In September 2021, over 50 lucky Georgia Tech-Lorraine students visited Station F, the world’s biggest startup campus, located in Paris, France. Station F is an entrepreneurial ecosystem that offers the next generation of entrepreneurs, the resources (both on-campus and online) to launch their own company or learn more about the ins and outs of startups. The campus, located in Paris’ 13th district, covers 34,000 square meters of space (366,000 square feet), and is housed in an old rail freight depot. It provides office space for up to 1,000 startups and early-stage businesses, access to venture capital partners as well as space for corporate partners such as Facebook, Google, and Microsoft.   

After a tour of the Station F campus, undergraduates from Vicki Birchfield's inaugural First-Year Semester Abroad cohort, and students from Tim Stoneman’s History, Technology & Society (HTS) “Regions of Europe” course met with two Georgia Tech alumni and serial entrepreneurs. Gilles Chetelat, completed his MS in Management at Tech in 1997, and Duong Phan, went through Georgia Tech-Lorraine's dual-degree master’s program, graduating in 2006 with a Master of Science in Computer Science.   

According to First-year Semester Abroad program director, Dr. Birchfield, “My students had eagerly anticipated the visit to Station F since learning about it and all things “French Tech” back in the summer when they met the dynamic Dr. Rami Abi Akl, Attaché for Science and Technology at the Consulate General of France in Atlanta. Touring the impressive Station F in Paris in person and having the opportunity to meet two entrepreneurs with Georgia Tech and Georgia Tech-Lorraine degrees made the experience even more inspiring.”   

Gilles Chetelat told the story of co-founding his startup, which he sold to the U.S. global media and technology company, Comcast Corporation, for 100 million euros in 2016. Chetelat's achievement is one of the best startup successes to come out of La French Tech – a French government initiative that is putting France on the map as one of the best places in the world to launch and grow a startup. Not one to rest on his laurels, Chetelat then started an EdTech startup called The TimeStamp (previously called Clind), before joining French startup, mediarithmics, a data marketing platform.   

Computer science graduate, Duong Phan, spent a decade working in finance and IT consulting, before co-founding Pims, a ticketing and marketing innovation platform. In addition to being the CEO of Pims, Duong also launched Music Tech France an association of music innovators. He is a clear example of of someone who looked to his passions to find success as an entrepreneur.

Tim Stoneman’s HTS students were impressed with the visit to Station F as well, although they had a different agenda from the First-Year Semester Abroad students. As Dr. Stoneman noted, “Our goal was to observe firsthand the activities of a special type of high-tech cluster and understand the role of both private investment and public policy in stimulating high-tech entrepreneurial activity. We compared the experience of start-up companies in Silicon Valley and Europe and considered the organization of space in Station F as a converted industrial heritage site and start-up lab.” 

After the visit and meetings, students stuck around to have lunch and soak up the atmosphere. Lunch was at La Felicità, a giant Italian food court operated by the Big Mamma Group, known for its delicious pizza restaurants in Paris.