The greatest time in history to be a European tech entrepreneur or investorBy Niklas Zennström on 3 February 2015
The last decade has demonstrated beyond all doubt that European technology entrepreneurs can build and scale companies to become global category winners. Our experience taking Skype to worldwide success was not the exception to the rule.
Yet many today, do not fully appreciate how far Europe has come. In order to help address this, Atomico, the technology investment firm I founded 9 years ago, has conducted a series of global analyses of software companies founded since 2003 that hit a $1 billion valuation. The results were surprising. Contrary to popular perception, over the past eleven years the majority of billion-dollar software companies were actually not founded in Silicon Valley. Of the 156 companies to reach a billion-dollar valuation by January 2015, 99 were built outside of Silicon Valley, including 25 in Europe. What's more, the gap between the rest of the world and the Valley is growing.
This has been driven in part by technology trends, particularly the smart phone explosion, rise of cloud computing, the wide availability of open source software, and the global spread of information, which combine to make it equally possible to start an internet company in Poland as it is in Palo Alto. Simultaneously, the global explosion of internet penetration makes it possible for any European company to access huge markets across the world, from China and Japan to Latin America. Global scaling is still one of the hardest challenges to overcome, but the prize is bigger than ever.
The data is also evidence that world-class entrepreneurs - just like world-class artists, musicians or sportspeople - exist everywhere, including in Europe. 85% of the billion-dollar companies in our study pushed through the billion-dollar threshold with their founder CEO at the helm, and this trend is even more pronounced in Europe.
This is the greatest time in history to be a European technology entrepreneur - just ask Spotify’s Daniel Ek, Supercell’s Ilkka Paananen or SoundCloud’s Alexander Ljung. It's also the best time ever to be a technology investor active in Europe. I look forward to exploring what this means for all of us in my session at the Invest Europe Investors’ Forum in March.