By Jean-Philippe Courtois, EVP and President, Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing & Operations at Microsoft
Europe has long been a hotbed of innovation and the region’s startup momentum shows no signs of slowing. In the first quarter of this year European startups attracted an impressive amount of venture capital, closing 869 funding rounds totaling €4.5 billion.
Continuing our passion for, and partnership to, the startup community, I’m proud to announce our support for Station F, the biggest startup campus in the world. Based right here in Paris, the 34,000 sq m space will soon be filled with 1,000 small technology companies from around the world, where they will live, work and innovate.
Station F has ambitious plans. Founder Xavier Niel wants to cement Paris as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, helping people from all walks of life to turn their ideas into new companies and new jobs. By helping people to create technology-fueled firms and develop future-looking skills, we improve our collective ability to tackle big societal issues, from illiteracy to unemployment. Roxanne Varza, Director at Station F, previously led startup initiatives at Microsoft France for three years, and it’s thrilling to see such a talent continue to thrive in the French startup scene.
Microsoft will work with Station F to establish an on-site Artificial Intelligence (AI) program, helping startups develop AI proof-of-concept projects. We will offer scientific, technological, and business expertise in partnership with Inria, another world leader in AI research.
To begin with, we will welcome five startups into a year-long program at Station F, chosen for their maturity in terms of funding and business development, and for their ambition to grow AI in France and beyond. The founding member is Recast.ai, a collaborative platform for creating bots. It’s already helping major brands to revolutionize customer service with smart chatbots, working with the likes of SFR, SNCF Transilien, EDF, Michelin and KLM. Looking ahead, within a year we hope to connect 100 more startups to researchers, developers, experts, technical coaches, investors and business partners, connecting them to conscientious mentors, and significant opportunities to grow.
Now is the time to fuel development of this technology and make France a champion of AI, to spur innovation and economic growth. And yet establishing this community isn’t just about helping French firms to achieve their goals. I firmly believe that AI will play a major role in tackling some of the big global challenges we currently face in healthcare, farming, environment and education. It’s relevant to businesses, governments and individuals in all countries. By helping a new wave of AI-led companies to expand internationally, we further democratize AI and help bring its benefits to more people.
This partnership is just the latest example of our continued efforts to support Europe’s fast-growing startup ecosystem. In France, we have helped more than 3,000 startups to expand, such as Criteo, Talentsoft, Iconem and TokyWoky.
On a trip to Brussels last year I announced that we are supporting the European Startup Network (ESN) to help businesses scale internationally through our Azure cloud technology and a Go Global Program. In March this year, together with EY Poland and Senfino, we launched Startberry, an initiative that will help young companies bring their ideas to market through access to workspace, cloud solutions, consultancy and advice from mentors. This is just a small slice of the support we offer startups in Europe.
I continue to be amazed and inspired by the ideas, passion and energy emanating from the entrepreneurs that I meet. Together with the likes of Facebook and HEC Paris, we look forward to meeting the bright minds moving into Station F. Today, Paris has opened a door to the future. I look forward to seeing what’s inside.