Startups Start Local But Go Global. Is Europe Included?

Eze Vidra Tel Aviv cities SummitLast week I had the pleasure of speaking at the Cities Summit Tel Aviv, in a session moderated by Mr Yossi Vardi. The topic was the “Innovative code” of cities. My talk focused on London and its ability to become a startup center in Europe. In a nutshell, London has all the components it needs to succeed:

  • Capital – the square mile of the “city” of London has a higher concentration of capital than almost the entire continent combined. Sure, there are some funding gaps in the $350,000 – $1.5 M range, but capital is available in London.
  • Talent – 3 of the top 10 Universities worldwide are in the UK. A metropolis, London attracts global talent for study, work and business, so the talent pool is really high.
  • Ideas – there’s been some criticism that Europe is the house of clones (thanks Samwer brothers!) but it’s been changing gradually, and the ideas coming out of London aren’t below the par of New York or even Silicon Valley.

As the Head of Campus, my job is to help make this happen in practice. Provide startups and entrepreneurs with infrastructure, community and mentorship, leveraging our unique seven story building in East London.

In the article “Israel’s Local Start-Ups See International Success” by the WSJ’s Ben Rooney, the Tech editor for Europe, focused on the phenomenon of Israeli startups going global, except that ‘Global’ in this case means the US. “But when Israeli companies talk about going global, they don’t really mean that at all; what they mean is going to the United States. Europe is all too often that thing Israelis fly over on their way to America.“, he said. I beg to differ.

There are a few structural problems for VC/startups in Europe: little liquidity in public markets, fragmentation, regulatory problems charging in different currencies across borders… you name it. But there are also some inherent benefits for basing a startup in Europe:

  • Incredible public support – from grants to governments desperate for growth, Europe courts startups like no where else.
  • Less competition on talent – try to hire an amazing developer in SF… you’ll have to compete withe every other startup and large company out there. The funnel is bigger, but it’s harder to attract, pay to and retain highly skilled tech staff (that’s why Israeli startups keep the “R&D” at home in many cases). In Europe, you may have less “hackers” and more “IT workers” but there’s drive and ambition for developers to get on the next big thing.
  • It’s young and fun – whether you’re in London, Berlin, Amsterdam or Madrid, Europe has a great lifestyle to offer, better food and culture than most places in the US (no offense!). The startup community here is young, and many founders are looking to help connect, mentor and support each other.
When it comes to Israeli startups going global, I agree with my friend Dror Berman, the founder of Innovation Endeavors, a venture capital firm managing Eric Schmidt’s investments
in Silicon valley:
“We need to encourage Israelis to go out and acquire knowledge and build networks in other countries, and provide the incentives needed to ensure that the best entrepreneurs and investors from around the world see Israel as a key and natural partner for technological development.”

Startups should aim to grow their network, experiences and client base, rather than have the entire world build products for white males 25-34 in west California. In this short video, I gave my 2 cents on “Why Europe” should get on entrepreneur’s map, after all:

Eze Vidra

Eze is startup investor and advisor. Until recently he was a General Partner at Google Ventures Europe. Before joining GV, Eze started Campus London, Google's first physical hub for startups, and led Google for Entrepreneurs in Europe. He's an experienced product manager and startup mentor. In 2012 Eze founded Techbikers, a non-for profit supporting children education in developing countries.