What do European startups want for Christmas? We’ve come up with a list of ideas. Feel free to add your own in the comments.
1. Inspiration – We want European tech founders to think more collectively, lobby government more effectively and put themselves out there as heroes for the next generation to emulate. Don’t be shy!
2. Great local capital where they are – Europe is awash with wealthy individuals and ‘family offices’ style funds that have previously invested in property and traditional businesses. We need those opened up to tech entrepreneurs. These people are not going to make interest on their money sitting in a bank account. There is talent all over Europe but the investment money tends to reside in big hubs like London. Let’s get more of that money unlocked in places where it’s capitally efficient to build new startups, like Barcelona, Athens or Rome or Warsaw or Berlin.
3. Events that don’t cost the earth to attend – There seems to have been an event inflation over recent years. Granted it’s probably cheaper to attend a startup conference in Dublin than in Paris, or one in Berlin versus one in London. But event organisers need to make sure they don’t alienate their core entrepreneur community.
4. Universities that think about startups – Idiotic Universities in Europe are hide-bound by ideas about owning IP. You know what? Stanford didn’t care about IP, and let its students create amazing companies. Guess what? The students ended up donating vast amounts to Stanford later on when their companies were successful. European universities need to loosen up – and turn on students to the idea of being entrepreneurs. They should encourage current students to start up instead of chasing alumni in the hope of a donation (h/t @mstafford).
5. Local champions – These guys are the ones running all the meetups and get togethers. Support them, and your scene will grow. Grumble about them, or start too many competing events, and your scene will fragment. Double down on the ones that work and get going.
6. Mainstream media that gets tech – Too much local media in Europe calls tech people ‘geeks’ and ‘nerds.’ Shame them into realising this is one of the few sources of growth in their country. Go to lunch with the editor of the local paper or TV news station and reason with them. Or just shame them.
7. Alumni that give back to their home towns – Are they in SF already? Then tell them to come back and do a talk on their experience.
8. Exits – This is a tough one, but Europe needs many more exit markets. We can stamp our feet all we like. It won’t happen by sheer force of will. But it may also help if some media-oriented startups decided to build something that, say, BSkyB, might actually want to buy, rather than hoping a US media company would take notice of them. That said, there are also moves being made to create a new IPO market in London for tech companies. Let’s hope it happens, but it would be there for a few more years.
9. Serial entrepreneurs who now invest – Had an exit? Done well financially? Become an angel in your local market.
10. Talent and engineers that can move around – Europe is awash with talent. But it needs to move around. Let’s lobby governments to make sure work visas are as flexible as possible. They want growth don’t they?
11. Clusters – Don’t “poo-poo” the organic clusters in your city – make them work. Gang together. Co-work. Share ideas. It’s a way of speeding up what you do.
12. For us to use Europe’s diversity to our advantage – For example: Engineers from Poland. HQ in London. Subsidiary in Barcelona (where it’s sunny and you like to live). Business development in New York and SF. Use Europe’s network effect; don’t silo yourself. That said – you’ll go faster if your team is all in one place. So, tax haven HQ in Luxembourg, main office in London… You get the drift!
13. Customers and traction – You want customers? Then position and tailor your company for them – don’t expect to have to ‘educate’. Pinterest ignored the tech press and went for the women’s press. Are your customers TechCrunch readers or elsewhere? Think about that.
14. Investors who have to fight – Don’t like the term sheet from the VC you pitched in your home city? Don’t whine. Get on a fucking plane! Did Soundclould take the first one in Berlin? Now – they went to New York and London. If VCs have competition they will think harder about turning you down. Make the competition happen yourself.
15. Bonus point: Sustainable business models that mean you outlast your US counterpart when the Series A Crunch comes hunting for them…
We’ve had enough of people trying to re-create Silicon Valley where they are. It’s time to build some Silicon Bridges between us.