Social & Politics

The European Wild West

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“I am so fed up with people migrating to the wild west of the Silicon Valley and then coming back to say Europe sucks. It’s not true!”, says René Obermann. Europe has the opportunity to become the next powerhouse – if you know how.

In a highly vibrant discussion René Obermann, managing director and partner at Warburg Pincus, Marie Ekeland, co-founder of daphni, a venture capital firm which invests in European tech startups and co-founder of France Digitale and Frédéric Mazzella, founder of BlaBlaCar came together on DLD 2018 to talk with Friedbert Pflüger (Internet Economy Foundation) about what exactly needs to happen to make Europe a digital powerhouse. And the main answer was quickly clear: In times of the European spirit drifting away and its countries apart, growing closer is more crucial than ever.

“In Europe, we have a very vibrant and thriving economy”, says René Obermann. The digital sector is growing and offers many opportunities for young companies and investors. As an example, he names Berlin because of its internationality. But according to Marie Ekeland, available savings are not invested enough: “We have lost the idea that money is there to do something.”

In order to stop the run of startups and investors across the pond, Europe needs to be made more attractive. And here, Frédéric Mazzella is sure: “We need to move towards a single market.” China and the US have the advantage of being just that. “Now, each time you expand to a new EU country, you basically have to build a new company.” And he doesn’t stop there: “We need to develop a common sense; that this is not a French or a German project but actually a European.”

Making Europe more attractive as a market also touches the subject of data-protection, which is especially discussed. “In the US, data has been used for advertisement a lot, which made everyone over here very sensitive”, Marie Ekeland explains. But not allowing the use of data is not an option. And while the US and Europe have vastly different approaches on data-protection René Obermann argues, it is important to find “a middle between the European and the US model”.

All speakers agree, that in order for Europe to become a digital powerhouse and as such stepping up against the threatening monopoly-power of the four powerhorses Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google governance on an international level is required as well.
“We face many worldwide challenges today and they have to be answered on an international level”, Marie Ekeland says. In her opinion, by creating that government, Europe has the opportunity to step up. “We actually have the one place in the world where 27 states come together to get one governance.“