France is launching the world’s largest startup campus in a converted railway depot in Paris, and it’s keeping the door open for those from underprivileged backgrounds. The space, now dubbed Station F but previously known as the 1920s-era freight hall Halle Freyssinet, opened its doors this week to eligible startups from around the world. The building is 366,000 square feet and contains 3,000 desks, an on-site restaurant and bar, and eight event spaces.
The space will host companies from 26 international programs, and the French government is working with the city of Paris to build nearby housing starting in 2018. This is all part of a larger push from France to foster homegrown entrepreneurship and try and build a incubating tech culture like that of California’s Silicon Valley. Station F is being primarily backed by French telecom mogul and billion investor Xavier Niel, to the tune of around €250 million.
Most of the startup programs Station F supports are run by established tech companies like Facebook and Microsoft, but the organization is also offering acceptance to Station F through two original programs. There’s the Founders Program, which you can join by paying €195 ($ 223.13) a month per desk, and the Fighters Program, which is free so long as you apply and are accepted. Station F says it’s already accepted more than 200 startups through its Founders Program.
The Fighters Program is a one-year commitment for those “who have a killer entrepreneurial mindset and a business with potential, but weren’t born in a privileged environment,” according to the Station F website. Fighters could include those from the French suburbs, immigrants, refugees, and those with difficult personal stories, according to the organization. Station F’s release encourages people to join, saying, “if you can become an Uber driver, you can start a startup.”
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