Who would have believed it? The country whose favourite phrases begin with “Mais le problème est...” or “C’est compliqué” has managed to open the biggest startup campus in the world. And not only that, after only a few months of opening its doors, Station F in Paris appears to be roaring success.
France, despite being the originator of the word ‘entrepreneur’ (contrary to George Bush Jr’s claim), previously had a reputation amongst international entrepreneurs as being a bit of a tricky customer when it came to trying to set up a company or launch anything that didn’t fit into any of its business pigeon holes. Business people with fresh, untried ideas often found themselves in a Kafkaesque nightmare of being passed from one tax office to another while the bureaucrats figured out how to squeeze them into a traditional role just to tick the correct boxes on the paperwork. (See our story of how one US entrepreneur went through the mill trying to get his original business idea off the ground in France.)
But the last few years has seen a significant change in the country’s outlook towards innovative startups and the tech industry in particular. Suddenly groups of tech experts and bustling startup hubs began to pop up all over Paris, bringing with it changes (albeit slow and convoluted) in the government’s business system. Riding on the back of the capital’s new-found status as Europe’s go-to city for startups, the French entrepreneur Xavier Niel decided to back a plan for an ambitious 34,000 square metre campus in the old Halle Freyssinet building in the 13th district of Paris to cater for this new generation of business minds.