A stroll round Station F with Emmanuel Macron

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On Thursday night, the world’s largest startup campus formally opened. Round three,000 persons are going to work on this enormous constructing. TechCrunch walked across the constructing with the President of France Emmanuel Macron and different officers.

“We called this building Station F, like Station France, Station Femmes [ed. note: women in French], Station Founders or Station Freyssinet because Freyssinet was a great architect and a great entrepreneur,” French billionaire and Iliad founder Xavier Niel informed Macron.

Whereas Station F was initially constructed within the 1920s by Eugène Freyssinet, it was alleged to be destroyed in 2011. In 2013, Niel had a loopy thought. He thought he would purchase the constructing, renovate it from the bottom up and switch it right into a ginormous startup campus — 366,000ft2 or 34,000m2.

A couple of years later, the large constructing remains to be there, however with 1000’s of desks, big partitions of glass, brilliant lights and Mediterranean timber. “It looked nothing like this. It was an abandoned train station with dark ceilings,” Niel mentioned.

Beginning on Monday, 1,100 startups are transferring in. Lots of them get chosen by Station F’s companions. There can even be 20 VC companies with a small house there, a put up workplace and an enormous restaurant in a number of months.

A deal with range and international expertise

After this brief introduction, Macron and Niel instantly began speaking with among the entrepreneurs who have been there to go to the constructing with him, beginning with Zenly’s co-founder. The Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, France’s digital minister Mounir Mahjoubi, Station F director Roxanne Varza and Brigitte Macron have been additionally right here.

In a while, Macron began talking with an entrepreneur in English. The entrepreneur mentioned that he got here to France to begin an organization via the French Tech Ticket program. Macron mentions the lately launched French Tech Visa, a particular visa for entrepreneurs, engineers and buyers.

“We call each space like this a village,” Varza tells Macron. “There are around 60 desks per village. And they’ve been specifically designed to foster collaboration.”

One other entrepreneur then greeted Macron in English then began speaking in excellent French. Macron requested him if he was French or a foreigner. “I arrived in France to study at [Niel’s coding school] 42. I was studying biology and I moved here after watching your video,” he mentioned.

Niel then joked with Macron, saying that he’s heard there are a number of former college students from 42 who are actually working with Macron on the Elysée.

Varza defined the newly launched Fighters Program. Beneath-represented founders will be capable to get a free desk at Station F. “They will sit next to people in the Founders Program, we wanted to mix them together,” Varza mentioned.

Whereas Station F is already a $230 million funding (€200 million), Niel can also be spending one other $57 million (€50 million) on a residential constructing in Ivry-sur-Seine. 600 folks will be capable to stay there. “It’s the same model as 42. We know that parents are not there to help them, we know that housing is an issue for them,” Niel mentioned.

Someone working for Station F then stopped the president and requested him to document a 10-second video. “We are here today in Paris in Station F. So if you want to invent, invest and develop your startup, you’ll have to come here,” Macron mentioned. After taking pictures the video he handed again the telephone and apologized as a result of he ended up speaking for 32 seconds:

The group then headed again to the stage in order that Varza, Hidalgo and Macron may give a speech. 2,000 folks have been ready to listen to the speeches. Macron shook fingers, took a number of selfies after which went on stage.

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Xavier Niel lets others introduce Station F for him

The content material of the speeches wasn’t as fascinating as the best way it was structured. Varza first took the stage and talked about Station F’s companions (Fb, Zendesk, Vente-Privée, HEC, Microsoft…), individuals who helped the mission in a technique or one other (Anne Hidalgo, Jean-Louis Missika, Jean-Michel Wilmotte, Station F’s group…). She additionally mentioned that entrepreneurship ought to now not be all white, all male — and Station F goes to contribute to that.

However when she thanked Xavier Niel, the viewers went loopy and applauded for a couple of minutes. It felt like a live performance with the viewers ready for the encore.

It’s clear that Niel has develop into the function mannequin for a technology of younger entrepreneurs. He received wealthy with a telecom firm, began a coding college, began a seed fund with Kima Ventures, invested in among the most well-known Silicon Valley corporations (Sq., Nest, Snap, Airbnb, Uber…), acquired newspapers and spent tons of of tens of millions of on buildings for startups.

And but, Niel didn’t communicate on stage.

The Mayor of Paris talked about what Station F means for Paris. “We wanted Paris to be something else than a museum city,” Hidalgo mentioned.

And at last, Macron took the stage. He began by making a comparability between his personal political profession and the lifetime of an entrepreneur, saying that folks don’t essentially consider in you, however that doesn’t imply you shouldn’t do it.

“The thing that is bringing us together today is that entrepreneurial spirit,” he mentioned. “Many people wanted to tell me what kind of life I should lead, and I decided something else. You don’t want someone else to lead your life for you.”

Macron then talked as soon as once more about inequalities, utilizing the identical narrative because the one in his speech throughout VivaTech. In line with him, entrepreneurs should be as inclusive as potential. It ought to assist society as an entire. If the tech group divides the nation, it will be a failure.

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Station F’s actual begin

Over the approaching days, 1000’s of persons are going to maneuver in right here at Station F. Whereas it took years to get there, that is solely the very starting.

It’s laborious to know for certain if Station F goes to drastically change the face of the tech ecosystem in Paris. However there’s one factor for certain, it’s a fantastic communication transfer and it makes France extra enticing than ever.

Ultimately, Niel needs to create a basis in order that others can put money into Station F. He says that he doesn’t wish to make any revenue from this enterprise. But it surely certain is a good transfer to persuade the startup group that he’s on their facet.

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Désiré LeSage

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