A novel international exchange programme launched by 50 Partners offers startups new horizons and fresh opportunities abroad.

‘Startup Exchanges’ Will Help Startups Go International

Digital is certainly revitalising the trend towards globalisation, but it is still not all that easy for a tech startup to arrange an exchange visit abroad. Spotting this gap, Paris­based accelerator 50 Partners has just launched a new project, dubbed Startup Exchanges. The purpose of the programme, which is already been hailed as the ‘Erasmus for startups’ – after the EU academic exchange programme – is to open up international opportunities for companies undergoing incubation. “We’ve been planning this project since last September and the first exchange visit will take place from this July,” reveals Kayla Roark Guiot­Bourg, a Partner at 50 Partners who is heading up the Startup Exchanges project. The programme offers startups that have been going through incubator programmes with any of the sixteen member organisations the opportunity to go on a one­month mission to a member accelerator or incubator in a region of the world that would be useful for its business.

Programme of excellence

Companies accepted on to the exchange programme will be received into the local ecosystem and fully integrated into the hosting structure. “They’ll find real support there, for example being able to attend workshops which will help the company establish itself in that country,” explains Ms Roark Guiot­Bourg. The first beneficiary will be a French startup, incubated at 50 Partners, which will go over to Plug and Play International in Silicon Valley, where the team will follow the Entrepreneurs programme with the other startups at the incubator free of charge. In addition to working at the Plug and Play premises, the aim of the programme is first and foremost to help the startup integrate into the ecosystem – by meeting the relevant people and taking part in events. “It’s fairly easy for an incubator or accelerator to offer a programme like this as they are already doing this kind of work for their own startups and the exchange programme is just an extension of their own programme,” points out the Startup Exchange leader, adding: “Incubators and accelerators can call on the people they know – their mentors, press contacts, investors and potential customers, and take the project owners along to meet­up events and so on.” However, the selection process is tough. Out of 1,000 applications, only ten companies have been selected for the programme. These are “mature startups which need a helping hand to get established in a local ecosystem abroad,” she underlines.

Mutual advantage

50 Partners intends to get the best out of startup ecosystems worldwide through this international exchange programme and the incubator is convinced that this kind of initiative works in the interests of both parties. Explains Ms Roark Guiot­Bourg: “The programme will enable us to assist our French startups, prevent them from becoming stuck in the French market and help them go international and launch on promising markets abroad. At the same time the programme also allows us to attract startups to our French ecosystem, to make Startup Exchanges the entry point for all foreign startups on the French market.” Meanwhile the first company to go on the programme “has 78% of its customers in the United States, which is why doing an exchange visit to the US makes perfect sense.” Beyond that, “there are currently 70 proposals on the table for exchange visits worldwide, and this is only the start,” enthuses Ms Roark Guiot­Bourg.