Can’t go to Paris without visiting Station F

I landed in Paris and went straight “home” to Station F. I have an office there now. It’s the largest startup campus in the world with 34,000 sq meters. Not even a year after its launch it hosts 3000 entrepreneurs and will soon offer onsite apartments for 600 of them.

I’m so impressed by what my friends Roxanne Varza and Xavier Niel have accomplished.

It’s a “campus” and not an accelerator as Station F does not invest in startups but helps them with everything they need. More than 30 programs support startups by vertical or region (there is a France-China program for example). 30 venture capital firms are on site to fund the next great project. There are also programs from business schools such as HEC or corporates like Facebook, Google or Microsoft providing startups with support. Startups can also learn from top resident entrepreneurs such as Tony Fadell or Phil Libin. Tony has based his new fund at Station F and Phil Libin has decided to base the European HQ of his new startup studio, All Turtles, at Station F.

I caught up with Roxanne who manages the “ship” with her team. Her priority is to increase the international entrepreneurs on site as they “only have 30% non French” she says and is looking for more. Station F can even help you get a permanent resident visa in France.

When I lived in France ten years ago startups weren’t fashionable and France was very French focused. Even the rare startup CEO would be focused on conquering the French market. There is no better way to expand internationally than connect with international founders so it’s a real opportunity to work from Station F and its international crew.

What happened to France? For Roxanne, Trump made it more difficult to get visas to the US, Brexit made the U.K. less attractive, and the cost of living in Silicon Valley made it impractical or unaffordable for many. The reforms started by President Macron has made France a welcoming place to start a business. Xavier Niel invested 250 millions of euros into Station F and also launched his own school of engineering Ecole 42 that makes it easy for startups to find affordable tech resources.

I have been very impressed by the new entrepreneurs in France since we hosted an event in Paris last year. According to the Financial Times, French startups have received more funding than any other European country in 2017. Roxanne thinks that the next challenge is more exits, IPOs and unicorns. European corporates traditionally acquire startups much less than Americans, hopefully this changes soon.

Station F has become the center of French tech, you should visit (they have an avalanche of requests but they try to accommodate) or apply to one of their programs. I’m one of the 100 entrepreneurs who helps select startups of the Founders Program. Deadline to apply for this one is April 2.

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