France’s newly elected president Emmanuel Macron is proposing a new tech visa that would enable French tech companies to more easily hire talent from abroad, as well as to encourage entrepreneurs to start businesses there. The plan is clearly designed to convince startups that France is an easier place to hire from the globalized tech workforce than the US or UK, both of which have grown increasingly hostile toward immigration, John Detrixhe reports at Quartz:
The French process appears “significantly” simpler than in the US, which doesn’t have a dedicated visa for tech workers, according to Kristie De Pena, senior immigration council at the Niskanen Center, a think tank. … In the UK, meanwhile, it’s been a year since the vote to leave the EU, and future rules on the rights of EU immigrants after Britain quits the bloc are far from finalized. Nearly half of the UK’s highly skilled workers from elsewhere in the EU are considering leaving in the next five years, according to a survey by Deloitte. Still, the UK has a substantial head-start on other European hubs in the capital-raising game, a crucial consideration for startup founders.
In this regard, Macron’s scheme is similar to what Canada is doing in pitching itself as a friendlier destination for global talent. In contrast to the nativist trend in US and UK politics, leaders like Macron and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are doubling down on globalization—and at least in Trudeau’s case, diversity—as engines of economic growth.
At the same time Macron is pushing tech visas, the world’s largest tech incubator opened this week in Paris. The 34,000 square-meter campus, called “Station F,” was built out of a converted railway depot and is designed to accommodate over 1,000 startups, its director Roxanne Varza tells João Medeiros at Wired:
Microsoft Ventures’s corporate vice president Nagraj Kashyap announced on Monday that the tech giant’s investment arm was launching a new fund specifically dedicated to investing in “AI companies focused on inclusive growth and positive impact on society”:
AI holds great promise to augment human capabilities and improve society by tackling some of the world’s biggest problems. Our recently announced partnership with OpenAI is a key example of us working to use AI to address important issues such as climate change, inequality, health and education. Building on that, our participation in the Partnership on AI, and other efforts, we’ll make investments in startups that are responsibly harnessing the promise of AI to empower people and businesses. Companies in this fund will help people and machines work together to increase access to education, teach new skills and create jobs, enhance the capabilities of existing workforces and improve the treatment of diseases, to name just a few examples.
The fund’s first investment is in Element AI, a Montreal-based incubator that “helps organizations embrace an AI-first strategy.” AI has been an explicit focal point for Microsoft Ventures since its launch this past May, GeekWire’s Taylor Soper notes:
The hottest tech company of 1995 is looking to become an industry innovator again by offering employees the chance to develop their own startups within the company, Oliver Staley reports at Quartz:
Candidates will create business plans and pitch them to AOL executives and the venture capitalists the company backs. The winners will be given funding and up to six months to develop their projects. William Pence, AOL’s chief technology officer, says the best ideas to come out of the incubator will either be incorporated into the company’s existing business lines or, if they’re big and ambitious enough, stand alone as new ventures.
The idea was to use the rigor of the venture capital funding process to create an internal engine for innovation. “We wanted to do something that’s a little different than creating a sandbox and letting people go play in it,” Pence says. Pence didn’t disclose how much AOL will spend on the effort, which it’s calling “Area 51.” But once it’s up and running, he says, it could fund as many as 10 projects.
In an effort to retain the best and brightest of its talent and capitalize on their creativity, Google is launching an internal startup incubator. According to The Information, the incubator, dubbed “Area 120,” will enable Googlers who present compelling business plans to work full-time on innovative new ventures with the goal of turning them into independent companies with Google as a major investor. The move appears to be an expansion of Google’s longstanding policy of letting employees devote 20 percent of their time to side projects, with the company’s approval: Signature products like Gmail, Google News, and AdSense began as such projects.
If the labor market is increasingly talent-driven these days, nowhere is that more true than in Silicon Valley, where a shortage of skilled tech workers means that top talent commands top dollar. The retention concerns motivating Area 120 were thrown into relief earlier this month when Regina Dugan, the former DARPA chief who led Google’s Advanced Technology And Products team since 2012, left the company to lead Facebook’s competing skunkworks division, with the equally sci-fi name “Building 8.”
If Google is hoping to retain creative geniuses by giving them more independence to develop and market their own ideas, Elon Musk’s billion-dollar nonprofit OpenAI is luring them in with the chance to give them away for free. In a new, in-depth feature about the project, Wired writer Cade Metz notes that OpenAI has managed to grab some of the best minds in the AI field despite aggressive efforts by competitors to poach them—and not by outbidding, either: