Tech & Innovation : Xavier Niel Incubator & 42


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XAVIER NIEL, the telecoms billionaire, startup seed investor and philanthropist will finance almost entirely the construction of the world’s largest digital business incubator which will come on stream in 2016. The project costing €200 million will convert a disused railway warehouse called HALLE FREYSSINET into a business incubator area of 33 000m2 in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. The new building will host 1000 innovative startups and include co-working areas, a fablab, meeting rooms, large work spaces, a bar-restaurant open 24 hours a day and a 500 seats auditorium. (See more information about Xavier Niel and Illiad in the Telecoms Section)

There is already a string of incubators across the capital backed by companies including Microsoft Corp and Google Inc. However, HALLE FREYSSINET with its sheer size will aim not only to develop the French burgeoning digital ecosystem but also to be France’s flagship to attract talent, startups and investors, from around the world to Paris.

Going hand in hand with HALLE FREYSSINET is the XAVIER NIEL financed new school for software developers called ÉCOLE 42 which opened in the heart of Paris at the end of 2013. The name comes from a science-fiction classic by Britain’s Douglas Adams in which ‘42’ is the answer to life, the universe and everything.

French developers have already left their mark on the world digital scene: Louis Pouzin (Internet pioneer), Patrick Chanezon (Google), Jean-Marie Hullot (Apple), Jean-Baptiste Kempf (VLC) etc. 

The objective of 42, which is free for students, is to uncover talent from the poor suburbs (Banlieues) and start to rebuild the social mobility ladder in France. To enter the School, which is able to accept 1000 students per year, the young people do not need any qualifications but they have to go through what XAVIER NIEL calls the “world’s toughest competitive entrance exam”. First the 70 000 applicants have to complete an enormous video game online, lasting 20 hours spread over several days.

The best 3000 students are then put through 450 hours of rigorous testing spread out over one month. The best 1000 are then chosen to start the course which can last from 2 to 4 years depending on how good the students are. The school is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Already at the end of the first year, 42 is a resounding success for XAVIER NIEL with companies worldwide recruiting from his school. An exceptionally bright young woman student who was on income support before joining 42 has been offered a place at Berkeley, one of the top three Universities in the world. All expenses and fees will be paid by the US University.




Sources : Bfm business,,


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Online publishing, November 13th, 2014

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