By co-founding Skype, Europe’s first billion dollar tech company, at a time where most great digital innovations came from the Silicon Valley, Niklas Zennström proved Europe’s ability to grow the next wave of billion dollar companies. He believes that technical expertise should be more widely shared in order to truly realize Europe’s potential of becoming the home of many more companies alike. He will be joined onstage by Murad Ahmed, The Financial Times’ European Technology Correspondent.
Niklas Zennström started with Atomico 10 years ago to help founders invest in founders. It's the smartest money you can get, the Swedish Co-Founder of Skype said in conversation with Murad Ahmed. Niklas created Atomico to help entrepreneurs primarily outside Silicon Valley to scale their businesses domestically and globally. It has so far invested in more than 50 companies on four continents, and Niklas works closely with a number of leaders of portfolio companies so that they benefit from his own experience as an entrepreneur.
But do we still have to talk about Europe being behind the US anymore? There are brillant start-ups in Europe, with a lot of great fundings on early stages. But there is still a funding gap between Europe and the US, especially when it comes to late stage fundings. Usually US has 14 times more capital, but e.g. Berlin has a faster digital development than Silicon Valley. That's why Atomico is going to work closely with serial entrepreneurs like Brent Hoberman to co-invest and advise startups. It's immensely benefitial for people to talk half an hour to one of the serial entrepreneurs, Niklas said. And yes, we see a rise of startups in Europe, especially the smaller markets, the smaller countries. They will grow globally much more.
Fun fact: More than 90% of Silicon Vally Startups fail. More than 80% of German newly established companies succeed.
Is there a risk in funding gap between US and Europe, Murad asked? If a company was funded on an early stage, became successful we often see a change - the company's ownership goes to the US. A huge risk, Niklas assumed. But Europe's becoming more and more an interesting market for US investors. At the moment it's still less capital in Europe but investors see the growing possibilities. Atomico gave the advice to have some few investors not only one and think long tail. You should be willing to stay longer in Europe to change the market and get a shift of US money to Europe.
What about regulations? Is there a different atmosphere?, Murad wanted to know. Niklas' answer was mostly saying anything: "It always strikes me when I meet a politician..." - Yes, Europe is complicated, but a company has never stopped believing in their idea because of regulations.