The (Incredible) Truth about International Startups at Station F

From the first day I joined Station F, I promised myself I would do everything I could to make Station F as international as possible. In fact, being international is so important that it quickly became one of our 3 core principles at Station F. We strive to integrate international elements into everything we do — whether it be hosting international startups, partners, investors and speakers, developing international programs, developing international offers and partnerships to support our startups as they develop overseas, or seeking out administrative solutions to help foreign entrepreneurs coming to Station F…and the list goes on. In fact, we even changed our name to Station F in order to make it easier to pronounce for the international community. You’re welcome :)

The not-so-French ecosystem.

We believe that today’s successful startups are international by definition. I mean, the single-market approach is so, well, American (just kidding). The French ecosystem is actually becoming increasingly international and the government is (thankfully) giving a lot more attention to this important topic.

For example, just 2 years ago, the government launched the French Tech Ticket, a program to help foreign entrepreneurs in France. Today, it’s an incredibly popular program, receiving several thousand applications per year. Foreign entrepreneurs need to apply and get selected to a given startup program. Once they are accepted, they are provided with a package including funding, administrative support, business support and more for an entire year. And many of the selected startups have actually gone on to join Station F programs, including companies like Sorry as a Service, Jetpack Data, Pixis, Pawmetrics and Bitwage — to name a few.

But the French government’s support for international talent thankfully does not stop there. Earlier this summer, French President Emmanuel Macron also announced the launch of the French Tech Visa (valid for up to 4 years and renewable), which not only covers founders but foreign startup employees and investors as well. This is incredibly important because French companies need foreign talent to help them develop internationally — and it’s these international employees that may go on to launch startups in France and create jobs later on. The website also lists a number of startups that are qualified to request the French Tech Visa for future employees.

President Emmanuel Macron at the Station F Inauguration June 2017

In my humble opinion, these visa programs will have a tremendous impact on the international talent coming into France’s ecosystem.

The US, UK and China are the top countries sending applications to Station F.

Now, for anyone who may not be aware, we have a huge international demand at Station F. For example, we mentioned before that for just 1 of the 26 programs at Station F, we received 2,300 applications from over 50 different countries (for the Founders Program). The top countries that sent us applications included the US, the UK and China — in that order (and India was a close 4th). I guess somewhat unsurprisingly, a lot of startups actually mentioned in their applications that factors like Donald Trump in the US, high Silicon Valley prices or Brexit in the UK were encouraging them to look elsewhere. This was also the case for many companies from outside the US or UK that now seemed less interested in these 2 locations. We received many applications from other locations as well — including some rather exotic locations with nascent ecosystems, like Nepal, Jamaica, Senegal, Uzbekistan and more. And even though France’s ecosystem has been gaining momentum for quite some time, we’re also starting to see more and more international startups turning to France since the election of the new President.

The Selection Board counts 100 entrepreneurs from 21 countries.

But the Founders Program goes further than just receiving international applicants. When it comes to selecting the startups for our program, we turn to the Selection Board, which is made of up 100 experienced entrepreneurs from 21 different countries. These entrepreneurs bring a fresh eye to the applications we receive and make sure that we are not just looking at startups that will succeed in France, but internationally as well.

Station F Selection Board World Map

We have some programs for foreign companies — only.

At Station F, all (yes, all) of our 26 different programs accept startups from around the world. For example, there are foreign startups participating in programs like Shakeup Factory (foodtech) and Vente Privée’s Impulse Factory (fashiontech). But we also have some programs entirely dedicated to international startups.

Numa, for foreign startups expanding into France.

Numa, for example, runs a landing program at Station F called Scale Hub for foreign startups wishing to expand into France and Europe — which means their program is 100% international. They have worked with some killer startups over the years as they were the first startup accelerator program to launch in France in 2010 (it was called Le Camping at the time). Their portfolio includes names like Bankin, Augment, Sketchfab and more. More recently, Numa began expanding internationally and now has a number of programs around the world — there are 7 locations listed on their website including India, Mexico, Morocco, Russia and more. They are clearly well-positioned to run this international program and are already working with startups like Jetpack Data and Sorry as a Service, mentioned above.

OuiCrea, a unique France-China program.

Another international program we have at Station F is a France-China program run by OuiCrea (formerly known as Serrinnov). OuiCrea has several spaces in China — including in Shanghai and Suzhou. They’ve already worked with over 40 international companies. Station F is their first location outside of China and some of their teams include the likes of Flyinstinct, a company that specializes in drone automation technology.

We also have a number of programs run by foreign partners, including Microsoft, Facebook, Naver and more. But I’m also hoping we’ll have more purely international programs to come.

Expanding our reach.

As roughly 1/3 of our programs are yet to start (they will kick off in September), it’s still rather hard to estimate just how many international teams there are at Station F. Regardless of the numbers, we’ll continue to focus on growing our community and making sure that entrepreneurs from all backgrounds and all locations find their place at Station F.

In the meantime, if you’re an international entrepreneur interested in applying to a program at Station F, please see here.