Times have never been better for the French tech sector. According to accounting firm EY findings, startups in France have raised more than 1.95 billion euros during the first half of 2018, shattering all prior forecasts. This marks a staggering increase of 61% of investments made during the first semester of last year, a mind-boggling surge of capital. Indeed, since being elected into office in May 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron has demonstrated a hands on pro-business attitude, which is without a doubt, one of the main driving forces in this innovation upheaval.
One of the most interesting manifests of this trend, has been the erection of the world’s biggest startup campus, “Station F”, a mammoth incubator project gathering a whole entrepreneurial ecosystem under one roof. Located in a former rail freight depot in Paris, Station F is an immense business incubator for startups, financially backed by French billionaire businessman Xavier Niel. The facility was inaugurated by President Emmanuel Macron and Parisian Mayor Anne Hidalgo in June 2017, and offers office accommodation for up to 1,000 start-up and preliminary stage enterprises, as well as for corporate partners such as Facebook, Microsoft, L’Oréal and BNP Paribas. Academic partners such as French international business school HEC are also present, thus creating a unique environment where business, innovation and entrepreneurship can thrive.
Why is this interesting to Israel? For many reasons. The first reason that comes to mind, is inclusive growth. Places like Station F ensure equal access to business tools and guidance provided by larger companies, exposure to investors and users, all in a one of a kind “one stop shop.” In Israel, it is well known that most startups are founded by ex-veterans of legendary Israeli military intelligence unit “8200.” In Israel, at the tender age of 18, many destinies are already sealed due to the nature of one’s military service. Those who were lucky enough to be picked by this elite unit will most probably enjoy a rather affluent future without ever needing to complete a university degree. In addition to vital know how, upon discharge from the military, these young men and women enjoy an extensive network of ex-veterans already deeply imbedded in the tech industry, granting them even more possibilities to succeed, and widening the gap between them, and basically everybody else. At Station F, one of the most interesting platforms is the “Fighters Program,” which is geared towards youngsters from underserved or unconventional backgrounds. One of these young entrepreneurs for instance, once a car thief, now heads a startup dealing with auto-security.
Another reason why Israel should have its own Station F (or Station I, or TLV), is because there is nothing like it currently in the Israeli landscape. That is to say, many of the players exist, such as incubators, investors, academia etc., but they do not all reside under the same roof. Having such a grand facility geared at nourishing and supporting startups during their baby-steps period would be greatly beneficial for all relevant actors. It could be a one stop shop where good ideas are discovered, cultivated, nourished, sought after, and developed. There is still a lot of talent to be discovered in Israel other than that of fortunate 8200 graduates. It is actually Israel’s poorest who usually do not even serve in the military due to religious or socio-economic constrains, thus not even granting them the opportunity to discover and get discovered.
Granting equal access to a wider portion of society would add to inclusive growth and bridging the gap, and it would prove be a decisive push for the country’s economy. Indeed, it would be any entrepreneur’s dream to head such a heap of new talent and immense newfangled source of revenue.