PoP Blog

on 26 Feb, 16:51

PoP quits Station F

PoP quits Station F
Blog

TL;DR: This is the story of how and why PoP quit Station F starting from March 2018, as a consequence of Station F staff’s lack of accountability and professionalism, of their operating with favouritism and breaching of the trust put in them, and of Station F itself not living up to its stated inclusivity values.


In the screenshots from Station F’s Slack below, the usernames, names and avatars on the posts by Station F residents have been blurred. Station F staff info has also been blurred, however the "-staff-stationf" bit on their usernames has been kept intact for ease of understanding. All screenshots have, as a title attribute, the date in which they happened.

Hi, I’m Leonardo Losoviz, creator of PoP. I will recount how and why I decided to have PoP quit Station F, the biggest startup campus in the world, which is located in Paris.

In April 2017, PoP was accepted to be part of Station F’s Founders Program, for which I took the decision to move to Paris and start operations there. However, because I am not a European citizen, I need a visa to be able to move to France. I flew to France and joined Station F from the day it opened its doors in early July, under a tourist visa, and immediately started searching for ways to obtain a permanent visa.

On 17th July 2017, after the first startup founders meeting for our guild, I explained my situation to Station F’s Startups Relations Director, who from now on I will call Jacques (not his real name), and he told me that Station F’s Founders Program would soon be accepted as a partner of the French Tech Visa program, a scheme recently implemented by the French Government which allows foreign entrepreneurs to obtain a visa to live and work in France for 1 year, and renewable for up to 4 years. I had to wait though, since the French Government would not indicate when Station F’s fast track to become a partner of the program would come through. After being told that by being part of Station F’s Founders Program I could obtain a visa, I returned to Malaysia in September 2017, and continued working on my Paris-based plans under the understanding that the fast track would soon come through and I could then obtain the visa.

I initiated the process to get my visa in Kuala Lumpur, in October 2017, and waited for the fast track to come through during October, November, December 2017 and then January 2018, all the while paying for my membership and regularly communicating with the Station F staff concerning progress of the Founders Program’s fast track. On 18th January 2018 the fast track finally came through, meaning that I could finally ask Station F to grant me the Lettre de Reconnaissance (Recognition Letter), an official document required for applying to the French Tech Visa. This was the last document I needed in order to get the visa and move to France. However, to my utter surprise and chagrin, Jacques (Station F’s Startups Relations Director) had a change of mind, and on 1st February informed me that, since they were not obligated to help me in the process of getting my visa, they would not do so:

Screenshot from 01/02/2018

The content of this email is unmistakable: in barely a few words, Jacques, who back in July 2017 had told me that by being part of Station F’s Founders Program I could apply to the French Tech Visa, contradicts his assurance, completely disrupting the plans I had been working on for 5 months, and the goals I had laid out for the future.

Jacques’ behavior is certainly troublesome. I could have attempted to talk the situation through with Station F’s Director, however, I was discouraged to do so because this person had actually been CCed in the email (this is not visible in the screenshot having had the names blurred), suggesting that Jacques’ actions are supported by the management. If the management is aware of Jacques’ initial pledge in July 2017, and later reversal in February 2018, of that I have no information. (As far as I can tell, there is no paper trail of what happens behind the scenes: as Jacques mentions in his email, Station F is a private enterprise that has no obligations towards, or be accountable to, Station F’s residents.)

The whole episode triggered many thoughts in my head over the following days. Feeling disturbed by the staff treating me without the respect I deserve either as a person or, more importantly from their perspective, as a paying customer, I started reviewing all my interactions with the Station F staff, as well as all public interactions between the staff and all residents, and discovered that it was riddled with unpleasant situations and half-truths.

The result of my observations is this blog post. In it, I will show how the Station F staff have subjected me to a very unfair and unjustified treatment when they decided to not grant me the document required to obtain my visa anymore. We will also see how my situation was produced by the inherent conditions at Station F, under which residents are constantly frustrated for one reason or another, even up to this day (end of February 2018.)

My post on Slack from August 2017

Let’s start analyzing Jacques’ email. In it, he justifies not helping me obtain the visa by accusing me of:

  • having a bad tone
  • having a bad/negative attitude
  • complaining about not having some services (like VCs, printers, lockers, construction work, directory, Wifi, etc)

At the end he says:

Our role is to […] always improve based on your feedbacks but there are certain ways to do it. The long list of questions you had in August, your last emails make wonder if our offer matches with what you expect.

He is referring to a message that I posted on Station F’s Slack on 29th August 2017 (that is the screenshot he added in his email), which is the following:

Screenshot from 29/08/2017

That day, the atmosphere at Station F was experiencing extreme negativity, due to residents feeling particularly frustrated from several ongoing issues, such as: deafening construction noise taking place inside of the premises, Internet not working properly, lack of information/feedback concerning promised services, tickets requesting information or fixing some problem being ignored or mishandled, and others (a more complete list of issues can be found in the Appendix at the end of this article). Many of these issues had happened regularly since Station F opened its doors in early July (such as the Internet not working properly), while others started taking place only a couple of weeks earlier (such as the construction noise). The improper handling of these issues by the Station F team led, that day, to an outburst of anger from some residents.

