Have you ever made a Skype call? Or listened to music on Spotify? Got a car ride with BlaBlaCar? Spent hours playing Angry Birds? Built something with Arduino? Believe it or not, all of these companies were born in Europe, and there are many new technology startups launching every day.
Skype was founded in 2003 by Janus Friis from Denmark and Niklas Zennström from Sweden. It grew fast and was sold to eBay for approximately US$2.5 billion just two years later in September 2005. Spotify was started in Sweden a few years ago, and now has around 40 million users listening to music on its platform in more than 50 countries. BlaBlaCar was founded in Paris, and it’s reshaping how people take long distance car trips. Rovio, the company that developed Angry Birds, is Finnish, based in Helsinki, where a lot of new gaming companies are starting to expand quickly. Finally, Arduino was invented in Italy. The versatile single-board microcontroller got its name from the bar where its inventors used to hang out.
Europe is becoming more innovative than ever before.
Innovation is coming from everywhere. If you think the most innovative European cities are London and Paris, you might be wrong. There are incredible places all over Europe where researchers, students and entrepreneurs are building fast growing startups with breakthrough technologies. Innovations are happening in places you may never even imagine.
Finland has about the same population of Berlin, yet Helsinki has become one of the most vibrant startup ecosystems in Europe over the last years. Five years ago entrepreneurs were considered misfits, rebels and deviants, and everybody was aiming to work in large corporations such as Nokia. Today Helsinki hosts some of the most promising startups of the baltic region. During Slush, a Helsinki-based startup conference held every autumn, investors from Asia and the United States fly over to Helsinki to invest in local and European startups. Spain is best known for its warm weather and cozy lifestyle, however Barcelona is becoming a bubbling tech city with easy access to skilled engineers and relatively low cost of labour. Estonia and Lithuania started programs to facilitate and support new companies creation. London is the place to be if you want to raise capital, while Berlin is home to some of the most innovative and creative entrepreneurs.
To discover how the different cities are evolving into innovation hubs some friends and I packed our bags, jumped on a few planes, visited 6 countries and interviewed more than 50 entrepreneurs and investors. Traveling across London, Helsinki, Berlin, Paris, Barcelona and Milan, we captured the stories of those building innovation locally and squeezed them into a short documentary available online for free. Here is the trailer:
We were astonished by how diverse these cities are, each one has its unique startup ecosystem, culture and resources. This is the beauty and the pain of starting a company in Europe. Each city has its own resources to offer and no single one offers everything you might need to start your venture. Where you get easy access to capital might be a hard place to find talent. Where talent is easy to find might be a hard place to retain the employees. Where it’s easy to find high technological support might be a hard place to raise capital.
But don’t forget European cities are very close to each other, and it has never been this easy to turn an idea into a new company. Europe is well connected and offers everything you need to get started and grow fast. In the last few years, more and more skilled professionals entered the startup industry and day by day it gets easier to find the resources you need. In the next 10 years Europe might see the same march of innovation that Silicon Valley has had in the last decade. Be curious, the best city to start your new venture might be just few hours’ flight away.
If you want to learn more about each city click here:
Ympact – Global Startups, Entrepreneurs and Changemakers