I first heard about CoWorking from Olof, following up on Mike’s project when he started the Beijing CoWorking meeting in August 2010. Because of the crazy renting fee in the Chinese capital, Beijing CoWorking was (and still is) just a newsletter that you receive every Monday to tell you in which bars the CoWorkers will meet each day of the current week. Our motto:”Because working together is awesome” and you can subscribe here.
So we have the core element of coworking: the Human Capital! 3 out of the 3 other regular Beijing coworkers are awesome people that I find very inspiring, talented and motivating to work with. Even if each of us work on different project, we exchange good practices, feedbacks, ask for each others’ opinion….This dream team is the value that make me leave my apartment to go work in coffee shop.
But the next step for CoWorking would be to have an actual space, so while visiting Paris I decided to go to the most popular CoWorking Space there: La Cantine managed by Silicon Sentier.
About Silicon Sentier
I was wondering: if there was a place in France similar to Silicon Valley, where would it be? My friend Gwennan Delanne who is an expert in French and European clusters told me it would be Paris and that Silicon Sentier was the cluster I was looking for.
Silicon Sentier is a French association and a network of 150 companies of the digital industry. Silicon Sentier defines its mission as to:
1. Contribute to the development and representation of SMEs specialized in digital technologies in Paris region and
2. Share and spread the culture, practices and principles related to technologies and digital economy.
An association that serves and peps up the community and are not looking for profits, just looking to be sustainable.
Created 5 years ago, Silicon Sentier is now a great network and a real motor for the Parisian Tech community, organizing regular branded events (MM, Barcamp…) and fostering horizontal and collaborative projects answering to the need of start-ups’ development (keep reading).
About La Cantine
It is the CoWorking space of Silicon Sentier, born in January 2008.With an annual budget of 500,000 EUR, La Cantine is backed half by public subventions (from Paris City, the Region, the UE…) and half by private sponsors (for instance the French Telecom company Orange who also backed iWeekend in Beijing). It is an interesting space to sponsored for TMT companies as it gives them access to a community of potential users, employees, partners, investments opportunities…. La Cantine is a collaborative space where individuals can come work (not even need to be member), the commuity can organize event (for free or not depending of the event) or companies can rent the space to organize seminars…
La Cantine is opened to anyone and has 350 wonderful sqm divided into different areas:
– a coffee area, free access and free wifi. Drinks are REALLY inexpensive (1.5EUR a small bottle of juice).
– a paid working area, a bit more quiet and the place to create bond with other regular coworkers. 7 EUR for a half day and 10 EUR for a full day.
– meeting rooms, projection area… that can also be rent for special event.
Most important, the atmosphere is very layback, people here being very friendly and helpful. I have been able to borrow an Apple charger for my laptop every single time I went there (yes, I forgot mine in China…). There are always about 20+ people (all ages, majority mac 🙂 hanging out in the different areas of la Cantine. And you can leave your stuff around and go to the toilet without worrying your laptop are gonna be stolen. People talk about what they are working on very easily… It is a VERY pleasant place to work!
About French incubators
Silicon Sentier is also starting -next 7 January- an accelerator for start-ups, Le Camping. They select 10 projets to be incubated for 3 months and coatched by mentors. The big difference with Y combinator or Beijing incubators, is that it is not start by an edge funds, but by the community (supported by investors of course)!! Still that seems crazy and awesome! Hopefully I will get a friend to attend the launch party and reported how it was on this blog^^.
Also there are other incubators in Paris, I randomly bumped into Telecom SudParis Incubator initiated by a private school and supported by public funds and a big French Bank. But there are probably more…
To conclude, visiting the Parisian facilities and learning more about their projects to develop the community has been very inspiring, let’s see if 2011 will be the booming year for Beijing CoWorking! It’s up to us~