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Facebook joins the world’s largest start-up campus in Paris backed by a French billionaire

A computerized rendering of what the Station F campus will look like when it opens to the public in April 2017.
Station F
A computerized rendering of what the Station F campus will look like when it opens to the public in April 2017.

Facebook has joined a raft of major European venture capital firms and companies on the world's largest start-up campus which is based in Paris and backed by French billionaire Xavier Niel.

The campus, to be called Station F, will be housed in a 34,000 square meter former freight station that dates back to the 1920s. It will house up to 1,000 start-ups. Other major start-up campuses in the world include RocketSpace's area in San Francisco which has housed around 750 start-ups since opening in 2011, as well as a hub in Hyderabad, India, which will aim to incubate 5,000 start-ups over five years when it opens in 2018.

Roxanne Varza, the project's director, told CNBC on Monday that Station F will begin taking applications for start-ups and announced Facebook as a company that would be present on the campus.

Varza was not able to provide more details about Facebook's role, but said the company will give further details in the coming weeks.

Station F also announced that top venture capital funds Daphni, Ventech and Kima Ventures will have their offices on-site. Online retailer Vente-Privee is also running a start-up program on site.

Station F is still under construction. The building will open to the public in April 2017.
Sophie Robichon | Station F
Station F is still under construction. The building will open to the public in April 2017.

The campus will have over 3,000 desks, a number of private offices and meeting rooms, and a 360-person auditorium for events. It will also host a 1,000-seater restaurant and bar open 24 hours a day to the public.

Start-ups pay 195 euros per desk per month and are not tied into a contract. A company wanting to be on the campus can apply, with application reviewed by a team at Station F. Varza told CNBC that the start-ups need a minimum of a proof of concept of their product, and Station F will assess various criteria such as whether the company has been funded.

"I am hoping it will have a huge impact," Varza told CNBC in a phone interview on Monday.

"The reason Xavier wanted to build this is he could see lots of small players in Europe and Paris doing well, but nothing huge. He is famous with doing huge projects. And I think this is also one of the benefits of the space is finding these different components under the same roof."

Station F will also open a co-living space ten minutes away from the main campus that will be able to house 600 entrepreneurs. It is set to open in 2018.

"Housing in Paris is complicated and Niel is noticing in terms of pricing and paperwork it is not adapted to the needs of students. He wanted to make it adaptable for those entrepreneurs. It is very ambitious project," Varza said.


International project

Paris and France more broadly, has emerged as a major European technology hub in the past two years. Start-ups in the country have raised $2.74 billion so far this year, already eclipsing the 2015 figure of $1.68 billion, according to a report released by venture capital firm Atomic last week. The hopes is that this campus will not only benefit France but the broader European technology scene by attracting foreign companies as well.

"It's been amazing to see how many international companies are reaching out. We haven't had applications open yet but start-ups are contacting us every day. Most companies we get will be from outside of France," Varza told CNBC.