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Is This Converted Train Station The World’s Largest Startup Incubator?

The pitch for new startup incubators is usually about filling ever-smaller niches: an incubator for social innovation, an incubator for breweries, an incubator for foreigners who can’t get visas.

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But an incubator in Paris is looking for the opposite of niche, as one can tell from its name: 1,000 Start-Ups.

Billed as “the world’s largest startup incubator” (and one-upping the U.S.-based incubator, 500 Startups), the project plans to turn some 322,917 square feet of a former railway hall into what looks like a giant greenhouse of startup activity. “These spaces will include co-working areas, a fablab, a large auditorium, meeting rooms, large work spaces, and a huge bar-restaurant open 24 hours a day,” says a press release. It’s primarily funded by Xavier Niel, a telecom billionaire who co-owns the Le Monde newspaper.


Architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte appears to be preserving not just the grand scale and scope of the train station, but some cargo train features. The new site is structured around “container-based architecture,” both as a salute to the site’s history and to foster discussion, knowledge sharing, and healthy competition.

As impressive as the space appears, the construction won’t begin until 2014, and many details are–unsurprisingly–not yet public. But given its scale, it’s hard to imagine the human-intensive “incubating” that happens at, say, Y-Combinator, taking place on such a scale. Spokesperson Isabelle Audap wouldn’t address this question directly, but says the idea is to provide startups with the services and expertise they need to succeed in a single place.

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