Construction noise was making it difficult for the residents hosted nearby the construction area to work properly, and so they were asking/complaining about the situation. A resident posted the message below on 21st August:

Screenshot from 21/08/2017

Both the noise and residents’ frustrations intensified during the following days, leading to more explicit protests, like the message below which was posted on 25th August:

Screenshot from 25/08/2017

Finally, on 29th August, the noise reached a crescendo that many residents could not cope with anymore, making the atmosphere inside the campus incredibly negative. One resident asks the Station F staff to stop the noise, since it was almost impossible to work in those conditions. A Station F staff member replies saying "it’s almost done", to which the resident complains to have been told that for 3 weeks, yet the noise continued unabated:

Screenshot from 29/08/2017

A few minutes later, the same resident uploads a video of the construction noise to Slack, and threatens with sharing it with his 25000 followers on Twitter:

Screenshot from 29/08/2017

The video shows the noise inside of Station F at the time:

Download video

25 minutes later, the same resident threatens once again to upload the video to Twitter, since no Station F staff is answering his concerns, and all the while the noise continues:

Screenshot from 29/08/2017

25 minutes later, the Station F staff promises that construction will continue for only 40 minutes more, and then it would stop:

Screenshot from 29/08/2017

While some residents were venting their anger by cursing, others were releasing their frustration by making fun of the situation:

Screenshot from 29/08/2017

2.5 hours later, the noise resumed, prompting some residents to claim how the handling of the situation was a failure, and even questioning the credibility of the staff:

Screenshot from 29/08/2017

Only after 30 minutes or so later the noise finally stopped. The Station F staff posted a message announcing it, including a GIF image which was unsuitable to the set of circumstances:

Screenshot from 29/08/2017

The GIF is this one:

Screenshot from 29/08/2017

It was at this stage, noticing how residents were angry and frustrated, yet the staff did not comprehend the seriousness of the situation, that I felt compelled to write my post. In it, I pointed out that the real issue was a lack of proper communication inside of Station F: residents knew all along that Station F was still under construction and they accepted it with no objections; they only requested to be told, in advance, when the construction would take place, so they could prepare accordingly. The message suggested that all that was needed was a small gesture to handle the situation properly, and avoid making residents angry. And most residents seemed to agree with the message: a full 39 people showed approval (through Slack reactions), making it among the most-upvoted posts on Slack ever posted by a resident (even to this day, and even taking into account that Station F had fewer residents back then):

Screenshot from 29/08/2017

Furthermore, a few residents replied to my message, showing their support. In particular, a "thank you" note to me posted by a resident was itself upvoted by 13 people. This act of support by other residents shows that my message had achieved its intended objective, bringing back a sense of peace to the environment.

Screenshot from 29/08/2017

The Station F staff apologized about the ongoing situation, while addressing the many issues mentioned in my message:

Screenshot from 29/08/2017

However, my message was not itself about getting a response for those specific issues, but to point out the actual underlying problem: the lack of proper communication at Station F. In addition, because my goal was to improve the situation for everyone, I claimed that us residents should be patient with Station F staff since they were also learning all along. So I posted a follow-up message on Slack:

Screenshot from 29/08/2017

My message was immediately acknowledged by the Station F staff:

Screenshot from 29/08/2017

No more messages were posted on the Station F open channel on Slack, signalling that the issue had been overcome. One day later, however, Jacques contacted me through a direct message on Slack, accusing me of being pissed and causing a scene:

Screenshot from 30/08/2017

I explained to him that, on the opposite, I was the one trying to improve the situation, not the one who originated it:

Screenshot from 30/08/2017

He seemed to understand then:

Screenshot from 30/08/2017

Finally, I gave him a more detailed account of what happened, while praising Station F for what had achieved, yet claiming that it still had to improve on the tiny details:

Screenshot from 30/08/2017

He didn’t reply back. The whole episode seemed to be clarified, and would hopefully lead to a positive outcome: posting the message had been the right thing to do. Fast forwarding to 1st February, I received Jacques’ email (already shown previously):

Screenshot from 01/02/2018

I had never expected, back then, that posting my well-intentioned message on Slack would lead to such dire consequences for me, as making Jacques decide to not grant the Lettre de Reconnaissance to me anymore, thus denying me the chance to apply for the French Tech Visa and be able to move to France. Unfair, isn’t it?

Addressing Jacques’ accusations of bad tone/attitude from my side

As I mentioned earlier, Jacques told me on 17th July 2017 that I could apply for the French Tech Visa through Station F’s Founders Program when the fast track came through. Because it was not known when the fast track would go through, and not under their control (they were themselves waiting for procedures from the French Government), he suggested that I should also consider other avenues of applying for the visa, so I wouldn’t have to wait.

Between July and September, I attempted to get my visa through other means, but was unsuccessful. Then, upon the expiry of my tourist visa on mid September, I returned to Malaysia and announced to the staff that I would initiate the visa procedures:

Screenshot from 09/09/2017

On 12th October I had an interview at the French Embassy in Kuala Lumpur. One day later, they informed me that I must present the "Lettre de Reconnaissance" to apply for the French Tech Visa:

Screenshot from 13/10/2017

Because Station F could not grant the Lettre de Reconnaissance before being a partner of the French Tech Visa, and because they didn’t know when the fast track would come through, they got me in touch with a representative from the French Government to ask them directly. I did so, but after a few days, I still didn’t get a response to my inquiry.

Then, on 23rd October 2017, I asked Station F’s Startups Junior Manager to ask the French Government’s representative to reply to my email. Please notice how this email explicitly states the understanding between me and the Station F staff: once Station F Founders Program’s fast track got through, Station F would help me get the required documentation to apply for the visa:

Screenshot from 23/10/2017

Dear reader, would you think that the Station F staff replied to me saying that this information was incorrect, that the Station F staff had never told me they would grant me the Lettre de Reconnaissance? No, this person did not do that, did not deny any information that I said, thus demonstrating that what I said was our common understanding of the situation.

Instead, and as I had requested, the Startups Junior Manager forwarded my inquiry to the French Government’s representative, and also CCing Jacques in the email (this is not visible since the name is blurred):

Screenshot from 23/10/2017

Indeed, in all our communications between September 2017 and January 2018, the Station F staff NEVER indicated that they would not grant the required documentation to apply for the visa. The email below is another example: on 17th January 2018, Station F’s Startups Junior Manager informed me that:

French Tech Visa is almost done with their process, it is a matter of days, we’ll let you know as soon as they announce it!

