STATION F: 5 things we’re excited about for 2018
Let me start by saying 2017 was one hell of a year. After two and a half years of construction (including a minor glitch), we finally opened Station F to the public in June. We threw a big fat launch party with some 2,000+ international entrepreneurs and none other than French President Emmanuel Macron. We announced 28 different programs on campus with some killer partners and sifted through about 4,000 startup applications from 50+ countries — just for the Founders Program alone. More recently, we announced the launch of French Tech Central (featuring 30 different public services for startups on campus) and the opening of our on-campus makerspace TechShop. We’ve hosted TONS of events (like this one and this one) and had loads of visitors and speakers come from around the world — everyone from Prince Albert II of Monaco to Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg. In fact, former French President François Hollande liked it so much, he even set-up an office for his foundation, La France S’engage, right on campus. In short, 2017 has been full of (really) great surprises.
A few things we didn’t expect in 2017
It may seem odd but even after 6 months, we are still at the beginning of our adventure and we still have a lot to learn. I have often said that our first year will in may ways be like a beta test — obviously, we have a lot of things we want to try but there will naturally be things we will need to change and modify. But there were a few things we didn’t expect…
- We got A LOT more visit requests than we expected — including high profile ones. We knew people would want to visit the campus but we never expected so many visitors. Ultimately we had so many requests that we had to make an additional hire just to manage our visits (her name is Bettina, she’s Belgian, and she’s awesome). On an average week, we host about 200 visitors at Station F. This does not include people who come for events or meetings but people who sign-up for a tour via our website (we have free and paid tours available in English and French). Now, we were thrilled to receive the likes of YCombinator’s President Sam Altman, Slack cofounder Stewart Butterfield, SVAngel’s Ron Conway and Mathematician and Fields Medal winner Cedric Villani. But what we didn’t expect were so many diplomats and politicians. We’ve received everyone from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to the Prince of Monaco, and numerous diplomats and politicians from places like Senegal, Togo, Australia, the UK, the US, Thailand and more. It’s great to see that they’re all interested in startups and supporting innovation.
2. We got A LOT more international startup applications than we expected. This year we received around 2,300 applications just for 1 batch of the Founders Program — that’s just 1 program of 28 that we currently host on campus. But aside from the sheer number of applications, what got our attention was that they were from so many different places — over 50 different countries. Countries that sent us the most applications were (in order), the US, the UK, China and India. Naturally the first two countries on that list surprised us but also made us realize that the political situations of the US and the UK are indeed impacting where entrepreneurs want to do business. We were also surprised to receive applications from places like Nepal, Jamaica and Uzbekistan — where we don’t have strong ties to their local ecosystems (yet!). Because we have such a strong international demand, we are striving to facilitate the needs of international startups — which includes issues like visas as well as housing — and we are hoping to see even more international teams apply and join our community in 2018.
3. Our startups and the ones running Station F’s community. We don’t have a Head of Community at Station F because, quite frankly, we don’t need one. Our startups — regardless of their program — have gone a lot farther than simply renting a desk and attending workshops. They have contributed a ton to our community, which includes everything from the organization of campus-wide sporting events, providing meal options at lunchtime or catering services for events, selling various goods on campus (like for our Christmas market), organizing coaching sessions with each other, meetups and a lot, lot more. For every occasion and every need, there is a startup that steps up to propose a solution or an idea. There is so much going on that sometimes we have a hard time keeping up! We have over 3,000 international entrepreneurs that are part of our community and we didn’t expect to see so much cohesion so quickly.
5 things we’re excited about for 2018
Now that we’ve reflected a bit on 2017, I’m excited to share what we have in store for 2018.
- Our restaurant, open to the public. That’s right, our massive, 1000-seat restaurant will be launching in the spring. This restaurant, run by Big Mamma Group, features 4-kitchens, a bar, and will be open 24–7.
- Our coliving extension, open to 600 entrepreneurs. Later in the year, we’ll be launching our coliving extension that will house 600 entrepreneurs working at Station F. That’s 3 towers we’ve built just 10 minutes away from Station F. But I won’t spoil the details now.
- More programs on campus. We’ve announced 28 programs to date — but we have a few more that we’ll be announcing shortly. Stay tuned!
- The launch of our Fighters Program — kicks off in January! The Fighters Program was designed for entrepreneurs from underprivileged backgrounds. We simply cannot wait to welcome our first Fighters to campus in January and share their stories and projects with you!
- Welcoming (even) more startups and partners to campus. That’s right, we have even more partners and startups that will be calling Station F their home in 2018. We’ve seen the list and they’re beyond awesome.
I want to also take a moment to personally thank the entire Station F team and community on a fantastic first 6 months and for making 2017 such a great year for us. On behalf of the entire Station F team, I’d like to say that we are very excited and looking forward to some great projects and challenges in 2018.