[CONFIDENTIEL] Station F and its 13 Fighters, Baidu and its AI labs, Facebook in China, WhatsApp in India …
Station F yesterday unveiled the names of the 13 start-ups selected for its Fighters Program. It welcomes entrepreneurs from disadvantaged backgrounds, with complicated personal backgrounds or who have served in prison. For a year, they will have free access to Founders Program resources in order to develop their business project.
The 13 applications were selected from among 200 projects from 27 different countries. After responding to an online questionnaire, the candidates pitched in front of several people. Octave Klaba or even Xavier Niel were part of this jury.
Among the lucky ones, we can find:
- A2JOB is a platform dedicated to recruitment in the health, social and medico-social sector. One of the founders is part of the Les Determinés association.
- BotFactory proposes to create multilingual conversation assistants for companies in order to offer an efficient instant messaging service. Dinal Kurukulasooriya and Januka Samaranayake are both from Sri Lanka.
- Digitall is a start-up that improves security locks and car safety. It was founded by Tally Fofana, a former prison inmate.
- Girls Job is a platform intended to help with emergency recruitments. CEO Imène Draredja Ziani comes from Seine-Saint-Denis and decided to launch her start-up after a succession of small jobs.
- Konexio allows refugees to access training in digital tools. The co-founders are Jean and Binta, two American immigrants.
- LeadBees is a connected device to plug into beehives and protect them from disease. The founder Kevin is an engineer and comes from French Polynesia.
- The Small Pots delivers organic and homemade foods for babies. The start-up was created by Maxime and Sarah, both from the Parisian suburbs.
- Lock ‘N’Touch is a smart lock intended for women’s handbags to prevent them from being stolen. The start-up was created by Zora, a former Startup Banlieue.
- Lovel is an app that connects people through video challenges based on common interests. Its creators are Malik and François, both from the northern suburbs of Paris.
- MyShowPass is an unlimited subscription service to concerts and shows. The start-up was founded by Tafika Nyirenda and Yamodo Akondjia. They come from Seine-Saint-Denis and Essone.
- StreetyFood is a platform that brings Ile-de-France companies into contact with the various street food players (Foodtrucks, Scooters, Trators, etc.). The 4 founders, Mohammad, Alexis, Hannah and Clément, are the laureates of Startup Banlieue.
- Tynkle is an application dedicated to IT mutual aid. The start-up was created by Alain Maisonneuve and Sabri Saïd who come from Marseille.
- Ytizen is a mobile solution for companies and communities with the aim of collecting data on their physical assets. Jules and Richard come from Amiens and are from Cameroon. One of them battled cancer.
The Fighters Program is the 28th present within Station F. The place brings together more than 1,000 start-ups.
It’s hard to be a GAFA in China. While Google is trying to flirt with the Chinese authorities by opening a research center dedicated to artificial intelligence in Beijing and an office in Shenzhen, Facebook is struggling to establish itself in the Middle Empire, where the American juggernaut is banned from staying since 2009. The social network is in minefield in China and continues to learn it at its expense. Latest episode, Wang-Li Moser, the head of Facebook in China, tendered her resignation in December, reports the New York Times. She was hired by Facebook in 2014 after working for Intel in China for more than ten years.
During his three years at Facebook, Wang-Li Moser worked behind the scenes to seduce the Chinese government. She notably led negotiations between the most powerful leaders of China and the social network in order to demonize the influence of Facebook in the eyes of the communist power. More broadly, she has found herself at the forefront of managing trade and security frictions between China and the United States. In a way, Wang-Li Moser had to do a balancing act. The Beijing regime is blocking the social network on its territory as well as most of the other American giants, for fear that the products of these companies will be used against it. Google, Twitter and Snapchat are notably inaccessible in China.
The regulatory context is also favorable, as the authorities are pushing for the dematerialization of payments, in a society very accustomed to payment in “cash”. Thus, the unified payment interface (UPI) is one of the open APIs launched by the government to promote the launch of new services.
The dematerialized payment market in India promises great battles between tech giants: Google launched its Tez application last September, and announced 7.5 million downloads barely a month after its launch. Amazon is also joining the party with Amazon Pay, its wallet open since July 2017. As for Paytm, Indian unicorn and industry leader with 280 million users including 54 million assets, it is one of its main shareholders, Alibaba.
Baidu Research, a Baidu entity dedicated to prospective fundamental research in AI, announced Thursday that it has set up two new laboratories dedicated to artificial intelligence, one of which is focused on business intelligence (Business Intelligence Lab – BIL) and the other on robotics and autonomous driving (Robotics and Autonomous Driving Lab – RAL). The ambitions in this area of the company nicknamed the Chinese Google are well established.
Baidu also announced the arrival of three fundamental research pundits: Kenneth Church, former researcher at IBM, Microsoft and AT&T Labs, influential researcher in natural language processing; Jun Huan, former professor of computer science at the University of Kansas and big data expert; Rutgers Hui Xiong, university professor, whose research focuses on data engineering.
Baidu Research now has a total of five labs, along with the Institute of Deep Learning (IDL), Big Data Lab (BDL), and Silicon Valley Artificial Intelligence Lab (SVAIL). These laboratories are intended to work on fundamental research and to collaborate with the corresponding departments in order to accelerate development and commercialization.
Baidu Research is part of Baidu’s Artificial Intelligence Group (AIG), a unit dedicated to artificial intelligence created in March 2017, which today has more than 2,000 scientists and engineers.