Inside the launch of Paris startup superhub Station F

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Reuters

Entrepreneurs in Paris have a new home.

A giant incubator for startups, Station F, opened its doors to the public on Thursday night in a launch party attended by French president Emmanuel Macron, Station F’s billionaire founder Xavier Niel, director Roxanne Varza, and Nest founder Tony Fadell.

Station F can house up to 1,000 startups, all of whom need to be part of an existing programme. The incubator has its own programmes, like the Founders programme, but there are also bigger companies running their own startup accelerators inside the building. These include Facebook, Microsoft, Vente-Privee, Amazon Web Services, and Zendesk.

The building is the biggest central space for startups in the world. Station F is the length of the Eiffel Tower lying sideways, and is based out of an abandoned railway depot that’s undergone a £217 million transformation.

You can take a tour through Station F as it was being built and learn about its origins here.

During the launch party, Macron invited startup entrepreneurs from around the world to come to Paris. “If you want to invent, to invest, to develop your startup, you have to come here directly to Paris, Station F, and everything will be organised for you,” he said.

Meanwhile, Niel turned up on what looked like a four-wheel electric bicycle. According to Forbes, he’s worth more than £3 billion.

Here’s how the launch went down:


This is Station F, a startup superhub founded and funded by French telecoms billionaire Xavier Niel.

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Reuters

It’s a massive building with three halls for meetings, offices, and a giant restaurant with train cars as dining rooms

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Shona Ghosh/Station F

It is based out of an old railway depot called Halle Freyssinet, which was going into disrepair before Xavier Niel bought it.

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Shona Ghosh/Business Insider

Startups have been moving into the refurbished Station F through the end of June — here is Xavier Niel with the first batch of residents at the launch party.

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Reuters

Niel told Business Insider in March that he wanted more diverse founders in Station F.

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Reuters

“[It’s for] people who are not – how do you say it – classic, white, Catholic,” he said at the time. “We ought to have a lot of diversity in this place, to have more diversity in Paris.”


As part of its launch, Station F said it had created a new programme for disadvantaged entrepreneurs called “Fighters.”

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Reuters

Newly installed French president Emmanuel Macron announced the launch of Station F and said France was a “startup” nation.

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Reuters

Macron joked that he wanted to be an entrepreneur. “Then I pivoted my business model.”

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Reuters

Here’s Macron with his wife Brigitte, and Xavier Niel.

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Reuters

Station F director Roxanne Varza said 40% of the startups selected for Station F’s founders programme were founded by women.

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Shona Ghosh/Business Insider

Around 2,000 people attended the launch, according to Station F.

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Station F

That included Nest founder and the “godfather” of the iPod, Tony Fadell, who resides in Paris.

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Kimberly White / Getty

Fadell described Station F on Twitter as “An incredible lightning rod for Parisian and French and European tech startups!”.


Vente Privee CEO Jacques Antoine Granjon also went.

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Flickr/leweb3

Here’s Macron at the completed Station F, with director Roxanne Varza, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, and Xavier Niel.

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Emmanuel Macron (c), wife Brigitte (back l), Roxanne Varza (l), Anne Hidalgo (r), and Xavier Niel (r).
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Reuters