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Montpellier : the Sunny French Tech Attitude !

In a few years the Mediterranean city has entered a new era to become one of the most attractive entrepreneurial ecosystems in the country.


Rome was not built in a day. Neither is Montpellier, there is still a long way to go. Also known as the « gifted», is ranked as the best place for entrepreneurs in France due to the major works lead by George Frêche in the 80's. What are the keys to this success ?


The 60's marked the beginning of a transition from the industrial to the service economy. In the meantime, Montpellier is competing with Toulouse, Nice and Grenoble to welcome the American giant IBM. Jean-Paul VOLLE (close to George Frêche) explains that the arrival of IBM in Montpellier in 1964 was the beginning of the adventure. George Frêche will continue to make the city even more attractive: innovative real estate projects, transport development ... Like IBM, other groups will follow such as Dell, Intel, Ubisoft and more recently Alstom. The year 1987 marked the launch of the emblematic "Business Innovation Center (BIC)" incubator, which was elected twenty years later as the best incubator in the world. In 2014, the city increased its visibility by obtaining the French Tech Label, thus enabling it to take a crucial step in the entrepreneurial world.

Montpellier is the first French city, if the number of company installations is taken into account (according to a KPMG study). This is due to the development of a benevolent and innovation-oriented ecosystem.  An ecosystem in the entrepreneurial sense "characterizes all the activities that have been built to meet a given market, as well as the nature of the relations that the multiple actors of this market have woven together". The Montpellierain ecosystem consists of:
Entrepreneurs and / or project promoters,
Investors: Occitanie Angels (association of Capitole Angels and Melies Business Angels) represents a collective of 180 investors spread over the Occitania region. The city is also very active at this level since it organizes each year the Montpellier Capital Risque, event allowing the meeting between investment funds and innovative SMEs in search of funds. Special mention to happycrowdfunding, Montpellier agency of participatory financing advice.
Incubators: The BIC will celebrate its 30th anniversary this year, which has accompanied more than 650 projects since its creation and which is the source of several success stories: Matooma, Health Check, Teads, Aquafadas, Awox, Bime , SMAG and many others. It is divided into 3 sites: Cap Alpha, which brings together startups specializing in the biotech-cleantech-health sectors; Cap Oméga, specializing in IT projects, and MIBI (Montpellier International Business Incubator), which welcomes foreign and French export-oriented companies. Other incubators are also worth mentioning: Dell Center for Entrepreneurs, Incubator of Languedoc-Roussillon (LRI), Innov'up (School of Mines), Incubator Supagro, Incubator Via Innovia, Alter'Incub, ...
Laboratories and research centers: The city of Montpellier is renowned for its investment in research. Among the most well-known research centers: MedinCell (Laboratory for Pharmaceuticals), LIRMM (Laboratory for Computer Science, Robotics and Microelectronics in Montpellier) and the Cellular Biology Research Center in Montpellier. The city has more than 70 laboratories in all sectors, enabling it to be present in 7 of the 9 French Tech thematic networks: Healthtech, Edtech & Entertainment, IoT, Fintech, Security & Privacy, Sport and Foodtech.
Universities and schools: A faculty of medicine of renown (the oldest in the world still in exercise), type training school of commerce (Montpellier Business School, Montpellier Mangagement, IAE, IDRAC) (ESMA, ArtFX or Dwarf Academy), as well as specialist training courses such as animation and video games (Up To, EPSI, Epitech, Polytech, Supinfo, Cesi, Digital Campus).
From groupings: The community of entrepreneurs tends to structure itself more and more. The frenchsouth.digital cluster that brings together the digital business community in Occitania. The latter acts as a conductor within this ecosystem by federating entrepreneurs of all sizes, increasing synergies with economic and technological leaders, developing cooperation between Startups, key accounts and partners. Labex Numev (Numerical Solutions, Materials and Modeling for the Environment and Living), the Optitec cluster (federates actors in photonics and imaging), Pix'LR Cluster of the companies of the digital creation and the video game), Push Start (association of professionals and future professionals of the video game).
Programs: to accelerate the growth of startups many programs are set up, such as the accelerator Sprint by Numa supported by a dozen entrepreneurs and executives; The Start2you program, or the StartupXchange program, which allows ten French Tech Montpellier companies to meet major American groups in Austin (USA) each year.
Events: BigUp4Startup = event centering on the link between startups / pme and major groups; Digiworld Summit = international conference on the future of the digital economy; The Startup Weekend = Mutualize the talents to develop the idea that will give birth to a start-up; Xtrem'Up = extreme pitch and networking contest; A tramway named Start-up = Meetings, Workshops, Conferences, Round Tables or Start'up Lycée = brings the company to life through the experience of creating a start-up in 48 hours in its high school. In total, more than 500 events are organized each year on the theme of the company or the digital.
Infrastructure: In addition to incubators, the city has recently

Avec tous ces travaux entrepris, la ville espère gagner en attractivité. Elle a déjà été classée 4e ville Française où les Français aimeraient travailler par l’institut Great Place to Work. Elle se place juste derrière Toulouse, Nantes et Bordeaux qui conserve le titre de Great City to Work. Les critères pris en compte dans ce classement sont : la qualité de vie (climat, environnement, culture), l’équilibre vie pro-vie perso, le coût de l’immobilier, l’accessibilité & infrastructures et les opportunités d’emplois. La tendance qui confirme cette information est la croissance démographique, la plus importante pour Montpellier à l’échelle nationale, +6200 hab./ans.
La Surdouée a fait beaucoup de chemin, « La visibilité s’est gagnée par la force du collectif, elle porte aujourd’hui ses fruits puisque les levées de fonds des startups montpelliéraines ont doublé, totalisant près de 100 millions d’euros en 2016 », mais rien n’est pour autant acquis. La communauté doit continuer à travailler l’attractivité et la visibilité de la ville pour attirer des projets innovants et investisseurs. Cette initiative est symbolisée par l’appellation Montpellier Métropole Numérique. Les enjeux qui ont été fixés sont les suivant :  

- Transformer les start-ups à fort potentiel en véritables entreprises de croissance,
- Renforcer la compétitivité des entreprises gazelles
- Ancrer les grands groupes sur le territoire Montpelliérain,
- Attirer les entrepreneurs de talent,
- Faire rayonner le creuset Montpelliérain et, avec lui, la French Tech, dans le monde entier.

Montpellier has numerous assets for entrepreneurs, investors and employees. They could be summarized in five points:
  • A rich and expanding ecosystem,
  • A benevolent community,
  • A skilled workforce and recognized research centers,
  • Well-thought-out and innovative infrastructures,
  • Sun, serenity and good humor, to sums it up all the ingredients of the Sunny French Tech Attitude!
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