Tech is a huge growth engine for Europe.
The number of professional developers across the continent is also growing; at 5.7 million and rising it outweighs the US, which has around 4.4 million and remains static year on year.
The ecosystem is set to expand even further. Over the next 12 months, cities with active tech communities, like Warsaw and Vienna are expected to join established tech hubs such as London, Berlin and Barcelona in the number of high quality ventures they’re birthing.
If Europe wants to stay ahead in today’s world it must embrace the tech world.
The European tech industry seems to feel a constant need to apologise for itself: we’re not as ambitious as Silicon Valley, or we’re not as disruptive as China. In a misguided belief that other world players are better at innovation, we’re limiting ourselves to competing on a smaller continental stage. By thinking this way we’re hindering our capacity for continuous innovation.
Investors can play a proactive role in this. We need to do more to “connect the dots” in Europe – visiting new and emerging hubs not just for novelty but because they’re actually where the innovation lies.
By looking at new opportunities and seeking out innovative technologies in places others wouldn’t consider – not just geographically, but in terms of people – they can bring together a wealth of ideas, talents and experiences. Indeed, it’s this interconnectivity that will best deliver the most benefits.
With recent political events fomenting a rise in nationalist thinking, however, achieving this ideal of an open, innovative tech community requires each tech hub to make greater efforts to collaborate with its European counterparts.
Hands across the water
The UK has welcomed talent from overseas for centuries, a factor that has long been key to the country’s growth and innovation. And pan-European initiatives such as the trade missions recently undertaken by the Mayor of London are important to keep this alive. Aimed at strengthening relationships with European companies with a London presence, the Mayor and representatives of the capital’s business community met with local companies across Berlin, Paris and Madrid to secure mutually beneficial opportunities.
Fundamentally, having a physical presence on the ground can really help to catalyse connections and, by doing so, give entrepreneurs the confidence they need to consider capitalising on the benefits of cross-continental collaboration. Having tech ambassadors in strategically important cities across the continent has arguably been a key factor in maintaining ties between the UK and other European tech hubs.
Scaling beyond borders
London remains one of the leading centres of innovative technology in Europe – if not the world, and I’m convinced that it’s set to remain that way for some time. But London’s not alone. Many other cities across the country, including Bristol, Manchester and Leeds, are home to thriving tech startup communities, together contributing a considerable amount to the UK economy.
More than £5 billion was invested in UK tech startups last year alone, a perfect illustration of the value put on innovation by global investors. The UK may be an island, but there’s no reason its tech community should be too. That’s why investors need to start thinking on a continental scale – and further afield.
Europe is in the midst of a tech revolution. By 2018, the continent had produced 15 times as many €1 billion+ tech companies than it had a decade ago.
If we want to accelerate this even further, however, we need to shake off our apologetic mindset, and start believing more in the collective power of the European tech community.
Yaron Valler is general partner at pan-European investment firm, Target Global