Facebook Launches Paris Startup Garage to Promote Entrepreneurs in Europe

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg on Tuesday announced the Startup Garage, the company’s first-ever business incubator, which will be located in Paris at the new Station F hub launched last year.

The Startup Garage will provide a six-month program of mentorship and assistance for new companies. About10-15 data-related startup firms will occupy up to 80 desks at the Station F campus. Facebook will provide a range of services, including marketing, UX/UI design assistance, focus groups and technical development.

“When we think about jobs, 60 percent of jobs that are created in France — and most countries around the world — come from startups,” Sandberg said at a press conference at Station F. “At Facebook, we care about nothing more than supporting them.”

Startup-Friendly Crowd

Facebook already hosts an annual F8 conference for developers and entrepreneurs to help generate new ideas and innovation. It also has a program called “FbStart,” which is designed to help early stage mobile developers. However, the kickoff of the Startup Garage program in Paris marks the first time Facebook has backed an incubator program directly at this level. It plans to spend millions of dollars to help participating companies get off the ground.

The first group of firms to participate in the program includes Mapstr, which offers apps that keep track of users’ favorite cities on a map; Chekk, a digital identity app; The Fabulous, an app that helps users reach personal health and fitness goals; Onecub, an app that helps users digitially organize their personal lives; and Karos, a carpooling application.

The 34,000 square meter Station F facility is the brainchild of billionaire Xavier Niel, chief strategy officer of Iliad, a French ISP and mobile operator. Station F is located at a historic former rail station located in central Paris and has space for about 1,000 startup businesses.

The facility is scheduled to offer a residential expansion that will house 600 entrepreneurs who will be able to live right next door to the incubator.

Fires Warm

Facebook is working on multiple levels to help develop its ecosystem of new businesses and present a friendlier face to European regulators.

“Facebook will be eager to maintain a strong presence in Europe, and this is just one method of keeping the continent’s best tech talent within its ecosystem,” said Zach Fuller, paid content analyst at Midia Research.

Both Snapchat and Google have opened new offices in London in recent years, he noted.

Facebook’s choice of France could be interpreted as an early crack in the faith that the UK will maintain its status as a gateway to the continent following the Brexit vote, he told the E-Commerce Times.

“It is unlikely a coincidence that much of the international finance community have also expressed an interest in moving their operations from London to Paris,” Fuller said.

Facebook has a history of operating in Paris, though, according to Jack Kent, director of operators and mobile media at IHS Markit.

It has operated a research lab for artificial intelligence there since 2015. Both local and national government officials have worked to make the startup environment in France more competitive with tax incentives and investment plans, he told the E-Commerce Times.

The launch is a display of good business sense and smart public relations strategy, suggested Michael Jude, a program manager at Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.

An increasingly skeptical international market has been eyeing Facebook suspiciously, he told the E-Commerce Times, concerned that it is capturing share from local Internet and social media companies.

“This goes a long way to calm some of the fears that the EU and France in particular have,” said Jude. “It is good business sense, because incubators like Station F can — and often do — generate new intellectual property that can generate new revenue streams for technology companies.”

Facebook benefits, he added, by getting a lead on entrepreneurial technology firms before some of its rivals.

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times.

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