The giants behind the startups: meet Orange Fab

The giants behind the startups: meet Orange Fab

striking a deal

Starting up in the tech world is a daunting experience. Some make it into incubators or accelerators to get that extra nudge on the way to success. Offering such guidance is a win-win situation: while startups get help, big groups stay on top of the innovation race. Meet Orange Fab France, the accelerator of the big French telecom group “Orange”.


Orange Fab: A worldwide organization

Orange Fab France is a large worldwide organization that helps startups on various levels. Fourteen “Orange Fab” are scattered across the globe: in the USA, in Africa (Senegal, Ivory Coast, Cameroon), Europe (Spain, France, Romania, Poland, Luxembourg, Belgium), Middle East (Israel and Jordan), and Asia (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan). Each Fab offers specific regional programs to accelerate local startups.

Three programs: Original, Telecom Track and Women Start

Original: this 3-months-program seals a business partnership between an Orange Business Unit and the startup. The program is free and helps the young company strike its first deals. Workshops, demo day, infrastructures are offered to the startup.
Only startups offering a service or product that holds interest for Orange can apply. However, it turns out many categories are available along which IoT, Cloud gaming, big data, money transfers only to name a few. The startup may receive a 15,000€ fund though it is not compulsory.
Telecom Track: This similar program is more specific in the categories the startup must conform to. Namely, telecom networks and all that revolves around it. ID management, virtual networks, interconnection are the sought-after grail.
Women Start: it’s a brand new program that offers similar support as the other programs but, obviously, dedicated to female founders. It is also open to female co-founders and gives access to specific workspaces and large visibility. Three conditions to enter: a marketable good or service, a new digital solution and, … be a female.
Some might think this is unfair to their male counterparts, who are also actively looking for support, but they should consider the extra hurdles women face in the startup world. A comical yet disturbing tale involves creating a fake male co-founder in order to get taken seriously. Hopefully, such programs will help female entrepreneurs concentrate on getting the job done instead of using their time to convince their interlocutor that genes are not a hindrance in entrepreneurship.

Why do giants host startups?

Telecom giant Orange is not the only very large company that tutors startups on their way to, hopefully, greatness. EDF, SNCF, Total or Air France-KLM have similar programs. Some smaller companies also launch their startup accelerator programs.
But what’s in it for them?
First of all, it’s a good way to monitor the upcoming technologies and follow their development. Bigger groups may not wish to assign their own R&D department to uncertain pursuits. A startup will provide manpower and mind power to the new tech until it proves worthwhile to catch up on it.
If a new tech/service turns out to be useful and/or challenge the larger groups’ existing tech, it’s far easier to turn the startup into an ally at that time. Waiting for the startup to become a worthy opponent may be a risky strategy. Worst case scenario being a rival acquiring the startup and its tech.
Most non-corporate accelerators and incubators host all types of startups. The corporate ones usually stick to startups related to their trade. They also offer the best networks to strike partnerships and deals.
It’s indeed a win-win situation and many startups file applications to enter the bigger groups’ accelerators. But with hundreds of incubators and accelerators, can a startup now hope to grow if they wish to stay away from this ready-made path?