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Rennes is the capital of Brittany, the most western part of France. Rennes Metropole (the intercommunal structure) gathers 43 communes that share infrastructure such as the transportation network (bus and metro). It represents 420 000 inhabitants. Rennes has a huge population of students (approximately 60 000) thanks to its renowned Schools of Engineers (INSA, Telecom Bretagne, Epitech, Supinfo, etc.), its Business School and its 2 main Faculties: Rennes 1 (25 k students every year following STEM) and Rennes 2 (20 k students every year in the Social and Human Sciences degree). There is also a School of Fine Arts. In StartupBlink’s 2019 report, Rennes ranked 6th in France and 222nd globally.
Rennes is renowned for being chosen by many Telecommunication companies such as Orange, Technicolor, Thomson, Motorola and many more, to expand beyond the Parisian area. This technical DNA has made of Rennes the perfect environment for new startups to arise within the last 10 years, going far beyond the telecommunications expertise. These young companies work on image & sound, networks, on-demand services, domotics, health, mobile, and many other areas.
Rennes is also well-known for being the home of Ubisoft, one of the top 3 video games companies worldwide (the editor of Assassin’s Creed, Just Dance, Rayman, etc.)
It is part of the French Tech movement and has is among the first regional metropoles to have received the French Tech Label in 2014.
Most successful startups in Rennes
Rennes is historically a territory of technical excellence and many companies have world-class expertise in sound, image, and networks.
Speaking of networks, in the 70s Rennes invented the Internet’s ancestor, the Minitel: a Videotex online service accessible through landlines, which was one of the most successful pre-Internet online services (with services like online shopping, phone directory, mailbox, and even real-time chat).
JPEG: In 1988, a group of international experts worked on compressing algorithms to transfer pictures more quickly across networks. The algorithm that is at the core of JPG compression comes from an engineer in Rennes, working in the most famous R&D center: CCETT. Engineers from Rennes also had a major role in the MP3 and MPEG compression algorithms.
Rennes has evolved its core skills to cybersecurity, image & sound, e-health, gaming, domotics, platforms and augmented reality.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of startups from Rennes (some are now full-scale companies)
- Advanced Medical Applications (AMA) is a subsidiary of Ubisoft dedicated to e-health, live surgery, tele-medicine and tele-expertise
- Aladom (@aladom) is a web portal that helps users find local home service providers.
- Astellia (@Astellia_news) is a leading provider of network intelligence enabling mobile operators to drive service quality, maximize operational efficiency, reduce churn and develop revenues.
- Beyond Your Motion (@bymlife) is the first neuro-rehabilitation gamified tool designed for people suffering from Parkinson
- Capptain, a real-time user and push analytics solution, was acquired by Microsoft in 2014
- Deltadore (@DELTADORE_FR) designs and sells Domotics products for a connected house
- Digitaleo (@digitaleo) helps small businesses with their retail communication and direct marketing campaigns
- Envivio (@envivio) provides cloud-based solutions and architectures for multi-screen video processing and delivery.
- Flexycore (@FlexyCore) was bought by Google in 2013 for its Android performance boosting solution DroidBooster
- Golaem (@golaem) is a crowd simulation software for vfx/animation integrated into the 3D software Maya and is used by productions like Game of Thrones to populate cities or create epic scenes.
- Kelbillet (@KelBillet) is a marketplace that helps citizen find the best itinerary, compare tickets price and buy & sell secondhand traveling tickets
- Klaxoon (@KlaxoonFR) is a collection of activities that facilitate interactivity within a group. Based on your content, it proposes simple, playful and effective quizzes, surveys, challenges, brainstorming activities, live messaging…
- Mediego crunches real-time complex data through its behavioral algorithms for predictive targeting. It allows brands to guess customers’ tastes and favorite contents to provide them with highly customized offers.
- RégionsJob (@RegionsJob) is the biggest job board in France
- Woleet (@woleet) is a platform to blockchain all kinds of contents
- Zetapush (@zetapush) is a real-time Backend as a Service (BAAS) providing out-of-the-box authentication services and SDK for mobiles Apps, web apps, servers, and IoT low profile devices.
Advantages for startups in Rennes
Rennes is a great place to start a startup and has always been a territory turned towards innovation and experimentation. There is a solid network of key actors that build a good startup ecosystem:
Many acceleration programs co-exist to deliver the best support at every stage of the startup life. La School (https://le-shift.co/la-school), Le Booster (https://lebooster.net), Start Me Up (https://), MVCube (https://www.mvcube.fr), OFF7 (https://off7.ouest-france.fr/), RegionsJob Start (https://start.regionsjob.com/), KITA (https://kita.strikingly.com)
After the acceleration phase, startups and young companies can settle in one of the many incubators in Rennes: Telecom Bretagne, La Palmeraie or the metropolitan public incubators Gallium & Germanium.
