In the luxurious, sprawling suite at the Sofitel’s five star Arc de Triomphe hotel in central Paris, it’s easy to understand why the French capital is becoming one of Europe’s most attractive destinations for entrepreneurs and global tech firms. There are few places more charming to do business, writes Briony Quested.
Cradled by centuries of rich culture, the city’s status as a destination-du-jour never wanes. Paris is a city which wins the heart of all who visit, and like its denizens, it doesn’t fall out of fashion.
The decadence and the new and faded grandeur is ever present. There’s something mysteriously electrifying in the air here, too — that little je ne sais quoi that last year attracted over 40 million visitors (a record high), allowing Paris to continue its reign as a top travel destination in Europe.
It’s something Ernest Hemingway inherently understood when he wrote in his Paris memoirs: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” French President, Emmanuel Macron is probably hoping the tech talent of Europe will agree.
The President is working to maximise Paris’s appeal to startups and investors with incentives designed to draw businesses to the city. Eyeing the technology talent emerging in Europe, he has ambitions for the French capital to catch up with the US and China’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) prowess.
His government has pledged an injection of €1.8 billion funding into AI over the next four years to prevent a brain drain and to work towards its goal of becoming a global player in the segment.
It has some catching up to do; with 750 AI companies, London is the AI capital of Europe and is currently double the size of Paris and Berlin combined, according to a new report by the Mayor of London.
However, Paris has already successfully attracted a host of exciting tech firms, welcoming into its chicly tailored arms the likes of AI pioneer, Cambridge-born DeepMind (which opened research offices in Paris this year), along with giants including Google, Microsoft, Fujitsu, and Facebook which opened an AI research office in 2015. IBM recently announced its decision to hire 1800 tech employees in France within the next couple of years, including 400 experts in artificial intelligence.
The world-class Parisian academic scene produces strong home-grown doctoral talent in the computer sciences and engineering fields, and Paris will try to hold onto the best of them rather than see them hoovered up by tech giants in Silicon Valley.
Macron’s plan for Paris isn’t solely to advance France as a dominant player in AI research. There are plans to position the city as a renowned startup nation.
The capital currently boasts the world’s largest startup campus, Station F, which launched in Paris’s 13th arrondissement in 2017 to house over 1,000 startups (and investors).
The historic building – formerly a 1920s freight station (hence the name) – will soon be joined by a housing extension 10-minutes away providing a residence for 600 entrepreneurs.
On the subject of startup investment, European venture capital group Atomico reported at the end of last year that French startups secured the most funding rounds in Europe for the first time in five years.
The exquisite beauty of Paris is a tempting draw, too. The city’s architecture remains breathtaking no matter how many times one visits, and it offers a world-leading gastronomic scene in which to host networking dinners and woo clients.
Paris est une fête, indeed. I witnessed this first hand while staying at the Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe hotel, which is five-star Parisian elegance at its finest. Situated in the heart of the city in a quiet street a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe and Parc Monceau, the hotel is surrounded by traditional Parisian grandeur and provides a soothing sanctuary for the executive traveller.
A short walk from the luxury boutique and restaurant-lined Champs-Élysées, the Paris Arc de Triomphe’s grand Haussmann façade lends a timeless, majestic glamour to the hotel. In contrast, the interior, designed by Andrée Putman of Studio Putman, celebrates the modern and the slick. The service here is exceptional, with warm, friendly staff trained to make your stay in Paris perfect. Those wishing to conduct business in the capital will find it an ideal choice for conferences and networking, too.
Five meeting and conference lounges seat 60 delegates and provide all the latest tech equipment to ensure a smooth event. Renowned resident chef, Christian Constant is on hand to devise gourmet lunches, dinners, and cocktail soirees to impress your clients as they look out over stunning views of Paris.
The hotel has 124 bedrooms including 29 luxury suites and two sumptuous apartments, each designed to foster well-being and relaxation. The suites are breathtakingly luxurious and spacious with every inch designed for guest comfort.
They offer a Bose sound system, flatscreen TV, free Wi-Fi, and even a sleep system designed to aid your sleep with soothing sounds of your choice, which can be set to wake you up gently, too.
The expansive suites are impressive and create a wow factor. In addition to the beautifully designed living space and huge bed, the suite has a grand, indulgent bathroom with a walk-in shower large enough for ten people, double vanities, and a bath big enough to swim in.
The scents are divine courtesy of bath salts and products by luxury brand, Hermés. The rooms provide complimentary coffee machines and herbal refreshments, and there’s a 24-hour Room Cocoon menu offering the delights of the magnificent downstairs bistro restaurant.
The hotel provides an on-site fitness centre, but if you prefer a more personal experience, you can book a personal trainer or yoga specialist to come to your suite.
Yoga mats, weights and exercise menus are available in the suite for your use if you prefer private yoga. The relaxation doesn’t end there: you can book a masseuse for your room who will visit at your convenience to provide a selection of pampering treatments.
The bar and restaurant which adjoin the hotel’s sleek lobby are bustling with a glamorous, gourmet-loving local and international clientele. Overseen by Chef Christian Constant, the bistro restaurant, Les Cocottes Arc de Triomphe serves utterly exquisite seasonal produce in cocottes (cast iron dishes).
The salmon and oyster tartare starter is a must-sample, and the langoustine ravioli was so incredible, it elicited a mon Dieu! The service at the hotel accommodates busy executives well, with the staff serving a continental breakfast of pastries, jams, fresh juices and great coffee at the pace you require.
Macron’s efforts might be responsible for the rise in Paris’s business tourism. It’s up over eight per cent on the previous year, accounting for over half the 40 million total visitors.
We recommend a stay at Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe which will accommodate your business needs, and provide a rejuvenating haven to restore you after a busy day of dealmaking.
SOFITEL PARIS ARC DE TRIOMPHE
14, Rue Beaujon 75008 Paris, France
t: +33 1 53 89 50 50
e: h1296 [at] sofitel.com
• Photographs courtesy – Sofitel