Why not European Are Tech Companies Competing With Silicon Valley Giants? It’s a perennial puzzle for the continent’s IT leaders — and one that Phill Robinson is trying to solve.
After a global career as a tech executive, Robinson returned to the UK and founded Boardwave, a networking platform aiming to make Europe a software superpower.
The concept arose from Robinson’s diverse background in the industry. The entrepreneur spent decades traversing Europe and Silicon Valley in a variety of roles, from CMO to Salesforce.com to the CEO of Dutch software giant Exact on its IPO.
These experiences have highlighted several benefits for technology companies in the US. Robinson focused on one thing: the breeding ground for success created by Silicon Valley’s tight-knit community. The small property connects a multitude of tech experts, entrepreneurs, investors and consultants. In Europe, on the other hand, the business environment is highly fragmented.
To mimic the valley’s network effects, Robinson founded Boardwave. At TNW Valencia on March 30, he promises to provide more insight into how tech giants are built.
Before the presentation, Robinson presented one of his most ambitious proposals: the creation of a pan-European version of Nasdaq.
Robinson wants Boardwave’s online platform and in-person events to create new connections for European software companies. Photo credit: Boardwave
Nasdaq is the world’s leading marketplace for technology stocks. Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft all went public. There is no comparable marketplace in Europe, which limits the growth of startups.
“Here in Europe, there isn’t a single technology market,” Robinson tells TNW. “Nor does there exist the knowledge, experience and understanding of software from investors in public markets. They don’t know how to value software companies, they don’t understand how they work, and they don’t understand their intrinsic worth.”
These circumstances contribute to a large “exit gap” between European and US companies. In Europe, technology founders often sell their companies while they are still private – missing the opportunity to maximize their valuations in the public market.
Those seeking an IPO are typically listed in the United States.
“Either they go to the NYSE or to the NASDAQ,” says Robinson. “At this point you are no longer a European software company – you suddenly become a US software company.”
Arm’s hammer blow
Arm’s flotation plans are a painful example of the impact. The British chip giant will reject UK government requests to list in London and instead swim in New York. Even offers to break the stork market rules failed to persuade the company to go public in its home country.
Analysts attribute the decision to the US investing landscape’s larger equity markets, focus on growth and a history of higher valuations. In contrast, European investors have a reputation for being risk-averse and short-term.
A Nasdaq listing also increases confidence that a company will last over the long term.
“It’s a step towards global market leadership that we don’t have in Europe,” says Robinson.
It is a market for technology companies to go public in Europe.
Suggestions have been made for a localized equivalent of Nasdaq in Paris or London. But Robinson insists that only a pan-European exchange would have the scale to do so.
Establishing such a market will be an enormous challenge. It takes political will, new laws and in-depth knowledge of the market. Once these are in place, European tech companies need to be persuaded to go to market.
It won’t be an easy process, but Robinson believes the effort will be well worth it.
“If you have a European version of Nasdaq … it’s a market for tech companies to go public and list their companies in Europe — and not sell themselves to an American software company because there’s nowhere else to go.”
Phill Robinson will be speaking at TNW València, which takes place at the end of March. If you want to experience the event, we have something special for our loyal readers. Use the promotional code TWVAL30 and get a 30% discount on your TNW València Conference Business Pass.