During the TechCrunch Disrupt Europe conference in Berlin later this month we’ll see some of Europe’s key players come together to discuss the state of technology startups and investing. One thing you can be sure of with Disrupt – something which uniquely sets it apart from other conferences – is that people come there to make news and rub shoulders with the key players who make decisions about what companies really get backed in this ecosystem. If in Silicon Valley seed stage investors like Ron Conway of SV Angels are considered to be the ‘early signallers’ about what is hot in that ecosystem, then the same can be said of that set of individuals who fulfill that signalling role. These are the people who are so incredibly well connected that, if you can get to them and convince them about your capability as an entrepreneur and as a startup, then their involvement is worth ten times the mere amount of money they might invest. Of course it’s not just Conway – it’s as much people like Dave McClure, Michael Arrington or Chris Sacca, to take just three examples.
And in Europe, you could apply such a lane to someone like Brent Hoberman (pictured), who will be on our ‘ecosystem’ panel at Disrupt Europe, for instance. Brent co-founded PROfounders Capital in 2009 – an early stage fund backed by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. Co-backed by Michael Birch, who sold Bebo to AOL for $850m, PROFounders has backed a large number of companies, for example made.com, a direct-from-factory consumer crowd-sourced home-wares retailer in the UK. Here is a fund that is attempting to be very entrepreneur-oriented. He is also Chairman and founder of VC-backed start-up, mydeco.com, the online interiors site that aims to revolutionise the way we shop and design for our homes. And to top that, he runs the annual Founders Forum event in London, a gathering of some of the world’s top tech entrepreneurs.
Brent Hoberman may not be exactly a ‘Ron Conway’ of London, but he is connected enough to be a key “signaller” in the startup investment community.
Perhaps closer to that analogy is Christophe Maire, who will also be on stage at Disrupt. He has lived in Berlin since 1993 and after creating Gate 5, which sold to Nokia, he has gone on to become a serial investor, backing SoundCloud, Readmill, EyeEm and txtr among others.
The whole issue of who are the gatekeepers in Europe is something we want to bring out at Disrupt. Who are the taste-makers and the king-makers of this industry? How does this complex web of investors and entrepreneurs fit together in Europe?
At Disrupt Europe, we aim to find out.