Screenshot from 17/01/2018

So, just 1 day before the fast track went through, and less than 2 weeks before Jacques’ email on 1st February, the Station F staff still evidenced that they would grant the Lettre de Reconnaissance to me.

Fast track comes through, Jacques changes his mind

On 19th January, I was informed by the French Government’s representative that the French Tech Visa fast track finally went through:

Screenshot from 19/01/2018

I immediately notified the French Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, who were waiting for me since end of November to present the Lettre de Reconnaissance, that I could finally apply for the visa:

Screenshot from 19/01/2018

And I asked the Startups Junior Manager to process the Letter de Reconnaissance for me:

Screenshot from 19/01/2018

However, the Station F staff never replied to me. I asked again 5 days later.

Screenshot from 24/01/2018

Once again I got no response, so I wrote again one week later. Since I had first written almost 2 weeks earlier, the French Embassy in Kuala Lumpur was waiting for me, and the Staff was ignoring my emails, I mentioned that I was getting frustrated:

Screenshot from 01/02/2018

And then, Jacques finally replied my email. However, utterly unexpectedly, he informed me that they had decided to not grant the Lettre de Reconnaissance to me anymore, thus effectively barring me from moving to France, under the justification of a negative attitude from my side when I posted my message on Slack, my demands, and the tone I employed when addressing them on my emails. Once again, this is Jacques’ email:

Screenshot from 01/02/2018

In summary: I waited for the Founders Program fast track to come through for several months, all the while paying for my membership and making plans to move to France. One day the fast track finally went through, and I requested the staff to grant me the Lettre de Reconnaissance; however, my emails were ignored, prompting me to ask for feedback again, only to be ignored again, and finally be flatly denied the document I had waited for, and which the Staff had evidenced they would provide to me.

Is that what a normal person would call "such demands and tone every day"? Not really, right? His accusations of bad attitude and tone from my side are completely unfounded, simply evidencing a dislike that this person has towards me.

Analyzing Jacques’ behavior from his email

Jacques’ emails is revealing in that it exemplifies how Station F staff operate, evidencing lack of professionalism, favouritism and exertion of undue power, among others.

Lack of responsibility

In his email, Jacques says that he will not deal with my demands for feedback concerning the Lettre de Reconnaissance:

I will be honest with you: I can’t deal with such demands and tone every day (and I won’t deal with it).

Jacques is Station F’s Startups Relations Director. Obtaining the Lettre de Reconnaissance, which is the last document I needed to obtain my visa, is indeed no small matter for me, a Station F’s customer, yet he repeatedly ignored my emails and finally said that he would not deal with my demands. Hence I wonder, what is the Startups Relations Director’s role for then?

Lack of respect

Jacques seems to ignore the fact that I am a (paying) customer, or at least he doesn’t treat me with the respect that I deserve as such. He may dislike me, but that doesn’t give him the right to treat me with comtempt.

Absence of due process

Jacques had initially said I could obtain my visa through Station F’s becoming a partner of the French Tech Visa program, yet later on, once the fast track finally went through, he changed his mind and denied granting the required document to me.

Hence I wonder: How did this happen? Was the decision reviewed/approved by management, or taken by a single individual following his whims? Why wasn’t I given the chance to explain the situation before such drastic decision was taken?

Favouritism

It is apparent that I was denied the Lettre de Reconnaissance not as a general policy, but due to having fallen into disfavour with the staff. When I mention that they decided to not grant the Lettre de Reconnaissance to me, we need to pay special attention to these keywords: To me. Whenever any member of the Founders Program requests the Lettre de Reconnaissance, will the staff also deny it, as a general policy? This doesn’t make sense at all, since the obvious reason for having the Founders Program be a partner of the French Tech Visa program is to allow its members be able to apply for the visa.

Moreover, Station F’s Director Roxanne Varza explained that hosting international startups is among the top priorities for Station F:

From the first day I joined Station F, I promised myself I would do everything I could to make Station F as international as possible. In fact, being international is so important that it quickly became one of our 3 core principles at Station F. We strive to integrate international elements into everything we do — whether it be hosting international startups, […] or seeking out administrative solutions to help foreign entrepreneurs coming to Station F… and the list goes on.

In other words, the Station F staff are giving unfair preferential treatment to its startups/customers, deciding who they help obtain the visa and who they do not, purely based on the whims of their staff, and giving the residents no recourse about it.

Indeed, I am not the only person who sufferend Station F’s staff favouritism. In the screenshot below, another resident complains about staff giving preferential treatment to residents when asking for help (the context for this screenshot is given on section "Improving situation, but not quite there yet" below):

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

I guess it depends on who posts

The lack of equal treatment for residents indicates a possible rotten culture, in which residents who raise an issue at Station F may be punished by some disgruntled staff, who has the power to grant or deny a needed service. And since Station F is not accountable to its residents, there is no due process to contest the decisions taken by the staff.

Breach of trust

I have been waiting, and paying for my membership, for a full 5 months. Had I known that I would get the Lettre de Reconnaissance denied, I could have left earlier on. This is not just 5 months of wasted time and energy into the venture, but also almost 1200 euros in membership fees (195 euros + VAT / month) that I paid for nothing. While this amount is negligible to Station F, it is a considerable amount for me, taking into account that I have been working for non-paying non-profits (such as this one, this one and this one) for the last 5 years. The Station F staff were aware of this fact: during their selection interview, I explained the philosophy behind PoP, claiming that the goal was not to create a multi-million dollar business, but to help NGOs own their own online platforms and control their own data. In addition, I am not profiting economically from PoP, having decided to share its code as open source software. And working in open source may be quite hard: sometimes it is even difficult to make it to the end of the month.

