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Techcruch Waking Up to Europe

I recently posted about there being just a handful of European companies among the Webware 100 awards finalists – 21 out of 300 companies, with Passpack as the lone ranger for Italy. Now it seems Techcrunch is sitting up and recognizing that there’s something interesting is astir in the EU.

The article poses the question of if and where a European Silicon Valley will eventually pop up. In the era of Web2.0 where everything is online, applications are distributed, and networks are virtual.

Do we really need the highly centralized model of
“one valley to rule the world”?

I believe Erik Schonfeld, Techcrunch author, came darn close to the truth here:

“As Europe searches for its Silicon Valley, it may turn up as a state of mind rather than a specific place. The truth is that Europe may not need a single Silicon Valley because business is becoming so distributed.”

Agreed.

It all comes down to the VCs really. While US VCs still seem reluctant (or so the story goes) to invest outside three miles of their home, my brief experience with chatting with EU investors show a generally more lenient attitude. If that’s anything more than just an impression, then European startups may well have a chance of building a distributed “Valley”.

Europe has been long known as the Old World, with it’s patchwork of countries, cultures and languages crammed into a relatively small spot of land. But just as data silos are being broken down and distributed, the business silos like Silicon Valley may be destined do the same.

What do you think? Could Europe may be in for a minor tech renaissance if it plays its cards right?

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8 Comments

  1. Posted Apr. 6, 2008 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    I deeply believe that Old World’s diversity and richness of culture, languages and mindset is going to prove it’s main strength once we’ll all agree on a common comunication channel (e.g. english language).
    However, more than american VCs in Europe, I’d like to see European VCs emerge and try to adopt a more “modern” approach to their job.

  2. Posted Apr. 6, 2008 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    @Riccardo
    I agree, it’s the European VCs that are going to make the difference (or not).

    I think/hope the language barrier will sort itself out on it’s own. Italy, alas, is very far behind in that so far.

  3. Jacques
    Posted Apr. 6, 2008 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    ‘Europe’ is a wide concept – 27 countries, with complete different backgrounds. A centralized technology policy will be virtually (no pun) impossible, as the levels differ so much. Most northern countries have their own funds. London, Holland (several universities) and Munich have some sort of tech-valley trends, there is VC funding, but all in a modest form (compared to the US). So, it will not be an European renaissance, but a local one (perhaps some countries working closer together), but certainly not pan-European.

  4. Posted Apr. 7, 2008 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    @Jacques
    I would never expect any centralized technology policy. I actually think that its *decentralized* nature could be the key to a new type of success?

    Just mulling over some ideas I’ve had for a while now. It’s interesting being a US citizen running a startup out of Europe. Kind of like swimming upstream [gotta love a challenge].

  5. Jacques
    Posted Apr. 9, 2008 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    @ Tara,

    Your question states ‘Europe’ – but in my view, there is no one Europe – it’s just a bunch of countries stitched together – not being one entity (like the ‘United States of Europe’)

    So, Europe as a whole will not see a tech renaissance – perhaps a few European countries will.

    That is the irony: once ‘Europe’ (Brussels) dreams up some tech-industry policy (with subsidies), it will stiffle real innovation…

    Yes, must be tough to work in an over-regulated environment, with outdated policies, intended to favor existing parties and interests.

    Good luck with Passpack – good you came over from the States :-)

  6. Posted Apr. 9, 2008 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Nice post, Tara. Business is becoming distributed and the web is definitively behind this process. But laws and regulations applicable on venture capital operations are still quite different across European countries, and I guess that such barrier will be very hard to overcome in the near future…

  7. Posted Apr. 9, 2008 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    @Jacques & @Antonio

    Ok, looks like I got a little overexcited. No doubt working in an over-regulated environment is tough (we’re battling the Italian labor laws right now). And indeed there are less tools available for investors to maximize their returns (think: no preferred stock).

    That said, you know what really makes the valley tick? Optimism.

    So in the spirit of wishful thinking… I still believe[smile]

    Good luck to both of you as well!

  8. Jacques
    Posted Apr. 10, 2008 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    You will succeed – it just might be a harder and longer road than you might have seen in back home – so, just carry on – if you believe in your product, you’ll get there.

    Other than that, it will be also interesting to see if you can get (more) US VC’s to cross the ocean – I know of companies setting up camp in London, as their home market becomes overcrowded.
    Plus, having to pioneer, you might become the expert yourself – your next startup? :-)

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