It is a fact that as an asset class European venture has not historically performed as well as US Venture. I think we are starting to see evidence that that is changing.
People’s perceptions are always slow to catch up with the facts, particularly with something like this. A bad reputation is hard to shift. So I always take every opportunity to help get people’s perceptions matched back to reality. Because of this when the question of big European exits came up at the final panel session at the recent MediaTech 2.006 conference I grabbed the mike. I didn’t do justice at the time to the large number of successful European venture backed start-ups and have been meaning to rectify that situation here ever since.
The European start up scene is thriving and we should shout about that. So here is a list of some of the bigger recent successes. It isn’t a complete list, but I think it gets over the point that there have been quite a few of them. The criteria is a loose $100m+.
- Jamba – acquired by Verisign
- Kelkoo – acquired by Yahoo!
- Sit-up TV – acquired by Telewest
- ActiveHotels – acquired by Priceline
- Tradedoubler – listed in Stockholm
- CSR – listed in London
- Fillfactory – acquired by Cypress Semiconductor
- Alphamosaic – acquired by Broadcom
- Esmertec – listed in Switzerland
- KVS – acquired by Veritas
- Parrot – listed in Paris
- Mergermarket – acquired by Pearson
- Betfair – still private, but clearly made it
- Skype – acquired by ebay
- eSpotting – acquired by Findwhat
- Element 5 – acquired by Digital River
- Cramer – acquired by Amdocs
- Suse – acquired by Novell
- Searchspace – acquired by private equity
- Ciao! – acquired by Greenfield
- Norkom – listed in Ireland
- OpenBC – listed in Frankfurt
There are also lots of healthcare exits I haven’t included.
Overall we are now producing more $100m+ exits per dollar invested than our US counterparts.
I am the first to acknowledge that Silicon Valley is an easier place to build businesses than Europe, but I think the gap is closing. The simple fact is that European venture is a young industry – maybe 10-15 years old at any scale. The networks that make the Valley so special take time to develop. I think we are starting to get there though. There are many more second time entrepreneurs now, there is a decent number of VCs with experience of a whole cycle, and the networks of angels, advisors and other supporters is good now.
UPDATE: As Shantanu points out over on Global-Themes in the comments he has made a good post on this topic too, looking at some more of the detail why Euro VC returns have been behind those of our friends in Silicon Valley.