Rennes was one of the pioneers of the coworking trend back in 2010 with the opening of La Cantine numérique rennaise and since then more than 10 coworking spaces have emerged to serve the expanding demand of nomad workers: La Cordée (https://www.la-cordee.net/cordee/rennes/lices/), Happy Hours (https://happyh0urs.com/), Le Loft (https://www.coworkinrennes.com/), Le Lavoir (https://www.lelavoir-ateliersreunis.fr/), Ubiplex (https://www.ubiplex-coworking.com/), L’atelier 10i (https://atelier10i.fr/), Thabor Coworking (https://thabor-coworking-rennes.fr/), Lab61 (https://www.lab61.fr/), Espace BZH (https://www.espace.bzh/) and La French Tech Rennes St Malo (https://lafrenchtech-rennes.fr/language/en/our-co-working-space/).
It’s quite easy and inexpensive to find a place for your first years of activity and if you have special needs (like for instance a workshop or a production line or a warehouse) you can use BreizhLab (https://www.breizhlab.fr/), a network of industrial companies gathered to make the extra space they have available to startups, be it in Brittany or worldwide.
Rennes has its own airport and is 2h15 away from Paris by train. In 2018, thanks to heavy investments in the High-Speed Line, Rennes will be at 1h30 from Paris, opening new possibilities for entrepreneurs to move around and attracting entrepreneurs away from the saturated Parisian environment.
Rennes has plenty of formal or informal networks to get help from Yao Bretagne (https://www.yao.bzh), Cercle des Jeunes Dirigeants (https://bretagnecjd.wordpress.com/les-sections-en-bretagne/cjd-rennes/), CCRE35 (https://ccre35.bzh/), Dynamic35 (https://www.dynamic35.fr), Réseau Entreprendre (https://www.reseau-entreprendre-bretagne.fr/), Rennes Initiatives (https://www.initiative-rennes.fr/)
Rennes regularly appears in the top 10 cities where people want to live for a better work/life balance. It is located in the center of Brittany, at 50 mins from the North coast (St Malo) and 50 mins from the South coast (Golfe du Morbihan).
Last but not least, talent is rather easy to find among the 60k students in town. It is uncommon to hear that a startup can’t find the talents and profiles it is looking for.
Disadvantages for startups in Rennes
Like in many other regions, there are not enough seed investing mechanisms and business angels, which forces founders to rely on their own resources or to launch crowdfunding campaigns to kickstart their activities. They also tend to apply to many contests, grants or helping programs to get the few thousand euros that will take them to the next step. This dilutes the effort they should make to find their market. Basically, instead of being focused on finding clients, startups need to spend time on administrative tasks to get what it takes to survive the first year. With more seed investment (or even pre-seed) some projects could really be accelerated and maybe we would witness more fast-growing startups than we currently do.
Then there is the aspiration of Paris. Rennes, of course, is not the only city to suffer from centralization. But the concentration of the business resources in Paris attracts founders to the capital. This also dilutes the founders’ energy with a lot of back and forth trips to Paris.
If startups have to travel abroad, the Rennes airport does not serve a lot of national or international destinations. It would probably take you a day to go to Berlin from Rennes, thus limiting the reach of many projects, or adding a consequent travel budget.
Startup Publications in Rennes
Here are some professional technical publications you can read and follow in Rennes
- La lettre API (@lalettreapi), the economic digest for Britain and Pays de Loire
- Ouest France Entreprises (https://www.entreprises.ouest-france.fr/) the regional economic press
- 15marches (@15marches) a quality blog talking about innovation and the future of transportation
- Le Mag numérique (@lemagnumerique) an online magazine authored by The Images & Réseaux cluster
- Le Journal des Entreprises (@JEntreprises) is a national economic press publication with local entries
- Rennes Atalante blog (@RennesAtalante) – Rennes Atalante was created to stimulate the expansion and location of technology companies.
- French Tech Rennes St Malo : newsletter and Facebook group
- Rennes Atalante newsletter
- Le Shift newsletter (about entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship)
- Devcamp Rennes (https://www.meetup.com/fr-FR/DevCamp/),
- Toastmasters (https://www.meetup.com/fr-FR/Toastmasters-Rennes/)
- La French Tech Rennes St Malo, Mobile Mondays, IoTuesdays (https://www.meetup.com/fr-FR/Meetup-La-French-Tech-Rennes-St-Malo/)
- Rennes JS (https://www.meetup.com/fr-FR/RennesJS/)
- Hadoop User Group (https://www.meetup.com/fr-FR/Hadoop-User-Group-Grand-Ouest/),
- Agile Rennes (https://meetup.com/agile-rennes),
- UXRennes (https://www.meetup.com/fr-FR/rennesUX),
- Rennes Devops (https://www.meetup.com/fr-FR/rennes-devops/),
- Entrepreneurs in Rennes (https://www.meetup.com/fr-FR/le_shift/)
Biggest Players in Rennes startup ecosystem
Main accelerators & incubators in Rennes
- La School (by Le Shift): a 3-month pragmatic acceleration program to take you from your startup idea to your first clients.
