6 — About Xavier Niel, Ecole 42, Station F and Kima Ventures

On a more “down to earth” note, Xavier Niel, the Paris-born tech billionaire, is on a mission to turn France into an innovation powerhouse. What he has accomplished with its own version of the trinity (Ecole 42, Station F and Kima ventures) is quite a sign of the times too.

In 2013, Xavier funded École 42, a groundbreaking free computer programming school in Paris. With Xavier himself skipping University, École 42 doesn’t require a minimum level of studies to get in, and doesn’t have teachers, either. This ‘out-of-the-box’ school has a social mission with innovation at its core: making programming, a key entrepreneurial tool, accessible for anyone.

Evan Spiegel, the CEO of social media giant Snap, declared: “You feel like you’re walking into a school from the future!”

Describing a visit to 42 in Paris in a promotional video, Evan Spiegel, the CEO of social media giant Snap, declared: “You feel like you’re walking into a school from the future!”

Six years after its creation in Paris, three years after the opening of a second campus in the heart of Silicon Valley, 42 continues its founding vision: making digital an opportunity for everyone, everywhere. Resolutely open to the world with partnerships forged in Belgium (19), Morocco (1337 Khouribga and Ben Gurir), Finland (Hive), the Netherlands (Codam) and Russia (School 21), the pioneer school Today takes a new milestone in its history with the launch of 42 Network: the first international network of excellence training in IT, accessible to all for free. A network that will bring together 20 partner campuses around the world by 2020.

Among other ventures, in 2017 Xavier then funneled €250 million into building Station F, which is the largest startup incubator in the world. This monumental space boasts 366,000 square feet, 4000 desks, chess boards, multimillion-dollar art installations and a whole host of success stories (think recast.ai, a Parisian chatbot business which was recently acquired by SAP from the Microsoft AI Factory programme).

With more than 30 startup programs, 35 public administrations, 40 VC funds, 4 mentorship offices and 600 events per year, Station F offers the best resources and knowledge to help entrepreneurs grow their companies.

Facebook’s own Startup Garage in the building will host up to 15 companies on a six month cycle and represents the company’s first physical space dedicated to startups. Station F has a number of partnerships for start up programs geared for entrepreneurs. Partners include Facebook, Google Microsoft, Ubisoft, Zendesk.

Today, more than 1,000 tech start-ups have taken advantage of Station F’s cheap workspaces

Today, more than 1,000 tech start-ups have taken advantage of Station F’s cheap workspaces, where desks cost from €195 a month. To mark its anniversary, Station F has published its top 30 start-ups, including Foodvisor, a food journal and nutrition app; Daco, a retail analytics company; wilov, a pay-when-you-drive car insurance app; and Mimesys, which builds a hologram teleconferencing software.

With all this taken into consideration, where does Xavier see the French, and specifically Parisian, startup ecosystem now, and can it become Europe’s leading tech hub?: “I think that Paris is 3 years behind London. 5 years ago, it was 10 years behind. Hopefully, Paris will catch-up and be the most vibrant tech scene of Europe in 5 to 10 years :)”

Finally, for Xavier, failure is not something that he likes to dwell on, but rather use as a platform to launch from quickly into the next horizon. He says, “It’s hard to reflect on one particular failure, I like to believe I have made lots of them and learnt a lot from each one”. Then, when asked what advice he could give to himself 10 years ago if he could, his answer quite simply says it all: “Faster? ; )”.

He is also the cofounder of Kima Ventures, one of the most active angel investors in the world, backing around two startups a week with cheques mostly around €150k. Kima is run day-to-day by Jean de La Rochebrochard, another big name in the early-stage startup world.

Among the 500 files it receives each week, Kima Ventures selects only 2 to 3 startups for an average investment of 150 k euros. The overall investment each year is around 20 million euros. The fund is mainly interested in companies that can break even easily without needing to raise a lot of money. Their impressive portfolio focuses mainly on startups in France and the United States in sectors such as mobile applications or Saas service software (202 startups), marketplaces (64 startups), hardware, robotics (43 startups) or e-commerce.

Their investments also reach Fintech a lot, with successful equity investments such as the startups iBanFirst, Pumpkin, Shine, TransferWise, Spendesk, Finexkap, or even Alan. Xavier Niel’s fund has also invested in start-ups such as Doctrine, PayFit, Younited Credit and Meero.

Yet, as Xavier Niel himself explains, “we do not yet have a future GAFA in store” and before finding one, “we will have to create millions of startups”. To wrap it all up, I would say that behind Ecole 42, Station F and Kima Ventures is a common and strong belief that one can only achieve outstanding success by failing fast and iterate, thanks to rapid prototyping and market feedback.

This Chapter is part of a series of 8 daily posts, if you liked it, thank you for sharing!

Here’s the table of upcoming daily contents:

1 — R&D is dead, long live innovation?

2 — How startups fail, learn and succeed

3 — Why Silicon Valley isn’t just one place anymore

4 — Is Huawei a design company?

5 — How SpaceX agile methodology gave birth to Starship

6 — About Xavier Niel, Ecole 42, Station F and Kima Ventures

7 — How Africa is becoming an innovation powerhouse

8 — Conclusion: Innovating in 2021

See you tomorrow!




Business & Customer Insights Manager @LVMH #UX #Innovation | #ESSEC #MBA | Ex @PwC @PublicisGroupe

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Nicolas Jambin

Nicolas Jambin

Business & Customer Insights Manager @LVMH #UX #Innovation | #ESSEC #MBA | Ex @PwC @PublicisGroupe

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