How Station F is Boosting the French Tech Ecosystem with Roxanne Varza (Station F)

Again Roman delay warm welcome please All right I'm back Roxanne it's so great to have you here For Many reasons but one in particular is That station f Has a sort of special history with TechCrunch yeah we do three years ago I Think it was right here on this stage You and the old station F to the world So it's been three years it's been live For three and a half years something Like that And I think the excitement has been like Off the charts Did you expect that kind of hype with President macron coming for for the Opening for instance uh yeah so we have An incredibly special relationship with TechCrunch because I remember we went to London when this rep was back in London In the day and uh we announced our first Partners kind of essentially people knew Station F was coming but nobody had any Idea what it would be so we made all of Our first announcements at disrupt and We knew it was going to get some Attention I mean our founder Xavier now He's obviously very well known the Project was extremely ambitious we knew Uh Mac home pretty early on he was gonna Probably come to uh to our opening we Did not expect the amount of attention That it's continued to get in the

Momentum that has built up since all the Presidents and ministers and people that Have come to visit so that's been a Quite a surprise great so let's let's Dive in and talk about station f as it Is today so you have your own programs Where you accept entrepreneurs so that They can relocate to station F and work From there the founders program the Fighters program can you tell us a few Words about this and how many people do You have in this program so yeah so Station F uh is essentially designed Like a university for startups we have 30 different programs uh one third of Them are done by corporates like Microsoft and Facebook uh we have One-third that are by universities we Have some of the best French Business Schools engineering schools so HCC insea They have their programs on campus and Then we have one third of our programs That are done by uh startup Organizations like entrepreneur first as Their French program at station f Um and then we run two programs in-house Ourselves there's a lot of other Services that we provide however we have 30 different Public Services we have an Investor Community with about 40 Different funds we have a maker space we Recently launched housing so really this Is trying to to put everything an early Stage company would possibly need right

In one place and you have a post office And we have a post office with Exceptional hours it goes all the way to 10 pm so how do the Partnerships work Does it mean that they have a long-term Commitment or can they move on and do Something else and you have to find new Partners yeah all of our partners at Station FR minimum one-year engagement And we like to keep it pretty flexible Because Partners will come and go did You have some do you have some examples Of partners that like thought it wasn't A good fit Um to date we've only had one partner That's left and that was because they Didn't have funding to continue at Station F but otherwise uh all the other Partners have continued and do you want To name it all it was Numa Numa who's Still going strong and is a Well-recognized partner in the French Ecosystem yes so you have some tech Partners so you said Facebook Microsoft Uh AWS not AWS actually Facebook Microsoft Uh Apple we have on campus yeah and you Have some different Industries as well So Banks BNP paribar luxury e-commerce Lvmh L'Oreal Is it important to have this mix of Partners so that you can tackle Different Industries Yeah exactly

Um essentially at station F you won't Have two programs on the same topic we Did that obviously to limit competition As well between programs but also Because we wanted to make sure that any Startup from any industry would find a Good fit at station F and so we have 30 Different programs and they all cover Different stages different verticals Different stages uh sorry and Geographies as well so we have for Example a France China program which Lets you spend six months in six months In France and six months in China And do you plan on building a station F In China just for that not yet uh Actually our France China program has Their own spaces in China with two Different universities so they actually Already have the space on the ground There we're not we're not at this stage Planning on replicating station F Anywhere else all right you talked about Housing a bit um a few months ago you Announced and you launched uh flatmates What is flatmates so flatmates is Essentially a massive co-living space For 600 of the entrepreneurs at station F uh many people may know that housing Is very complicated in Paris it's even More complicated when you're an Entrepreneur so usually to be able to Find a flat in in Paris you would have To gain you'd have to make three times

Rent a salary you'd have to have a fixed Term contract which is impossible if You're founding a company Um you'd probably have to have somebody Local as a guarantor this is just stuff That as an entrepreneur and especially As a foreign entrepreneur you would Never have one third of our population Is actually non-french uh so we actually Built this to really respond to that and And how does it work they just rent a Bedroom in an apartment so uh each Apartment has six people living in it Obviously you get a private room you can Get shared bathroom private bathroom we Have different options Um starts at 399 Euros per room per Month so it's very affordable and it's Essentially once you get accepted to a Program at station F you can also get Accepted to the housing So for the past few weeks there's been a Lot of talk about work-life balance For instance away the luggage company They've come and they're under pressure Because people have been noticing that They're making people work on New Year's Eve to ship bags And it feels like you're kind of selling This lifestyle where you eat sleep Breathe take all the time how do you Feel about that so the truth is Actually stationed uh Actually launched it uh with the idea in

