By Roxanne Varza, Director
When we first launched STATION F in 2017, despite the hype and excitement, I knew that there would be things that we would not get right and that would require modification and change. In fact, our first year felt like it was almost entirely dedicated to debugging and fixing things we had overlooked. At the end 2018, I published a post that included a number of the changes we wanted to make and were actively working on. And now, once again, I’d like to share what we’ve done and what is yet to come.
First, a look at 2019
Last year, we identified 5 key areas that we wanted to focus on in 2019: building a more comprehensive university-like experience, making our campus more open to non-residents, debugging campus and fixing a number of the logistic and building-related issues, providing more digital tools and resources, and finally putting more of a spotlight on our startups. So, how did we measure up?
1) Developing a university-like experience.
A lot was done with regards to this. First, we worked hard to re-align all the 30 different STATION F programs. While programs will all provide different resources and work with different types of companies, we do want there to be some kind of a shared experience across programs – very similar to how a university may function with different masters programs. We’ll continue to develop this in 2020, but some of the changes we made in 2019 included redesigning our onboarding experience (including our new onboarding video, featuring some of our staff and residents), developing an on-campus Ambassador community, and testing an offer for our growing Alumni base.
However, one of our biggest achievements from 2019 is the opening of Flatmates, our housing offer for up to 600 of our residents. While we knew housing was a big pain-point for our entrepreneurs, we perhaps underestimated the potential for it to contribute to the STATION F community.
2) More campus openness.
In 2019, we strived to open our campus as much as possible to non-residents. As many of you know, we have spaces on campus that are accessible to the public (for example our restaurant La Felicita), but we actually wanted to make more STATION F events and resources available to non-residents. In 2019, we hosted literally hundreds of events on campus, many of them free and open to the public. One of my personal favorites, was F for Femme, an event dedicated to gender diversity with some of the leading gender-diversity initiatives in our industry. We also hosted a number of non-startup events, including several concerts, a fashion show, a stand-up comedy show and a talk with a Michelin-star chef.
As with our first year, we welcomed *loads* of attendees, guests and visitors from around the world. We of course had some high-profile visitors (like Pharrell Williams, Jeff Koons and the President of Ukraine) but we saw a large increase in the number of international investment funds that wanted to visit.
We also aimed to bring new populations to STATION F, with a special focus on kids via our summer camp. We were blown away by some of the young participants and are looking forward to hosting more kid-friendly activities on campus in 2020.
3) Make campus great again.
I mentioned earlier that we have dedicated a lot of time to « debugging » during our first 2 years. In 2019, we made a lot of investments into improving our infrastructure, logistics and services to make our campus an even better place to work. For example, following our residents’ feedback, we provided more work-friendly furniture in our meeting rooms and also have provided several larger meeting room spaces on campus. We’ve also tried to provide even more flexibility to our processes and procedures to give startups the flexibility they need while maintaining a safe and secure work environment. We will continue to invest in this area and make additional improvements in the upcoming year.
4) More digital tools.
As many of you know, the primary digital tools used by our community are Slack and our intranet, HAL. We have spent *A LOT¨of time trying to make experiences better on both. We launched a number of new features on HAL in 2019, including a Forum tool, VC intro tool and number of functions that help startups save time with functional tasks like reserving meeting rooms or inviting guests. However, the feature that we find dramatically changes everyone’s experience at STATION F is the database of all the startups and resident members. Being able to quickly identify people on campus with certain experience, expertise or by industry is one of the main advantages of being at a place like STATION F. We’ll be focusing more on this and some new functionalities in the upcoming year.
5) Spotlight on our startups.
In 2019 we transitioned away from talking about our campus to talking about the reason we exist: our companies. We released the 2nd edition of our documentary, Foundation, and launched our Meet a Founder video series and STATION F: The Podcast (with some incredible guests, like Hadi Partovi, Trae Stephens and Arlan Hamilton, to name a few), which allow us to give more attention to some of the incredible projects and people we work with at STATION F.
But more importantly, we released the first edition of the Top 30 (our best performing startups) and the Future 40 (our up-and-coming startups) lists. These are campus-wide lists that enable us to highlight startups that we think are noteworthy, irrespective of their program. We are excited to follow their developments and to share more companies with you in the upcoming year. We will be announcing the second editions of Top 30 and Future 40 in June and November, respectively.
2020, the year of values.
This year, we have a number of new challenges and projects planned – I won’t detail all of them here. However, I will say that we will be giving even more attention to values. We believe that in order to thrive, tomorrow’s businesses need to integrate solid values – with respects to ethics, diversity and sustainability. We would like to see all of our 1,000 startups at STATION F take values seriously and so we will begin to integrate this into the selection criteria for all of our programs.
STATION F: where great ideas come to life.
STATION F is often recognized for its massive size, but what actually happens at STATION F is even more incredible than its size. STATION F is a place where some of the most incredible ideas come to life: plants that are genetically modified to purify air, autonomous and eco-friendly housing units, refugee education and job creation, more effective diagnostics and prevention for some of the world’s most complex medical challenges – and the list goes on. We consider ourselves incredibly lucky to be surrounded by such brilliant and ambitious people and I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every person who has been a part of our journey.