[DECODE] Two years after its opening, what results for Station F?
It was already two years ago. On June 29, 2017, Emmanuel Macron, President of the Republic, inaugurated with great fanfare Station F, an XXL start-up campus presented as the largest incubator of its kind in the world, in the presence of Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, and the gratin of French Tech, with Xavier Niel, initiator of the project in which he has invested 250 million euros, as a figurehead.
After a year of launch during which the structure headed by Roxanne Varza made numerous adjustments to meet the expectations and needs of entrepreneurs, the giant Parisian campus, able to accommodate 1,000 start-ups, is gradually picking up its pace cruising. Erected as the symbol of French Tech internationally, is Station F today a benchmark in supporting “made in France” start-ups?
On the 34,000 square meters on which the former Halle Freyssinet extends, Station F offers a plethora of spaces and services to simplify the daily life of entrepreneurs. They have access to more than 3,000 workstations, 60 meeting rooms, a fablab, a pop-up store, a post office, an auditorium and even 8 spaces dedicated to events. The incubator’s operating costs are estimated at between 7 and 8 million euros per year, but Xavier Niel stressed that Station F’s ambition was not to be profitable at all costs, but rather to support the French ecosystem.
3 large spaces to stimulate innovation
The Parisian campus is divided into three large spaces. First of all, there is the “Share Zone” which is a great gathering place for the French ecosystem with its share of events and networking cocktail in order to promote interactions between French and international actors, and thus nurture inspiration from entrepreneurs.
At the other end of Station F, it’s time to relax in the “Chill Zone”. And for good reason, Xavier Niel’s giant incubator hosts La Felicità, one of the largest restaurants in Europe which covers 4,500 square meters to accommodate 1,500 people seated and provide up to 4,500 covers per day. . Behind this XXL restaurant bringing together five kitchens and three bars, we find the Big Mamma group, launched by Victor Lugger and Tigrane Seydoux, which has opened several Italian restaurants in the capital in recent years.
If the two ends of the building are openings to the world, the entrepreneurial and technological heart of Station F beats at the center of the building in a vast space where developers develop their project under the watchful eye of investors (Kima Ventures, Daphni, Alven, ISAI, Elaia, Balderton Capital, Axeleo, Idinvest…) present on campus. At the heart of the immense “lying Eiffel Tower” (310 meters long), the “Create Zone” is the Station F reactor. This is the place reserved for resident start-ups who are supported by the various programs offered by the incubator and its partners. To date, French and international start-ups can apply to join around thirty support programs among those offered by Facebook, Microsoft, TF1, LVMH or even L’Oréal.
Station F, showcase for GAFAM and major French groups
If the presence of large groups is obviously a boon for young shoots incubated at Station F, having its space on the Paris campus is also an opportunity for these giants to heal their image and further strengthen their domination. on the world stage. It’s simple, with the exception of Apple, which likes to cultivate the myth of mystery, all the GAFAMs are present at Station F. Within the Paris campus, Facebook has launched its “Startup Garage”, Microsoft has deployed the “AI Factory” program dedicated to artificial intelligence, Amazon has a space for its online hosting subsidiary Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google offers entrepreneurs conferences, practical workshops and meetings individuals to advise them on their strategy and train them in digital tools.
Regarding the start-up support programs set up at Station F by GAFAM, Facebook and Microsoft have both supported 60 start-ups at Station F. In its “Startup Garage”, Mark Zuckerberg’s firm has directed its a six-month program towards the use and protection of data, a choice no doubt reinforced by the shower of scandals that have befallen Facebook over the past two years, with the Cambridge Analytica affair as the trigger. Since the opening of the “Startup Garage” at Station F, Facebook has supported 33 start-ups, including Alan, which raised 12 million euros in 2016, 23 million in 2018 and 40 million at the start of the year, Goshaba, which has just completed a round of funding of 2 million euros, or RogerVoice.
At Microsoft, the focus is on artificial intelligence. And to bring out champions in the sector, the American firm has created the “AI Factory” program, in partnership with the National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation (Inria). Less than two years after its launch, the system has made it possible to support 27 young French shoots. Among them, we find in particular AB Tasty, Deepomatic, which raised $ 6.2 million in February for its visual recognition technology applied to industrial projects, and Tilkee, a Lyon start-up which is developing a tool to optimize the business development.
TF1, BNP Paribas, LVMH …: these giants forced to innovate
If the GAFAMs take center stage at Station F to restore their image after the last complicated months, marked mainly by an abusive or faulty treatment of personal data at Facebook and Google, the large French groups are not left out on the Paris campus. Because having a space at Station F means showing its shareholders and consumers that we are at the cutting edge of innovation. This is obviously a marketing argument, even if we should not underestimate the contribution of these start-ups for these groups which sometimes have several decades of existence and as many processes slowing down their functioning.
In this context, several French flagships have set down their suitcases at Station F, in search of inspiration to reinvent themselves. TF1 thus launched its Media Lab in January 2018 to experiment with solutions and services intended to enable the audiovisual group to cope with an increasingly competitive environment and rapidly changing uses, with a sharp increase in the consumption of video content on mobile. At the same time, BNP Paribas is using the Californian Plug and Play accelerator to work for three months with start-ups in order to develop solutions that will allow the banking group to innovate in a booming sector, marked by the rise of many FinTechs, foremost among which are neobanks such as N26 and Revolut, which challenge historic banks in their core business. Proof of the attractiveness of Station F, even the LVMH group, the world number one in luxury goods, entered the Paris campus last year. And the French group has not done things by halves in Xavier Niel’s incubator by offering itself a space of 220 square meters to welcome 50 international start-ups each year in two six-month promotions.
1,013 start-ups currently at Station F
After a year of existence, Station F had indicated that it had welcomed 1,034 start-ups since its opening and received 11,271 applications to join one of the mega-campus acceleration programs. At the time of blowing out its second candle, Xavier Niel’s incubator unveiled new figures to confirm its take-off on the French and global Tech scene.
During a press conference, Roxanne Varza announced that 1,013 start-ups are currently present on campus. Over the year as a whole, a total of 1,217 young shoots were supported within the walls of Station F. After France, the countries most represented in the incubator are the United States, China, Morocco, Tunisia and South Korea. In its second year, Station F also saw its start-ups raise $ 317 million, compared to $ 250 million in the year of launch. The most represented sectors at Station F are B2B SaaS, artificial intelligence, e-commerce, EdTech and BioTech / MedTech.