The city located near the Atlantic Ocean is a cultural and economic hub. French and foreign entrepreneurs appreciate its tech environment and its great quality of life.
The best food from local markets delivered in just 60 minutes: that is the alluring promise of Vite Mon Marché, a Nantes-based startup that delivers 500 clients every week with its six trucks. The 25-people company was cofounded in 2017 by Nicholas Hoddevik, a Norwegian entrepreneur who settled in Nantes with his wife and two kids.
Good choice: located two hours from Paris and 45 minutes from the Atlantic Coast, the 300,000-people town is ranked as one of the top 3 cities to work in France, according to the weekly magazine L’Express. “There are a lot of entrepreneurs and people speak better English than I initially thought”, he smiles. “When I arrived in Nantes, a city office dedicated to companies helped me for find a housing and a school for my kids”. His startup raised €2.3m ($2.5m) this summer from two regional VC funds: West Web Valley and Go capital.
Vite Mon Marché is accelerated by Imagination Machine, a startup studio created by US citizen Rob Spiro. Previously located in Silicon Valley, the serial entrepreneur sold his first company to Google for $50m (€45m). “Imagination Machine focuses on projects with positive impact. We build great companies that do something for the world – Jho, for instance, sells organic tampons”, Rob Spiro explains. His startup studio has attracted entrepreneurs from many nationalities, including Cyprus, Morocco, Lebanon and Israel.
Imagination Machine is just one of the numerous structures supporting the Nantes startup ecosystem. More than 2,000 tech companies have settled in the city, according to the website Welcome to the jungle. A few role models have emerged such as iAdvize, a chatbot specialist that employs 230 people in Nantes, London, Düsseldorf and Boston; or Akeneo, a management software company that recently raised €41m ($45m) to further expand in the United States.
The whole startup population in Nantes underlines the great quality of life. “Public transportation and bike lanes are among the best in Europe. We are close to the beautiful Loire vineyards and the Atlantic Coast. There is a lot of energy and creativity here”, Rob Spiro appreciates. Major cultural events occur in the region, for instance Le voyage à Nantes or music festivals like La Folle Journée (classical), Hellfest (heavy metal) and Scopitone (electro).
The local ecosystem is boosted by La Cantine, the #1 incubator, which organizes over 150 events every year. With a significant number of universities and renowned business, engineering and design schools, the city offers an attractive pool of talent.
On top of that, cost of living is much lower than in Paris. “US software provider Talend has decided to open an R&D center in Nantes to benefit from a skilled workforce at a reasonable price”, illustrates Adrien Poggetti, who is both the CEO of La Cantine and La French Tech Nantes. Next step will be the inauguration of La Halle 6, a new “totem building” on the Nantes island. Opening is expected in the second half of 2020.