It is under these conditions that I accepted to pay for Station F’s membership all these months, trusting that I could eventually obtain my visa through Station F’s Founders Program, as Jacques had told me in July 2017, so I could move to France and start operations there. When Station F finally had the power to grant me the Lettre de Reconnaissance, they refused to do so, effectively breaching the trust I had in them.

Paying attention to Station F’s championed inclusivity values.

Jacques’ behaviour, including his reversing his assurance that I could get the visa through the French Tech Visa and his not respecting me as a paying customer, made me wonder: how can Station F employ people with such behavior, given the values it claims to hold as an institution? Which then led me to wonder: is Station F the place I believed it to be, the place which had attracted me to apply to their Founders Program in first place?

Station F claims to be a place that operates according to principles. For instance, during Station F’s inauguration, Director Roxanne Varza stated that she hoped Station F would "make entrepreneurship no longer all white, all male, all MBA". In addition, one of the three programs run by Station F (most other programs in campus are run by 3rd parties, such as Facebook, Zendesk and others) is the Fighters Program, which hosts 13 startups coming from unprivileged backgrounds for 1 year, for free. Finally, they state that the startup founders participating in the Founders Program (which is another one of the three programs run by Station F) are 40% female.

The inclusivity message does sound very enticing, and that was one of the main reasons I wanted to be part of Station F in first place.

However, while I was physically at Station F’s campus between July and September 2017, what could be mostly seen on campus were white men. Yes, there were women. Yes, there were non-white people. But, from the impressions that I got, they were a minority. To make sure if my impressions were right, I checked if their claims of inclusivity can be backed-up with numbers or not, summarized below. Please notice: I am not asserting that the numbers below are representative of the actual demographics at Station F, since I do not have that information, however I believe that they can be considered a good proxy to estimate the real situation.

I browsed all Station F’s newsletters (a total of 25 up to late February 2018) and paid attention to the section "Meet a founder", in which startup founders are featured on a weekly basis and showing a picture of them, and counted how many of each group (men/women, white/non-white) there are. For a total of 105 people featured in the newsletter (mostly founders, and also their team members in a few cases) from several programs on campus, run by both Station F and 3rd parties, the results are:

  • Men: 83/105 => 79%
  • White: 94/105 => 89%
  • Men and white: 74/105 => 70%

If we just limit the search to members of the Founders Program, which is run by Station F, for which it is claimed 40% of its founders are female, from a total of 51 people featured in the newsletter we get:

  • Men: 43/51 => 84%
  • White: 40/51 => 78%
  • Men and white: 34/51 => 66%

These results are revealing to me. These numbers suggest that 70% of founders from all programs, and 66% from the Founders Program, are male AND white, and Founders Program’s female founders are only 16% of the total, instead of the publicized 40%.

The inclusivity factor was one of the reasons I wanted to be part of Station F. However, it seems that inclusivity at Station F is more wish than reality (or just a publicity stunt?)

This is the end

I find Jacques’ decision to not grant the Lettre de Reconnaissance anymore to me both morally wrong and gratuitously harmful. Operating without due process or respect towards a paying customer, an action taken by a single Station F staff member has the effect of producing profound repercussions on my life, such as denying me the chance to move to France.

Dear reader, let me ask you: how would you feel if you rely on some institution to grant you the documentation needed to apply for your visa after being told by their staff that you could do so, to then having this person change his mind and disrupt your plans?

How would you feel if such a decision was taken due to your doing the right thing, when you posted that message on Slack to calm people down and reduce the negativity in the atmosphere? And even after explaining the whole episode to this same person who is accusing you of bad attitude?

How would you feel knowing that you are not respected as a paying customer, and that you have been singled out because some person with power doesn’t like you, and makes use of that power to affect your life?

I can tell you how it feels: horrible.

However, as with every horrible experience, I learnt a lesson: I discovered that Station F is not the place I had believed it was, the place where I wanted to be. I accept a few problems here and there (no organization is perfect), however I could never be part of an insitution which doesn’t abide by its stated values, with an unprofessional staff that treats its clients with favouritism and that exercise their power to do harm.

So I decided that I don’t want to be part of this anymore.

For all of this, Station F, I’m saying goodbye to you. I do still hope that you shall improve and change your direction, if only for the wellbeing of the startups you are hosting. I hope they are never let down as I have been, which, I can tell you, is no fun.

Appendix 1: #StationFrustration in screenshots

Frustration at Station F had been steadily accumulating since the day it opened its doors beginning of July 2017 and, on the particular day of 29th August 2017, the negavity reached a peak, having a resident threatening to showcase the construction noise to his Twitter 25000 followers, and many others sharing their grievances openly on Slack, which prompted me to post my message on Slack trying to calm people down.

Residents have had plenty of reasons to feel frustrated about at Station F. From the first day and even until today, negativity and frustration have gone up and down, as we can discover in the screenshots below, which can roughly be grouped into the following categories:

  • Construction problems
    • Holes in the building
    • Bathroom problems
    • Showers not working
    • Water leakages
  • Improper services or infrastructure
    • Microwave queueing
    • Temperature problems
    • Bad smell
    • Alarms going crazy and nobody turning them off
    • Malfunctioning internet
    • Malfunctioning printers
  • Improper maintenance
    • Dying nature
    • Cockroaches
  • Improper communication
    • Concerning construction noises
    • Un-answered tickets
    • Unfulfilled requests for information or features
    • Improper handling of printers/lockers not ready for a long time

The list of screenshots is quite extensive, so I have compiled these on this separate post. Below is a subset of them, showcasing some of the most salient examples of frustration.