Mind that it would be full 24 7 and that Is definitely not the case uh We've Noticed that people take Holiday Station F we still probably have several hundred People that will stay in the evenings And on weekends but it's definitely not The majority of people that choose to Work uh later hours or extra hours so Actually we tend to find that we're Actually surprised by how quote unquote Little the entrepreneurs actually end up Working compared to the cliches that we Have in mind okay so you don't think You're participating in this kind of Lifestyle no I don't I don't think our Entrepreneurs are necessarily uh that Style of entrepreneur great let's switch Gear and talk about some of the famous Guests you've had over the the years so You've had the important Tech CEOs come Coming for visits Jack Dorsey for Instance you've had important heads of State as well zelinski the new president Of Ukraine was there recently Um how why do people think they have to Go to station F when they you come to Paris so I think station F has kind of It's become one of the key stops that You make now when you come to Paris you Go see the Eiffel Tower you see the Louvre now you see station f Um I think part of it's also just simply Because it's a really great great way to See this kind of new Vibe that's that's

Come about in Paris we've started to Kind of feel this momentum for the last Few years lots of new startups lots of Attention going to the ecosystem and This is a great way for it to be Crystallized you can meet so many Different players in one location and I Think that's why we've been very Fortunate in that we also have a huge Push and backing from the government They support us they share us with a lot Of their delegations and so a lot of People are coming to see so when you say New Vibe what have you noticed in the French Tech ecosystem that has changed Over the past five years ten years well I think uh starting about maybe 2016 so This was one year prior to station That's launch we started to see a lot More companies a lot a lot of people Actually turning away from more Traditional ecos systems people wanting To come back from Silicon Valley maybe It was in part facilitated by brexit and The new president in the U.S and we've Actually seen that as a reason for People actually turning towards uh Towards France but also the arrival of Macron has been a great pro-business Vibe uh and message to the world so We've seen in the last year alone his Announcement with you know the new uh Late stage funding initiative that he Launched the new Talent visa for foreign

Entrepreneurs so I think today instead Of France simply attracting people that Left it's now attracting some of the Best talent from around the world and We're seeing people arrive that don't Speak any french have never worked in France and they're joining some of the The great companies that we have there Give us some numbers so how many people Residents of stationed f are foreigners And do you care about diversity as well Yeah yeah diversity is huge for us on Many levels so the entire station of Community uh is one-third International We have over 600 people on campus that Don't speak French so our language which Is English many people when they come to Station F they don't feel like they're In France anymore and in a sense they're Not in France anymore the countries that Actually are the best represented in Order are the U.S China and Morocco and Americans are always Blown Away by the Fact that the Americans would be the Best represented but diversity for us Doesn't stop there so we've paid a lot Of attention to minority and female Founders especially We have uh five of our 30 programs today That have 45 or more female Founders now We still have a ways to go to get to 30 Programs 50 but we'll get there and we Also have one program on campus that's Very dear to us and actually it was

Um really what our founder wanted to do When he created station F and aside from Just making a big space it's called the Fighters program and it's for people Coming from underprivileged backgrounds And so for example in that program we Have someone who's a former prisoner he Used to steal uh cars and now he's Making an anti-theft device for cars so We think there's nobody better than him To do the job and so that's a really a Program designed for people that maybe Don't have higher education our refugees Or have lived a difficult and what's the Name of his company this company is Called digital And we're actually really proud of him Because He actually pitched on stage not too Long ago Um we launched exactly we launched this Event uh this year called future 40 our 40 most promising up and coming startups Uh that were also fundraising in the Near future and so he's actually to date The only fighter that pitched on that Stage and he's actually making Headway With some good negotiations give us some Other names of your favorite startups at Station F I'm sure you've seen hundreds Or even thousands of startups by now Yeah we have so many what should we be Looking for so from the top 30 this year There were quite uh that the top 30 is

Essentially our our best performing Startups Um we have Vitality which is a e-gaming Esports company that has made a lot of News in France they're working with stat De France uh they've done some Significant rounds of funding I think They they just released a 20 million Round of funding not too long ago we've Had a company called Kronos care uh that They actually do Post uh sales service So after you make a purchase online on The e-commerce site they actually go Through with a lot of the stuff that Happens after making the the sale they Were acquired a tiny team but actually a Lot of companies that are making are Getting more attention after the future 40 event for example we have a lot of Medical Diagnostics companies uh one Called agency that's testing for Alzheimer's so we have really we run a Whole gamut of different different Topics and stages that station have very Interesting so let's switch gear and Talk about some some personal use of Yours you participate in atomico's Angel Program so you're basically scouting Companies for them they're being you They're giving you bring big envelope of Cash and you have to invest it over time In multiple companies How does that work like how do you feel About that yeah I think that was a

