The #2 metropole in France is partnering with Saint-Etienne to boost the regional tech scene. Entrepreneurs have access to numerous structures and great quality of life.
In September 2019, US entrepreneur Nicole Caba flew from Big Apple to Lyon, the #2 French metropole after Paris, from where she has just launched her expat service startup Avvinue. “The local ecosystem is great, there are a lot of incubators and accelerators and I love the energy . I was drawn here through Youtube videos and it actually exceeded my expectations!”, the ex-project manager at Siemens shares.
“I was looking for a family- and entrepreneur-friendly place. Here everything is at walking distance – it is much more convenient than New York where I spent so much time commuting”. She and her husband had little paperwork to move, thanks to the French Tech visa. “I was still in New York when I applied to the BoostInLyon incubator. I was accepted the following week and, just a month later, I had my visa and took my flight! That was quick but exciting”, she recalls.
One of the top cities in France, Lyon has a long history of innovation. It was the home of scientific figures like André-Marie Ampère, a physicist who cofounded the science of classical electromagnetism, or Auguste and Louis Lumière, who contributed to the invention of cinematography. With top-notch universities like INSA, EM Lyon or Ecole centrale de Lyon, the town attracts 15,000 foreign students every year.
The Greater Lyon area (2.1 million inhabitants) is an economic hub with headquarters of multinationals like Renault Trucks or healthcare companies Sanofi Pasteur and Biomérieux, as well as R&D centres such as the one Boston-based biotech Genzyme opened in 2008. The startup scene excels in green tech and biotech. The city of Lyon itself counts 30 incubators & accelerators, 20 coworking spaces and 600 tech meetups every year.
And the ecosystem keeps growing… In May 2019, it inaugurated H7, a brand new 5,300 m² (57,000 ft²) tech hub in the Halle Girard – a converted boiler work located in the Confluence area. Around 70 startups are incubated there.
The local tech scene can boast numerous success stories like marketplace specialist Wizaplace, accounting robot Georges.tech or data-driven sales platform Tilkee. Another example is the social intranet specialist LumApps which raised $24m (€22m) in a Series B funding last April. The Lyon-based B2B scale-up is growing global. It operates offices in London, Tokyo, San Francisco and New York.
To better weigh on the national scene, the Lyon ecosystem is now collaborating closely with the one of Saint-Etienne, which is one hour away by car – even though both cities are rivals in soccer. The so-called French Tech One, which gathers Lyon and Saint-Etienne, can rely on great universities and research capabilities. Thus Keranova, a Saint-Etienne-based medical device maker, raised $26.5m (€24m) in September to market its robot-assisted laser designed for cataract surgery.
The Auvergne-Rhône Alpes region as a whole – which includes Lyon and Saint-Etienne – has attracted €388m ($427m) venture capital investment so far this year. Lots of opportunities ahead.