Whenever in French, the screenshots have been translated to English.

Construction problems:

Screenshot from 26/09/2017

Screenshot from 18/08/2017

Screenshot from 17/08/2017

Mayday it’s raining behind my post (ie inside station F mezza block 7)

Screenshot from 05/12/2017

We found out why it’s cold and why we hear work from outside…
There is a beautiful opening on the outside between the two beams!
River-side, Mezzanine, Block 7, (Impulse-Partners Program)
@… it would be super nice that you could send someone to watch what can be done. The … and … teams thank you in advance.

Screenshot from 25/01/2018

Image name: Dangerous ramp. Block 7 mezzanine

Improper maintenance:

Screenshot from 09/08/2017

Screenshot from 22/11/2017

Screenshot from 06/11/2017

Improper communication/Lack of information:

Screenshot from 25/08/2017

Screenshot from 18/09/2017

Screenshot from 17/07/2017

Screenshot from 21/07/2017

Improper services or infrastructure:

Screenshot from 28/09/2017

Screenshot from 05/09/2017

Screenshot from 25/01/2018

Screenshot from 02/10/2017

Screenshot from 18/07/2017

Screenshot from 24/07/2017

Screenshot from 19/09/2017

Screenshot from 20/09/2017

Screenshot from 22/09/2017

Screenshot from 12/10/2017

Screenshot from 10/11/2017

Screenshot from 19/09/2017

Screenshot from 22/09/2017

Screenshot from 28/09/2017

Screenshot from 11/11/2017

Otherwise, you have to be a developer to understand how to print here ?? 😡

Screenshot from 22/02/2018

Ethernet still down block 4 … it’s been days that it works badly, and I do not have the impression that Station F cares..

Improving situation, but not quite there yet

Starting from late October 2017 the situation improved remarkably, since a staff member started being very responsive, by not just solving residents’ problems but also giving them reassurance and positive feedback through Slack.

However, frustrating experiences still happen regularly, giving way to occasional episodes of extreme negativity and anger. The situation below happened on 23rd January 2018, when that same responsive staff member openly accused a few residents of inappropriate behavior and double-discourse, prompting Station F’s management to intervene to bring tensions down.

The situation started with a resident complaining about the Internet not working properly:

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

Help problem of internet connection block 8 side Zendesk! Wifi and wired HS!

Another resident confirms the problem, saying that the situation is unbearable:

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

I confirm, it’s unbearable, even the wire does not work anymore, it’s not possible
it gets cut every X min

He complains again 10 minutes later:

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

@… it just fell again for several minutes

And again 20 minutes later:

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

@… one more time

And again 10 minutes later:

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

The Station F staff reacts, sarcastically thanking the resident for pinging him each time the Internet went down, and saying that residents must create a ticket on HAL to have the staff solve the problem:

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

Hello @…, Thanks for pinging me every time there is a cut..
But we are not alone on the channel.
You encounter a problem, you open a ticket on HAL, a dev takes care of it and answers you.
Thank you

The resident indicates that he must still have tickets from August still not taken care of, evidencing the frustration experienced from using the ticket system:

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

@… oh yes, I must still have tickets from August…

it’s today that we need to work, not in 3 months, we launch product hunt tomorrow, we need a little internet

The first resident supports this message, stating that his own tickets were not taken care of:

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

@… indeed the tickets on HAL are often unanswered, the proof being that on our side (…) we have opened several tickets, for the wired network part HS in the mini room but no action has been taken for several months…

To which the Station F staff gathers information about the open tickets from these 2 residents and shares this information on the open channel:

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

@… you made 1 ticket. the techs answered you.
@… 0 active tickets from you.
Our teams work every day on the tickets, especially the devs, so stop saying, to facilitate, that we never answer.
Once again, you have a problem, you make a ticket. Not bothering me with each of these things would be cool.

The second resident shows how another resident got immediate help when asking on Slack:

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

@… Hello, we have no power in the room "Gondola" in Share River side. Thank you for your help!

@… I send you someone immediately.

And finally suggesting that the staff treat residents with favouritism:

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

I guess it depends on who posts

And the first resident explains how their tickets had been closed without verifying if the problem was fixed:

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

@… bah yes my last ticket was opened in October and closed by … late November but still the same problem in January a team had to intervene but still not since late November. So easy to close tickets without checking.

The second resident asks what is the purpose of the channel, if not to seek for help about issues:

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

Subject of the channel: "Something wrong at STATION F? Ask for help here or send an email at help@stationf.co – for specific tech issues, go to #tech-help"
Maybe the channel should be closed then
or specify the topic

It is at this moment that Station F’s management intervenes, to alleviate the escalating tension:

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

I allow myself to intervene. Has the situation improved? Indeed it is better to go through a ticket on HAL, even if we do not send answers to everyone, the tickets are read by the tech teams and they react as quickly as possible.

Only then, the problem was solved.

Appendix 2: series of events that lead to PoP quitting Station F

The following table summarizes all the events as they took place:

