Alastair Mitchell, a partner at EQT Ventures, argues why there are plenty of opportunities for UK startups operating in Europe.
In the last 10 years the funding landscape has changed dramatically. I appreciate I sound like your Nan – but in this case, I’m not harping on about the good old days, because the good days in European tech are happening now.
There’s a real energy and passion about the diversity and volume of startups emerging across Europe. From Spotify and TransferWise to Deliveroo, these businesses are totally transforming how people consume goods and services – and the best bit is the level of ambition has gone through the roof. Europe no longer wants to sell out to the US, startups these days dream of world domination on their own terms.
The whole pace and change of expertise, recycling of knowledge, and innovation are fuelling Europe’s startups to success. Tech startups based in London, Berlin, Paris and Madrid are now really starting to rival those from Silicon Valley.
In terms of new business, London has had an amazing 2017 to date. In the first six months of the year, the city’s tech sector attracted £1.3bn of investment – more than any other six-month timeframe in the last decade. But, business is by no means limited there, as the Nordics, Portugal, Berlin and Barcelona are all becoming business centres, too. At EQT Ventures, we’re seeing more than 30% of deals coming from these European centres.
Times, they are changing
In summary, Europe is hot right now. It’s challenging conventional thinking and reaping the rewards. Even upcoming regulation hasn’t dampened enthusiasm – if anything it’s accelerated innovation and it is European startups that are rising to the challenge and offering solutions.
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In turn, the European investment landscape has shifted. It has to reflect this new-found excitement and belief that Europe is driving the future of innovation. A decade ago, a startup was lucky to raise hundreds of thousands, now and thanks partly to an influx of angel investors beckoned by emerging talent, we see companies raise tens of millions in investment rounds.
Brexit on the horizon
And yet there is an elephant in the room – Brexit. As I write about Europe being the stage that every startup wants to perform on, as a Brit myself I am more than aware that this might seem like an alienating message.
Brexit may have made life for some entrepreneurs seeking funding harder. The European Investment Fund (EIF) pulling out of talks with UK VC firms because of uncertainty around Brexit may have left a funding gap. Other funds such as the British Business Bank are seeking to plug it, but the finances are still lacking. Marry this with tweets from Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, about how much more time he’ll be spending in Germany post-Brexit, and as a UK entrepreneur, it would be easy to feel like the odds are stacked against you.
Just left Frankfurt. Great meetings, great weather, really enjoyed it. Good, because I’ll be spending a lot more time there. #Brexit
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— Lloyd Blankfein (@lloydblankfein) October 19, 2017
Doing business may be harder but it is not impossible. I firmly believe that some people are born entrepreneurs and that Brexit will result in some unique market opportunities. The UK is very much open for business and VCs want to do business here.
Why? Britain is famed for innovation and that will not change come March 2019. Let’s not forget the first industrial revolution happened in the UK and the fourth one is rising in Europe, too.
Let’s not throw in the towel because there’s still a world of opportunity out there to match the ambition of entrepreneurs to build global winners.