Xavier Niel is the majority shareholder and the historic leader of the Iliad Group. A self-taught entrepreneur, he has been a player in the telematics, Internet and telecommunications industries since the late 1980s. Before devoting himself fully to the development of the Iliad Group, in 1993, he notably co-founded the leading Internet access provider in France: Worldnet.
He has been at the source of major strategic developments for the Group. After creating 3617 ANNU, the first reverse directory service on Minitel (French precursor of the internet), he launched Free, the first free access provider in France in 1999. In 2002, Xavier Niel created the Freebox, the first multi-service set-top box providing access to “triple play” (internet-phone-TV) in the home.
Free is behind numerous innovations in the broadband access segment (VoIP, IPTV, flat-rate calling plans to multiple destinations, etc.). Free provides straightforward and innovative offerings at the best prices. At the end of 2010, Free introduced the Freebox Revolution, the 6th generation of Freebox units that notably includes an NAS and a Blu-RayTM drive. Free was the first operator to include calls from landlines to mobile phones in its offerings and also calls to French overseas departments (DOM).
Since January 2012, Free has brought mobile phone usage within everyone’s reach with straightforward, no-contract offerings at very attractive prices.
At the same time, Xavier Niel has also been investing significantly for years in internet start-ups. In March 2010, he founded his own investment fund, Kima Ventures, which invests in 50-100 start-ups per year, worldwide.
In 2013, Xavier Niel announced the launch of “42” – an innovative free IT university open to everyone and aimed at training 1,000 developers a year.
Xavier Niel plans to open beginning 2017 the world’s largest digital incubator – “1000 start-ups@la Halle Fressinet “which will be based at the Halle Freyssinet building in Paris.
In May 2014, through his holding NJJ, Xavier Niel has acquired more than 50% of Monaco Telecom. Last year, he has also acquired Salt (ex Orange) in Switzerland.
Xavier Niel is also the controlling shareholder of the newspaper Le Monde and L’Obs, along with Pierre Bergé and Matthieu Pigasse.
Founded in 2013, École 42 is a new type of information-technology school in France. With its unique pedagogical approach and accessibility to all with zero school fees, 42 claims to be the most daring response yet to the challenge of IT skill development, as well as becoming a source of innovation for the future. The basic idea of École 42 is to throw all the students — 800 to 1,000 per year — into a single building in the heart of Paris, give them Macs with big Cinema displays, and throw increasingly difficult programming challenges at them. The students are given little direction about how to solve the problems, so they have to turn to each other — and to the Internet — to figure out the solutions.