Date Event
April 2017 PoP is accepted into Station F’s Founders Program.
03-07-2017 Station F opens the doors to its Founders Program’s residents. I fly to Paris to be at Station F from the first day.
17-07-2017 Jacques, Station Startups Relations Director, tells me that through Station F’s Founders Program I can apply to the French Tech Visa, but I must wait until the fast track comes through.
29-08-2017 Deafening construction noise in Station F, residents complain, I post a message on Slack to calm people down.
30-08-2017 Through a direct message, Jacques accuses me of being pissed, suggesting that I had caused a scene. I explain the actual situation to him, pointing out that I had succeeded in calming people down, which had even been acknowledged by the residents. He seems to understand.
19-09-2017 My tourist visa expires, I return to Malaysia. I continue working on Paris-based plans for PoP.
12-10-2017 I am interviewed at the French Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, to review my documentation to apply for the French Tech Visa.
13-10-2017 Staff from the French Embassy in Kuala Lumpur inform me that I need to present the Lettre de Reconnaissance in order to apply for the French Tech Visa.
23-10-2017 On my behalf, Station F staff inquire the French Government’s representative when the Founders Program’s fast track will come through, after which I can be granted the Lettre de Reconnaissance.
17-01-2018 Station F staff informs me that the fast track will come through very soon.
18-01-2018 Fast track for the French Tech Visa comes through.
19-01-2018 I ask the Station F staff to grant me the Lettre de Reconnaissance, which is the final document I am required to provide to apply for the visa. They do not reply back.
24-01-2018 I ask for feedback again. Still no response from them.
01-02-2018 I ask for feedback again. Jacques replies back, telling me that they decided to not grant the Lettre de Reconnaissance to me anymore, claiming a bad tone and negative attitude from my side.
01-03-2018 PoP quits Station F.

Update 12/03/2018

Roxanne Varza has refunded me the money for the 5 months that I was waiting (that is 1170 euros). This is a nice gesture from her, even though I had never requested the money back.

on 26 Feb, 16:41

#StationFrustration in screenshots

#StationFrustration in screenshots
Blog

In the screenshots below, the usernames, names and avatars on the posts by Station F residents have been blurred. Station F staff info has also been blurred, however the "-staff-stationf" bit on their usernames has been kept intact for ease of understanding. All screenshots have, as a title attribute, the date in which they happened.

Since it opened its doors in July 2017, residents have regularly suffered frustrating situations at Station F. The screenshots below demonstrate many of these situations.

Construction noise

Posts below were added to Slack between 24/07 and 25/08/2017. In particular, construction noises got so bad on the 25th, that residents started swearing openly, and Station F’s boss had to apologize. And a few days later, on the 29th, the negativity at Station F had reached extremely high levels, prompting me to write my letter on Slack to calm people down.

Screenshot from 24/07/2017

Screenshot from 21/08/2017

Screenshot from 25/08/2017

Screenshot from 25/08/2017

Screenshot from 25/08/2017

Screenshot from 25/08/2017

Bathroom problems

Posts below were added to Slack between 20/07/2017 and 24/01/2018. Bathroom problems would arise regularly after Station F opened its doors, possibly due to poor-quality construction.

Screenshot from 20/07/2017

Screenshot from 20/07/2017

Screenshot from 20/07/2017

Screenshot from 24/07/2017

Screenshot from 25/08/2017

Screenshot from 28/08/2017

Screenshot from 26/09/2017

Screenshot from 30/11/2017

Screenshot from 24/01/2018

Showers not working

Posts below were added to Slack between 07/09 and 30/10/2017. Showers would be out-of-order for long periods of time.

Screenshot from 07/09/2017

Screenshot from 18/09/2017

Screenshot from 30/10/2017

Water leakages

Posts below were added to Slack between 18/08 and 15/12/2017. Water leakages would be a constant at Station F, whenever it rained, possibly due to subpar construction/renovation of the ancient train station.

Screenshot from 18/08/2017

Screenshot from 25/08/2017

Screenshot from 25/08/2017

Screenshot from 25/08/2017

Screenshot from 05/09/2017

Screenshot from 09/09/2017

Screenshot from 14/09/2017

Screenshot from 14/09/2017

Screenshot from 01/12/2017

Screenshot from 11/12/2017

Screenshot from 15/12/2017

Microwave queueing

Posts below were added to Slack between 05/09/2017 and 09/01/2018. They show the frustration of residents for the long queues to heat up their food during lunch time.

Screenshot from 05/09/2017

Screenshot from 11/09/2017

Screenshot from 09/01/2018

Temperature problems

Posts below were added to Slack between 14/07 and 26/12/2017. Both freezing and very hot conditions happened in several occasions.

Screenshot from 14/07/2017

Screenshot from 18/07/2017

Screenshot from 06/09/2017

Screenshot from 28/09/2017

Screenshot from 02/11/2017

Screenshot from 26/12/2017

Holes in the building

Posts below were added to Slack between 16/08 and 05/12/2017.

Screenshot from 16/08/2017

Screenshot from 17/08/2017

Screenshot from 05/12/2017

Screenshot from 05/12/2017

Screenshot from 05/12/2017

Broken Handrail

Posts below were added to Slack between 23/11/2017 and 25/01/2018. The referred-to handrail is always the same.

Screenshot from 23/11/2017

Screenshot from 13/12/2017

Screenshot from 25/01/2018

Bad smell

Posts below were added to Slack between 05/09 and 05/12/2017.

Screenshot from 05/09/2017

Screenshot from 17/10/2017

Screenshot from 05/12/2017

Unproper maintenance or care

Posts below were added to Slack between 08/01/2017 and 29/01/2018. These show how Station F is regularly not kept up with the attention it needs.

Screenshot from 08/01/2017

Screenshot from 30/08/2017

Screenshot from 26/09/2017

Screenshot from 02/10/2017

Screenshot from 13/12/2017

Screenshot from 14/12/2017

Screenshot from 22/01/2018

Screenshot from 25/01/2018

Screenshot from 29/01/2018

Dying nature

Posts below were added to Slack between 09/08 and 22/11/2017. They show the lack of proper maintenance at Station F, that even living being such as fish and plants are also suffering.

Screenshot from 09/08/2017

Screenshot from 22/11/2017

Screenshot from 22/11/2017

Screenshot from 22/11/2017

Cockroaches

Posts below were added to Slack between 06/11 and 19/12/2017.

Screenshot from 06/11/2017

Screenshot from 19/12/2017

Alarm going crazy

Posts below were added to Slack on 18/09/2017. That day, the alarm went off, and it was beeping loudly for many minutes until somebody put it off, all the while making work very difficult.

