or rural areas, be immigrants who have had lots of difficulties, refugees or simply people with difficult personal stories.
These entrepreneurs will be able to apply to the Fighters Program, which offers access to all the same resources of the Founders Program – but for free for an entire year. Startups will be able to apply online until 2 October 2017 at www.stationf.co and selected startups will join the campus in January 2018.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, is going to be at the opening.
He is very well-liked by the ecosystem and was a great a great spokesperson for us when he was finance minister. I think the ecosystem is also very pleased he is president because the other option wasn’t really in-line with many of the ecosystems values. He also has a very atypical profile and story in many ways and kind of represents a new, innovative, younger France.