Why the “Europe is No Silicon Valley” talk drives me Bonkers

by Damien Lane

I am just on my way back from a Conference on investing in private companies.  There were great speakers and panellists from the investment community, and numerous fascinating companies and entrepreneurs from Europe and other parts of the world.  One particularly impressive contributor was Mads Faurholt Jorgensen of Nova Founders Capital who talked about his plans to dominate the Asian Fintech space with terrifying focus and passion.

There were breakout groups on growth capital and angel investing with companies and folks who have played – and continue to play – a leading role in the development of Europe (and the UK in particular) as a significant force in the startup world, with Reshma Sohoni from Seedcamp and Matt Clifford of EF being characteristically thoughtful about the angel and seed funding space.

A number of speakers compared Europe to Silicon Valley.  Some of those comparisons were fascinating and thought provoking, but too many for my taste took a negative line, along the lines of this section in wired.co.uk

In the whole of 2010 the total funding raised by London tech firms was less than £10m. So far in 2015? It’s close to a billion

Yes (sic), as Techcrunch pointed out recently, that still only puts London on a par with Redwood City, California (population 76,000). And in the context of tech as a whole it is still tiny. Uber alone raised $3bn in 2014.

What sort of manic depressive could quote growth in 5 years from 10 to 2,000 (annualised) then in the VERY NEXT SENTENCE say that this was less than they did somewhere else.  It makes no sense to me. but I’ve read lots of stuff on the same theme and I’d like to be more positive as we head into the weekend.

Take the UK.

Seed funding has never been more plentiful – this a great time and a great place to raise seed funding.  Govt policy (which gets too much bad press) is supportive through incredible tax breaks for investors and support from The British Business Bank for funds like Episode 1 and our friends at Notion & Passion, among many others.  If you want to start a company in the UK, has there ever been a better time?

So it would be great if there was more follow on capital, more places to raise £5m plus in a Series A/B.

But even here, in the last few months alone, we have seen a number of new funds focused on providing Series A funding to startups – Google Ventures, Mosaic, Felix Capital and the most recent announcement of a £200m commitment from the Business Growth Fund to a new ventures business.   By our reckoning there are now more than 20 specialist funds in London capable of writing these Series A funds.  A far cry from even 5 years ago and there are more such funds on their way.

And this is the beginning.  When some of Europe’s big venture backed businesses IPO and some of their founders cross over to the dark side to join the investment community,  they will bring with them increasing funding and the whole startup scene will continue to develop and grow.

This is an exciting time to be in startups in London, lets focus on the positive, continue to invest in the best ideas and the most exciting entrepreneurs, grow some great companies (with the help of capital from all over the world, including the West Coast) and the rest will look after itself.

 

 

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