Screenshot from 18/09/2017

Screenshot from 18/09/2017

Screenshot from 18/09/2017

Screenshot from 18/09/2017

Station F IPs banned, possibly unprotected data

Posts below were added to Slack between 15/09/2017 and 24/01/2018. It is possible that there are startups in Station F doing stuff banned by some websites, such as scraping their content, and as such these websites ban the incoming IPs, affecting access for everyone from within Station F. In addition, a resident received an email from some 3rd party claiming to have information from Station F residents, raising fears that private data may have been leaked.

Screenshot from 15/09/2017

Screenshot from 19/09/2017

Screenshot from 14/12/2017

Screenshot from 24/01/2018

Complaints about un-answered tickets

Posts below were added to Slack between 24/07/2017 and 21/02/2018. These show how residents at Station F were so frustrated at their tickets not being replied-to, that they would directly stop creating tickets and complain in Slack instead, and even joke about creating tickets, expressing that it would make no difference.

Many of the screenshots below also appear under their corresponding section.

Screenshot from 24/07/2017

Screenshot from 02/08/2017

Screenshot from 09/08/2017

Screenshot from 25/08/2017

Screenshot from 04/09/2017

Screenshot from 07/09/2017

Screenshot from 14/09/2017

Screenshot from 14/09/2017

Screenshot from 18/09/2017

Screenshot from 18/09/2017

Screenshot from 18/09/2017

Screenshot from 26/09/2017

Screenshot from 02/10/2017

Screenshot from 07/12/2017

Screenshot from 21/02/2018

Malfunctioning internet

Posts below were added to Slack between 18/07 and 22/02/2018. During the first months, the Station F staff would, for the most part, not reply to the questions concerning non-functioning internet from the residents. During this period, Internet was extremely unstable, and many residents decided to use their own data instead. Later on the problem was mainly solved, however downtimes keep happening constantly, up to this day (end of February 2018).

Screenshot from 18/07/2017

Screenshot from 18/07/2017

Screenshot from 18/07/2017

Screenshot from 19/07/2017

Screenshot from 20/07/2017

Screenshot from 20/07/2017

Screenshot from 24/07/2017

Screenshot from 24/07/2017

Screenshot from 24/07/2017

Screenshot from 25/07/2017

Screenshot from 03/08/2017

Screenshot from 23/08/2017

Screenshot from 29/08/2017

Screenshot from 04/09/2017

Screenshot from 04/09/2017

Screenshot from 11/09/2017

Screenshot from 12/09/2017

Screenshot from 18/09/2017

Screenshot from 18/09/2017

Screenshot from 19/09/2017

Screenshot from 20/09/2017

Screenshot from 22/09/2017

Screenshot from 22/09/2017

Screenshot from 26/09/2017

Screenshot from 02/10/2017

Screenshot from 02/10/2017

Screenshot from 12/10/2017

Screenshot from 13/10/2017

Screenshot from 10/11/2017

Screenshot from 14/11/2017

Screenshot from 20/12/2017

Screenshot from 13/02/2018

Screenshot from 14/02/2018

Screenshot from 19/02/2018

Screenshot from 20/02/2018

Screenshot from 21/02/2018

Screenshot from 21/02/2018

Screenshot from 21/02/2018

Screenshot from 22/02/2018

Screenshot from 22/02/2018

Screenshot from 22/02/2018

Printers/lockers ready?

Posts below were added to Slack between 17/07 and 31/08/2017. Both printers and lockers were widely requested, and residents were constantly asking when they would be ready, however the Station F staff would, for the most part, not reply. And when they did, the usual response was either "soon" or "next week", even if it would still be weeks away. Residents then got frustrated at the lack of information, the lack of consideration for a plan B, the sensation that the Station F staff was not taking care of their concerns, and the unprofessional handling of the situation (7 weeks of waiting is not what residents expected, upon being told "anytime soon").

Screenshot from 17/07/2017

Screenshot from 17/07/2017

Screenshot from 21/07/2017

Screenshot from 24/07/2017

Screenshot from 26/07/2017

Screenshot from 01/08/2017

Screenshot from 02/08/2017

Screenshot from 18/08/2017

Screenshot from 24/08/2017

Screenshot from 28/08/2017

Screenshot from 28/08/2017

Screenshot from 29/08/2017

Screenshot from 31/08/2017

Malfunctioning printers

Posts below were added to Slack between 07/09/2017 and 21/02/2018. After printers started being available, on 04/09/2017, many residents would be angry at being unable to print, due to the printer drivers not supporting their Operating Systems or some other problem.

Screenshot from 07/09/2017

Screenshot from 07/09/2017

Screenshot from 15/09/2017

Screenshot from 18/09/2017

Screenshot from 19/09/2017

Screenshot from 20/09/2017

Screenshot from 20/09/2017

Screenshot from 22/09/2017

Screenshot from 25/09/2017

Screenshot from 28/09/2017

Screenshot from 17/10/2017

Screenshot from 27/10/2017

Screenshot from 11/11/2017

Screenshot from 07/12/2017

Screenshot from 21/02/2018

Unfulfilled requests for information or features

Posts below were added to Slack between 20/07 and 25/09/2017. These are other examples of requests/questions by residents, not being addressed by the Station F staff.

Screenshot from 20/07/2017

Screenshot from 20/07/2017

Screenshot from 26/07/2017

Screenshot from 01/08/2017

Screenshot from 01/08/2017

Screenshot from 25/09/2017

Unfulfilled request for a members directory (work in progress?)