Really remarkable program so atomico Launched this one year ago yeah Um right here actually yeah and it was Um it only lasts for one year so they Give each of the different Angels uh an Envelope of cash and they say Essentially you guys can pick the Companies that you want to invest it in Um and so I picked four I was really Pleased to announce uh the first one That I invested in was the all-female Founded company called caramel and They're actually doing an application to Help parents find activities for their Kids which one would think that would Exist and be easy but actually it's it's Not Um and so I really was very pleased to Meet that company and so I've done a Couple other deals not all of them are Public to date but I think it also this Program really kind of helps get over That fear and kind of demystifies what It means to make an investment into a Company yeah so I wrote about caramel so You can check it out on on TechCrunch And does it mean that at the end of the Year you're not going to do it again and Next you so every year there's someone Else they're renewing the batch of Angels so they're going to be announcing Shortly maybe soon Um the new angels that they have uh and So every year will be a new batch of I

Think six to ten people like the entire Batch is going to be new or are some People going to stay uh no they change It every year they may have something in The future for people who want to Continue uh in another form but the Point is to really encourage more and More people to learn what it is to Invest okay so out of the four companies That you've um you've invested in Through atomico's Angel program are they Based at station f uh yes they have all Had a relationship with station F uh not All of them are based there today and How do you feel about the potential Conflict of interest that could raise With running station F on one side and Investing in only four companies out of The hundreds and hundreds it's true it Definitely Um it's one it's a very hard pick Because I'm in touch with so many Amazing companies but also that's where My deal flow is and I think like any Investor you have to look at where your Deal flow is so if I have to go for Startups that have strictly no Relationship with station F I would be In a much much smaller pool yeah of Course So now let's talk about the future I Think station f is off to a great start How do you think you can make it work Over the next 10 years 20 years do you

Have to make any changes so station I've Actually we've evolved quite a bit in The last two years Alone Um I like to tell a lot of people in the First two years we were really just beta Testing and fixing bugs and I still feel Like we have quite a bit of work to do Just from from that perspective but Actually what we're really going to be Focusing on Um for the upcoming years is going to be On encouraging all of our startups to be More values driven and to really Integrate values diversity Sustainability into all the 1000 Companies that we have there so people Come to station F and they're like oh Well do you have a program Um you know for for sustainable Companies but actually we think every Single company there should have that as Part of their business and so we're Going to be making the shift in that Direction and how can you force startups To adapt to these values so I think We're actually over time going to be Integrating it into the types of Companies that we pick the types of Companies we worked with we're in kind Of a luxurious position today because we Have over 11 000 companies that apply to Station F every year so we can really be Selective are you going to pick some and Leave all the others in the dark yeah

And I think we'll probably include it at Some point in the criteria at station f Cool and when it comes to the other Programs from third-party Partners it Will be the same all 1000 countries need To be part of the contracts basically if You become a partner of station F Sustainability first for instance all of All of the different values criteria we Think is important so sustainability and Diversity obviously given how important It is to us will at some point become Part of the criteria And so how many startups in total have Been a station F residents Over the years uh so we're actually only Two and a half years old and companies Tend to stay as long as they possibly Can so we've now capped it at two years Um I think we probably had something close To 2 000 companies to date go through Station F uh just given the turnover uh That we've had these last years and out Of these 2000 companies have you seen Some great exits that you want to Mention Uh yeah we've had quite a few exits um Over the last two years I think we had Five exits that were listed in the top 30 list that we shared so we had one That was acquired by Magic leap it was a Company doing Um virtual reality conferencing solution

A company Um called Nemesis and it was in the Ubisoft program so Ubisoft does a lot of Great Technologies uh not only in gaming But also in kind of in the virtual Reality space and we had another uh Company that was acquired by Le bunkua I Mentioned earlier Chronos care that was Acquired by a U.S company as well so We've actually had quite a few Acquisitions and we also have Acquisitions that people choose not to Make public so in our first year we had Probably something around 12 Acquisitions only two were made public And I think probably one of my favorite Acquisition stories even though it now Dates back to the first six months of Station F was a company acquired by sap Recast AI chatbot solution founded by a Female founder under 30 years of age so Is it taking all the right boxes for you It's ticking a lot of the right boxes it Has more boxes to take Cool wow that's great we only have a few Seconds left I wanted to ask you because Every time I come to station F I'm quite Surprised by how small the team is at Station F do you plan to grow the team And expand to new areas maybe launch Media websites and other stuff uh yeah So our team actually is remarkably small For how much we run uh so actually we're What a 35 person team today running

Station F and the co-living extension we Also work with a number of service Providers that we actually consider also Part of our team so if you include Everybody who handles maintenance and Security we probably go up to something Like 60 people it's actually quite a big Team we've started to internalize some Of these Services we think that it can Change the level of service and we've We've seen that done successfully Elsewhere but I think we also are Looking at how we can grow also the Teams that are working with startups and Partners great Roxanne thank you so much Thank you and see you next time thanks

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