Microsoft announces Spark, a CoWorking Space & Accelerator in the heart of Paris’ startup district


startups-1024x582Yesterday at the Palais des Congrès de Paris, Microsoft France kicked off the Microsoft Tech Days, an annual event that brings the community together to talk about the amazing things happening with Microsoft. Obviously, Windows 8 will be a big part of the discussion this week, but the biggest news for startupers this week was the announce of Spark, a 300m² that will be opening in the middle of the “Silicon Sentier,” which will simultaneously be host to Microsoft’s new 12-week mentoring/acceleration program, and will be an open working space à la Google Campus in London.

This move by Microsoft to double down there efforts in the BizSpark area is no surprise. After all, the now global BizSpark program was founded in France 10 years ago, as was Imagine Cup, and was expanded out due to its success, and was more-or-less copied by other public companies as an example of how global leaders can continue to support innovation. By creating a physical location, Microsoft France can go from being the most inconvenient, yet still the most popular location for French startup events (Failcon France, Start In Paris, and many other events take place in its inconvenient headquarters in the south of Paris) to being the most popular location which is also in the heart of Paris.

The mentoring program, “three months to turn an idea into an MVP,” is being headed up by  former TechCrunch France editor Roxanne Varza. She will be joined by Nicolas Coudière, David Poulin, and Cyril Cathala. The program costs 150€ per month per person, and given its 12 week maximum, it comes out to 450€ per person (though it seems teams can leave whenever they like). The program’s concept and values are described in depth on Varza’s personal blog:

1. Costs for bootstrappers: all prices are meant to help lean, cash-strapped entrepreneurs put their money where it matters. They should not be paying for expensive space – they should be investing that money in the team and product.

2. Bring your ideas: we do not require that startups come with a working prototype, in fact, they can show up with an idea on a napkin if they like.

3. 12-weeks ONLY: the maximum amount of time that entrepreneurs can spend at Spark is 12 weeks. This is because we are pushing them to build and build quickly.

Naturally, we’re here to listen to the community and do our best to cater. So if you have ideas for mentors, events, workshops, etc., please get in touch and share your ideas. We’d like to make this space for the startup community

SparkLocated at 6 rue de Sentier, the space will be available to startups in need of event space, and you can already reach out to them by email to request the space. The space will host an Open Doors Day (Journée Porte Ouverte) on March 4th, which we’ll definitely be checking out. They’ve also already booked the Founder Institute on March 20th, who will bring Tyler Crowley, Jason Calacanis’ sidekick on This Week In Startups, to give a talk on storytelling.

With this space just blocks away from La Cantine, I don’t think “competition” would be the right word, but I’m certainly happy to see a private initiative arriving in an area dominated largely by semi-public initiatives, like the Google-supported 1500m² space set to arrive for the SIlicon Sentier later this year.

The space has teamed up with Founder Institute, Startup Weekend, and Inria, all of which have large international networks, so don’t be surprised if this becomes a hub for the Paris Tech Scene.

Microsoft has supported the Paris startup scene longer than any other company – Google, Amazon, IBM, whoever – and they continue to invest in France as a hotbed for innovation. I applaud their continued efforts, and welcome this new space with open arms. I’ll certainly be looking to host some events there in the coming months – hopefully they’ll have me!