why europe’s ‘lonely’ tech entrepreneurs need help
Last updated on July 7th, 2023 at 06:35 am
Why can’t Europe match Silicon Valley’s success?
Leo Apotheker asserts, “We’re not just a bunch of stupid Europeans who are only good for going to the beach.”
Mr. Apotheker led SAP, a German business software giant. He briefly ran Hewlett-Packard. He thinks Europe has a lot.
The 69-year-old splits his time between Paris and London advising small software companies. He now works with a team of tech veterans to improve Europe’s record of producing giant tech firms.
Phill Robinson’s Boardwave includes Mr. Apotheker. After a Parkinson’s diagnosis, British software executive Mr. Robinson retired in Silicon Valley.
Mr. Robinson pondered how to elevate Europe’s tech scene to Californian levels and founded Boardwave.
Boardwave hired Mr. Apotheker the day its website launched. Mr. Robinson says, “We’re grateful for the careers we’ve had and the opportunity to share what we know.”
Both feel time passing and want to spare future tech pioneers their pain.
Apotheker says Europe has leaders. He highlights industrial design programs and the UK’s financial software lead. He likes London’s fintech.
Why aren’t more?
He disputes the claim that US money is easier to find. “I don’t think this is about raising capital, Europe is awash with venture capital companies.”
Atomico, a venture capital firm, predicts $50bn in European tech investments in 2023.
European tech entrepreneurs need more peers.
I lived in Silicon Valley, where there’s always someone to give you advice. “I asked the wall for SAP advice,” says Mr. Apotheker.
“Boardwave is mentoring other company bosses to grow. Leadership is lonely. Midnight worries keep you up. Phone calls are invaluable.”
The Boardwave team helps big ideas succeed while saving his young successors from restless nights.
Mr. Apotheker wishes he could have shared concerns with a sympathetic guide when he ran SAP. “There were a lot of decisions I struggled with at SAP and I wish I could have talked to someone who’d been there before me, someone I could bounce ideas off.”
Boardwave was also inspired by the idea that wise older guys are losing time. I have many grey hairs. I’ll devote my remaining time to this.”
That includes discussing failed choices.
We discuss our mistakes. “We’ve made many mistakes and a few right.”
European skepticism contrasts poorly with Silicon Valley optimism.
Yet Mr. Apotheker values the ability to ask penetrating questions in an industry with its share of fraudulent ventures like Theranos, the Silicon Valley start-up whose founder Elizabeth Holmes has begun an eleven-year prison sentence for defrauding investors.
“I’m German/French and cynical, but I use that to my advantage.”
Parkinson’s Disease motivates Mr. Robinson. “I want to share my software knowledge before my brain gets mushy.”
At 23, he moved to Silicon Valley and started a successful business software career.
“European talent is fragmented but great. Silicon Valley is 40 miles long; we’re 1,000 miles across.” Boardwave, founded on his kitchen table in 2022, has 800 European members, CEOs, and founders.
Boardwave startups can reach these mentors. Boardwave wants to help them get £100m turnover and go global.
Other initiatives share Boardwave’s goal of growing Europe’s top tech. Slush, a huge annual event in Finland, connects tech startups with investors.
Juhani Hintikka runs the Finnish cybersecurity company WithSecure, which fights malware, hacking, and ransom demands.
She coaches local startups pro bono and supports Boardwave. I give advice when asked.
However, Europe’s fragmentation, with multiple business cultures, limits innovators compared to US companies’ vast home market.
Ambitious Mr. Apotheker admires Airbus. In order to compete with Boeing, European airline manufacturers banded together, and today Airbus is the biggest in the world.
In conclusion, support is required for Europe’s tech entrepreneurs. Europe’s tech scene might be brought up to the level of Silicon Valley with the aid of programs from knowledgeable mentors. All parties involved would gain from this because it would give them access to resources they otherwise might not have had. In order to create a truly global market, European businesses may no longer need to rely on their own dispersed efforts. By working towards this objective, we can make sure that Europe continues to play a significant role in the technological world for years to come.