- Le Booster (by La French Tech Rennes St Malo & the local Chamber of Commerce): a 20-week program to accelerate your growth
- Start Me Up (by Rennes Atalante): an acceleration program for young tech companies
- Start (by RegionsJob): an acceleration program on the employment vertical
- MVCube (by Mediaveille): free hosting and support from Mediaveille experts to boost your web marketing presence and performance
- OFF7 (by Ouest France): the corporate acceleration program of the media group Ouest France
- KITA (by Le Shift): a personalized and emergent “kick in the ass” program for startups meant to help them be focused on their goals and metrics week by week.
- Telecom Bretagne incubator: an 18-month hosting program on the Telecom Bretagne campus and personalized support (including support for finding seed investment)
Coworking spaces in Rennes
The largest or most active coworking spaces are La French Tech Rennes St Malo, la Cordée and Lab61.
Chamber of Commerce & Industry: still the entry point for anyone who wants to create or take over a company/shop/business.
Pepite: the Breton entrepreneurship hub for students of all schools and universities in Brittany.
Research & SMEs in Rennes
- Bcom (Institute of Research & Technology): one of the 8 IRT in France and one of the 2 IRT (with SystemX) in the digital industry. In Rennes, bcom specializes in accelerating innovation in ultra-high definition images, 3D, smart content, virtual and augmented reality, ultra high-speed networks (fixed and mobile). Innovations fields for bcom: Network Architecture & Interfaces, Advanced Media Coding, Immersive Interactions, Augmented / Connected Healthcare, Cloud Computing, Digital Trust & Identity.
- The Competitivity Cluster « Images & Réseaux ». For companies that are no longer startups, The Images & Réseaux cluster is a worldwide cluster meant to support the development of SMEs and strengthen the links between its different members, large groups, SMEs and academics. It facilitates the emergence of collaborative R&D projects and ensures the local, national and international influence of the Images & Réseaux community’s know-how.
Funding in Rennes
GO Capital (https://www.gocapital.fr/index.php/home/314-home ) is a private equity firm based in Rennes that primarily invests in companies based in North Western France: Brittany, Pays de la Loire and Normandy (now more than 60 companies). GO CAPITAL invests in startups seeking early-stage funding to develop sales. The amount ranges from €300k to €4m, in companies with high growth potential in Digital, Healthcare and Biotech and Greentech.
Logoden Participations (https://www.logodenparticipations.com/actualites) is a Business Angels network that has recently opened a Digital section relying on 20 digital expert angels. Since its creation, Logoden has invested € 3.5M in 35 emerging companies.
Breizh up is a new co-investment fund launched by the Region in November 2015 to foster investments of €200k to €750k and is powered by European FEDER funds. It aims to accelerate the emergence of new companies in any of the 7 strategic areas for which Brittany has been recognized: citizenship and social innovation, durable food chain, maritime activities, technologies of the digital society, healthcare, hi-tech for industries and greentech & energy.
Makers in Rennes
Startup events in Rennes
Here are a few of the tech events in Rennes:
Startup Weekend Rennes (organized by a team of local volunteers): once a year in March, Startup Weekend gathers 120+ passionate people who try to create a startup in 54 hours. Some now worldwide famous startups were born in SUW Rennes like Birdly, the Slackbot for Salesforce
La Digitale Tech Conference (organized by La French Tech Rennes St Malo): once a year in December, right before Les Transmusicales, celebrates all kinds of innovations in the digital industry with this one-day event mixing talks, live music and showroom for prototypes and innovations challenging the status quo of the digital industry. It aims to shed light on emerging digital trends and predict future uses for digital technology.
MaisonMix: once a year MaisonMix opens up to citizens so that they can reinvent the connected house. This hackathon gathers teams of makers, engineers and designers to hack the Future of the house.
Crysalide Numerique: a contest that rewards the most successful digital transformation of traditional businesses.
ShiftCamp: a 2-day immersive event to go from idea to customer, where participants pitch startup ideas and have to validate their business models using the Lean Startup and Customer Development methodologies.
Maintenant Festival: a one-month itinerant festival dedicated to the crossings of the digital culture and the Fine Arts.
Stunfest: a multi-faceted event on the video gaming cultures with keynotes, superplays, contests, roundtables, etc.
Entreprendre dans l’ouest an annual 2-day event to help you create or transfer your company.
While the Rennes startup ecosystem has all the right mix of ingredients for becoming a force to reckon with, it still needs more funding opportunities, so founders are not left looking at outside investment sources.
About the author:
Karine Sabatier is the former Director of La Cantine numérique rennaise (turned into La French Tech Rennes St Malo), she launched the first coworking space and digital hub for events, networking, training sessions, etc. in Brittany in 2010.
In 2013, she created Le Booster, the first acceleration program in Brittany and has trained 24+ startups in 2 batches. In 2015 she co-founded Le Shift a different kind of accelerator for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs: Le Shift. Le Shift brings innovation and creative spirit in corporate structures and runs a School for Entrepreneurs that have detected more than 50 emerging projects in the local digital industry in its first year of existence.