Posts below were added to Slack between 20/07/2017 and 24/01/2018. The directory of members is a feature that has been requested by many residents from the very beginning, and even several startups started creating the directory all by themselves. The Station F staff has indicated they are working on the implementation, however it has been more than 7 months and they have not released anything yet, making many residents open wonder why they haven’t uploaded a simple Excel sheet temporarily.

Screenshot from 20/07/2017

Screenshot from 26/07/2017

Screenshot from 09/08/2017

Screenshot from 30/08/2017

Screenshot from 11/09/2017

Screenshot from 17/10/2017

Screenshot from 25/10/2017

Screenshot from 24/01/2018

Station F staff accusing residents in the open channel

Posts below were added to Slack on 23/01/2018. Over time, residents got very frustrated at their tickets not being addressed properly, and as such many of them simply stopped creating tickets and started complaining in Slack instead. On this particular day, a resident got extremely frustrated at the Internet not working properly, right when he needed it the most, and so ranted about it openly on Slack. The Station F staff reacted improperly, prompting Station F’s management to intervene to reduce the tension.

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

Screenshot from 23/01/2018

on 23 Feb, 19:07

We will soon work on making PoP easy to install

We will soon work on making PoP easy to install
Blog

PoP is great, but there is only one (not so tiny) problem: it is not easy to install. The reason for that is that, until today, Leo has never had the opportunity to work on the scripts to automate installation since there were other priorities.

We are currently creating scripts to automate the installation process, we expect them to be ready around mid-July 2018.

Until then, we provide a zip file including all code (PoP, WordPress and plugins), and a database dump from the GetPoP Demo website, to set-up this same site in a quick-and-dirty manner in your localhost. Download the files and read the installation instructions here.

If you run into any trouble, please do not hesitate to contact Leo.

on 10 Feb, 06:17

Native support for A/B Testing in PoP

Native support for A/B Testing in PoP
Blog

PoP has support for A/B Testing natively, through the modification of one or two URL parameters which change the look and feel of a webpage:

  • thememode
  • themestyle

Whereas thememode is used for rendering a webpage for a completely different use case (such as embed, print, or mobile), themestyle is used to tweak the presentation styles. Some examples:

Homepage:

Homepage for printing purposes, appending thememode=print to the URL:

Homepage with a wider presentation, appending themestyle=expansive to the URL:

Once the website is initially loaded with a given value for any of these two parameters, the framework in the front-end will always append these values to all subsequent requests. In the image below, themestyle=expansive is added to all requested URL, either as a link clicked upon by the user, or dynamic content fetched by some component:

Then, a PoP site can be customized using these parameters, and users can be served either version. Because this information will always be in the requested URL, then we can analyze and measure the impacts of each design very easily. Finally, to append one or another parameter value to the URL, the URL is intercepted in the client through Service Workers, adding a parameter or the other following the weight given to each.

This is native A/B Testing.

on 7 Feb, 16:30

Improved performance: FMP < 1 sec, SpeedIndex < 1250

Improved performance: FMP < 1 sec, SpeedIndex < 1250
Blog

After deploying PoP’s latest feature, dynamic bundling of resources, PoP sites experience a wonderful performance boost in their initial load. For instance, site Agenda Urbana is now scoring a sweet 1164 Speed Index score and rendering the first meaningful paint (FMP) in just 0.8 seconds, both below the recommended goal of 1250 for Speed Index and under 1 second for FMP:

Having the lowest possible loading time for our sites has become priority #1, more since Google announced that, starting from July 2018, page speed will be a ranking factor for mobile searches.

Because of this, we will keep working hard on producing the most optimized website ever. We plan to lower the Speed Index score even further with the following developments:

  • Add all assets loaded by WordPress itself (eg: jQuery, others) into the bundles (currently they are not)
  • Split Bootstrap into all of its components, to be loaded as needed through code-splitting
  • Route content through a CDN also when initially loading the site
  • Use IntersectionObserver for lazy-loading images and producing infinite-scrolling (the latter one will remove the dependency on library Waypoints)
  • Enable images to be loaded from an image optimizer service (such as Cloudinary)

As usual, enjoy!

on 7 Feb, 15:55

New feature: dynamic bundling of resources

New feature: dynamic bundling of resources
Blog

PoP has a nifty new feature: it bundles all needed Javascript and CSS resources into several bundles, on runtime, and makes them available through a CDN. Thanks to code-splitting, a PoP site already only loads the needed (Javascript and CSS) code and nothing else, and with this new featured, this minimum code is packaged all together to improve performance:

  • Total file size is smaller, since the compression of a bundle can benefit from dictionary reuse, whereas loading individual assets can’t.
  • Browsers have not yet been optimized to efficiently load individual assets in parallel (as made possible by HTTP/2). For example, Chrome will trigger inter-process communications (IPCs) linear to the number of resources, so including hundreds of resources has browser runtime costs.

Assets are bundled together depending on what type of files they are, as to maximize the amount of time they will remain cached on the client: while vendor files do not change often, and as such can remain cached for a long time, dynamically-generated assets can change as often as a new application version is deployed. The produced bundles are the following:

  • All vendor files together
  • All dynamically-generated files together
  • All Handlebars templates together (in the case of Javascript)
  • All other assets together

In addition, for Javascript, it splits each bundle into sub-bundles, allowing to load critical and non-critical assets with different priority:

  • Critical assets: load immediately
  • Non-critical assets: load either using “defer” or “async”

It can be seen in the screenshot below, that all the Javascript assets are loaded in just 8 files, 4 of which are loaded immediately, and the other 4 are loaded using “defer”:

Currently, all assets loaded by WordPress itself are not being bundled, however we are working on it, and expect this to be ready in a couple of weeks.

As always, enjoy!

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Break the information monopoly

the PoP framework is open source software which aims to decentralize the content flow and break the information monopoly from large internet corporations. Read more.