Is your city startup-friendly? Cisco and NUMA may have a deal for you

Wed, 2016-02-17 06:00 -- Doug Peeples

Paris-based startup accelerator NUMA, along with Council Lead Partner Cisco and other collaborators, has built such a bustling startup ecosystem in France over the past few years it wants to take its show on the road and work with target cities in West Africa, Central America, Central Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

Specifically what NUMA and its partners are looking for are cities with developing startup ecosystems and what they see as the right qualifications for success, including infrastructure, business environment, education, political stability and related qualities.

What is now NUMA began as a co-working space set up about eight years ago to support collaboration among self-employed people. After reinventing and rebranding itself and a successful fundraising effort it has helped 104 startups to date. In France, startups go through a program that includes guidance and support from corporate partners Cisco and Google Entrepreneurs, free office space, an 18-month low interest loan and more.

Global strategy
Romain Alblard, acceleration director for NUMA, explained the rational behind its new global strategy. "Our international strategy is based on the momentum that happened four years ago in France, and to go into emerging markets that are equal to the French ecosystem back then. These emerging ecosystems need structure: innovators, mentors, corporate partners, investors and startups. Acceleration is a very previous and dynamic step towards structuring the ecosystem."

NUMA and partners aren't wasting time. Offices have been established in Casablanca and Bengaluru as well as Moscow where an acceleration program began late last year. And the programs won't be one-size-fits-all. "We’re recruiting local startups and partnering with local people who know the local ecosystem, so it's not an expatriation of the French model. We want the local ecosystem to grow, and, as a generalist accelerator, one very important thing is to stay open to diversity.

Cisco's role
Guillaume de St Marc, chief technology and architecture officer for Cisco, stressed that NUMA's respect for diversity was one of the attractions for his company. Cisco had intended to set up its own accelerator in France when it decided to commit to increase its presence there, but NUMA had expressed an interest in working with Cisco and the two realized they were a good fit.

Cisco, which is working with the French government on the country's shift toward digitization -- by investing in education, smart cities, cybersecurity and other areas -- has worked with NUMA on open innovation projects it led for future cities and others, according to a ZD Net article.

While it's not entirely clear if Cisco will partner with NUMA specifically on the global expansion, de St Marc said it is a direction Cisco could take.

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Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.