Silicon Valley has long been the promised land for tech start-ups on the growth path, with its Bay Area perks and VCs with deep pockets. For close to a decade, wave after wave of European entrepreneurs have taken it as a given that their home countries might be great to start up, but for real rocket-fuelled growth, it’s the Valley or bust.
Silicon Valley poster children, from Apple Inc. to YouTube, made it cool to be an entrepreneur and sexy to be a techie. With innovation and tech talent on one hand and a robust venture capital ecosystem on the other, Silicon Valley took the lead globally. On our side of the Atlantic, the likes of Facebook’s Zuckerberg and Uber’s Travis Kalanick inspired entrepreneurs to spot opportunities and create ways to bridge them, but every European success story has found further success in the Valley.
But what, if anything, is holding European founders back?
According to the European Investment Bank vice president, Ambroise Fayolle, incentivising investment with the help of financial instruments can only do so much. “Red tape, weak project-planning capacities and fragmented markets often slow down projects that could improve Europe’s growth prospects. Therefore, working on how to remove obstacles to investment in a systematic way in all countries and regions as well as at EU level is so important.”
However, as it stands, Europe’s tech ecosystem is fragmented. Every major European city is competing with each other to build a tech hub of their own, which not only causes the duplication of ideas but a potential funding war between similar start-ups in different geographies.
For investors, it doesn’t make sense to back start-ups that replicate what’s already in the market. For start-ups, it the internal competition makes expansion even harder. In the wake of the EU referendum and market uncertainty, what can unite the European start-up ecosystem across cities and nations?
The first step is to level the playing field by recognising the successes in entrepreneurship, and connecting founders from different growth hubs with each other, and with the biggest name in European venture capital.
This is what Investor Allstars has been doing for over a decade as Europe’s longest reigning awards programme for high-growth businesses, financiers, investors and advisors. Over the past 14 years, Investor Allstars has hosted more than 600 entrepreneurs and investment professionals from Europe and the US. As one of the most prominent events for investors, financiers and advisors, the awards programme provides a platform for celebrating some of the largest exits, innovative funds, and inspirational dealmakers in Europe.
The event has catapulted some of the biggest names in European entrepreneurship, including Nicolas Brusson, co-founder of Paris-based BlaBlaCar, Lopo Champalimaud, co-founder of London headquartered beauty app, Treatwell, Alex Chesterman, CEO of proptech firm Zoopla, and José Neves, founder of global fashion tech company, FarFetch.
The Entrepreneur of the Year category has traditionally been one of the most competitive. The finalists are consistently business leaders from Europe’s most disruptive companies, who have all had a huge part to play in creating jobs, generating revenue, attracting investment, and ultimately driving Europe’s economic success. This year, this category is sponsored by Barclays.
“We are pleased to sponsor the Entrepreneur Of The Year award, focusing on entrepreneurs that have made a significant impact in the past 12 months,” says Juliet Rogan, co-head of Barclays High Growth & Entrepreneurs business. “We recognise the need to back entrepreneurs throughout their journey, from idea to IPO. Scaling at speed can be challenging and at Barclays we have a dedicated team to help businesses and their founders on their path to success. We wish all the nominees the best of luck.”
The programme also features Europe’s Allstars, a day-time pitching session where five of the fastest growing technology companies compete to be named Europe’s most exciting company. Last year, Dark Trace, WatchFinder, Stratajet, Kreditech and Picanova went head-to-head in front of a room full of Europe’s fiercest investors.
The 2017 ceremony — on 27 September — will take place in Westminster Bridge Park Plaza London. The event continues to attract resounding support from Europe’s financial services sector, as well as companies of all sizes and sectors, and will be attended by over a thousand key stakeholders from the continent’s business ecosystem.
The 2016 ceremony was kicked off by keynote speaker Dominik Richter, CEO and co-founder of Berlin headquartered recipe box delivery giant, Hello Fresh.
Prominent winners included Entrepreneur First and Octopus Ventures for Magic Pony’s phenomenal sale to Twitter (Exit of the Year). Accel Partners took VC Fund of the Year, Highland Europe was victorious as Growth Fund of the Year, and DN Capital’s Nenad Marovac won the prestigious title of Investor of the Year.
All of these awards will again be up for grabs at the 2017 Awards, as well as the return of the Digital innovation in Art award sponsored by.ART. The award will recognise a company or individual in the art industry that has used digital technology or the internet to disrupt and innovate within their field.
A brand new award, Tech4Good sponsored by Berenberg, will recognise the technologies built for a larger social purpose, celebrating European innovations that are improving lives the world over. The deadline for all nominations have been extended to 9th June 2017. Sponsors of Investor Allstars 2017 include .Art, Barclays, Berenberg, Calibre One and Cooley.