An inside look at STATION F’s BIG FAT launch

Today is our big fat launch. And for our inauguration, we’re hosting 1,500 international entrepreneurs, French President Emmanuel Macron and Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo. It’s almost hard to believe this moment is here. We’ve been in construction since October 2014 — and the campus is finally finished.

Guess which member of Station F is featured in snorkel gear on our invite? Hint: not me :)

On a personal note, thank you.

On a personal note, I can’t help feeling incredibly grateful to so many people. I’ve been so lucky to be surrounded by an *incredible* team and numerous people from the ecosystem that have helped make this all possible.💕 There were so many talented people that contributed to the project as well, many thatI feel humbled to work with. And then of course, there is Xavier Niel — my boss and the guy who made this all possible. I think I once read in an article “the world needs more Xaviers” and I couldn’t agree more.

The early days: construction jargon and startup feedback.

I look back on my first few weeks on the job, when I had no team and I was flooded with tons of construction terms I hardly understood (like “borne escamotable” and “micro-pieux” — those are 2 of my favorites). We weren’t even called Station F back then and it was almost hard to imagine what the finished campus would actually become. But so many people have reached out with brilliant ideas, suggestions, feedback and contributions.

In the early days, our lives included lots of hard hats, construction boots and being covered in mud.

My first few months on the job I met with hundreds of entrepreneurs, accelerator programs, investors, and various people from the startup ecosystem just to see what their ideas were — both in France and abroad. Of course we already had the major elements of the project defined — massive startup space, focusing on providing resources especially for young startups — but I wanted to go further. What did the ecosystem really want and need? What worked and what was pointless? I’ll tell you, I got pitched a lot of fun ideas, including on-site Thai massages, a startup spa and more.

The very first photo of the team. Today we are 17 people.

First milestones.

Things started to become clearer and once the team joined in May 2016 we hit the ground running. Within 6 months we would change our name, launch applications for the Founders Program and announce our first partners including Facebook, HEC, vente-privee, several VC funds and TechShop — at TechCrunch Disrupt in London. Since then, we’ve announced loads more, including our international Selection Board, our exclusive perks for startups, loads of new partners like Microsoft, Ubisoft, Naver, Serrinov, Numa, Usine.io, Thales, Ashoka, Zendesk, Amazon, La France S’engage and there is (believe it or not) still a lot more to come.

TechCrunch Editor Mike Butcher grilling me on Facebook’s presence at Station F. And sex tech. See video.

The truth about construction.

As you know, we were initially preparing for our big launch in April — and we naturally we were bummed to learn that no construction site goes flawlessly. The flood on our site, however, taught us a lot. In many ways it reminded me of all the pitfalls we talk about with the development of hardware products. Regardless, we continued signing more partners, confirmed a new opening date and our first selected startups for the Founders Program, and kept moving forward. We also launched the Fellowship, a special offer for startups that are not looking for a full-time desk at Station F but would like to stop by occasionally and be part of the community.

More than 2,300 applicants from over 50 different countries.

Now, you all know by now that the campus will soon be home to over 3,000 international entrepreneurs taking part in one of 26 different startup programs. But there are other numbers I’d like to share. People always ask me “but do you really think you can fill the space?” or “are there really that many startups?” Uh, the short answer is “YES.” We are incredibly humbled by the number of applicants we received for the Founders Program (keep in mind that this is just the number of startups that applied to 1 of the 26 different programs on campus). 2,300 startups from over 50 different countries applied, with the US, UK and China sending us the most applications. That said, we did have applications from locations like Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Nepal, Senegal, Uzbekistan, Jamaica and more. Selection was incredibly hard but we managed to narrow it down to 200 startups, with 40% of them being female-founded.

My team dancing in the main entrance of the building. Don’t ask :)

NEW: The Fighters Program for underprivileged entrepreneurs.

Diversity is insanely important to us — we believe it’s what drives innovation. Today we launched our 26th program designed to support entrepreneurs from underprivileged backgrounds: The Fighters Program. With this program, we are not looking for fancy diplomas but rather the opposite. We want to work with entrepreneurs who come from underprivileged and rural areas, who may have been refugees or have had difficult personal stories. You are the ones who are underrepresented in today’s ecosystem and we believe you’ll make fantastic entrepreneurs. If you’re interested in the program, you can apply until October 2nd. Selected entrepreneurs will join the campus in January 2018 and have access to all the resources of the Founders Program — but for free for 1 year.

Many top international entrepreneurs and investors have already stopped by to check out the place.

Just the beginning…

On that note, I guess I’d like to say that this is actually just the beginning. Now the real fun begins. We’ll get to see the campus in action, will thousands of entrepreneurs building innovations of the future everyday. We’ve had tons of incredible entrepreneurs and investors from around the world stop by — including Sam Altman (YCombinator), Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook), Dave McClure (500startups), Leila Janah (LXMI), Nate Blecharczyk (Airbnb), Mikkel Svane (Zendesk) and there will be dozens more to come. Plus, our campus has more surprises in store as well: our massive restaurant (open to the public!) will launch at the end of the year and our housing extension for 600 entrepreneurs will open in summer 2018. We simply can’t wait.

Everyone, welcome to Station F.