The tech industry is fast, international, and brutal. It simply does not make sense to think local, especially when it comes to European startups.
As a continent, Europe consists of many small countries, which all follow different jurisdictions, speak dozens of different languages and have their own unique culture. In this environment, one simply cannot scale big and fast enough without opening doors outside of Europe.
On the other hand, the U.S. offers a big and homogenous market with global market players and a unique consuming culture. It is home to influential corporations, wealthy individuals and innovative startup clusters. As a British investor once told me, Americans are just not willing to pay North American valuations for European startups. The unpleasant truth is that, most of the time, European startups do not exit at their full potential. This is a huge problem, one that smart European founders are well aware of.
No matter which startup conference or panel discussion you attend, one of the key question will always be about how to build a startup “born globally” with international teams and a company structure on both sides of the Atlantic. But where exactly in the U.S. should European startups go? While Silicon Valley is still the favorite destination for many founders, Silicon Alley is on the rise.
Powerful financial ecosystem and better time zone
New York offers one of the strongest financial ecosystem in the world and a growing availability of venture capital. According to CB Insights New York companies raised $4.5 billion in venture capital last year across 422 deals while according to Dow Jones Venturesource, European venture-backed companies raised in total $8.5 billion across 1,460 deals. This means New York places more than half of Europe’s venture capital capacity.
Furthermore, the average investment size in New York is about $11 million, while the average size in Europe is below $6 million – making New York City the place to be for later stage investments. A big part of the invested money derives from multinational companies. Accelerators such as TechStars are actively advising in corporate venturing and pushing this trend forward. Another advantage of the city is its powerful banking sector. Banks, and in particular investment banks, are essential institutions in order to exit through an Initial Public Offering, which is rarely happening in Europe. In addition, the city’s “START-UP NY” initiative offers high-tech startups the option to locate a qualified business in a “tax-free zone.”
New York is an important gateway to the U.S. and to global markets, with 52 of the 500 Fortune companies, from finance to fashion, having their headquarters there. This offers opportunities for synergies between startups and large corporations. For example, the Austrian startup Spidercam takes advantage from media contacts in New York in order to rent their cable camera robotic system for NFL and College Football broadcasts. Another example is nextSociety, a new community app for businesspeople. The two Austrian founders Alex and Peter previously worked for Ernst & Young in New York. For them it was just natural to open the business in the city where they started their corporate carrier, especially given the business-to-business potential New York City has to offer.
Finally, there is another quite obvious reason why Europeans prefer the East Coast over the West Coast: New York is simply closer to Europe, and less time difference matters a lot if you work with off-shore teams in Europe. In the case of nextSociety, Alex leads the company in New York while Peter and the developing team are located in Vienna. The advantage of Vienna is that it’s easier to find highly educated tech developers without having to worry about a big corporation hiring your best staff and killing your project just because they can’t find anyone else.
Landing platform in New York
If a European startup is ready to make the jump to the U.S., it should seriously consider where to go. Of course, Silicon Valley, including San Francisco, is still the number one hub for high-tech companies worldwide, but it is also one of the most competitive areas in the world, especially when it comes to hiring talent. This is one of the main reasons why some European investors already seek to create a soft landing platform in New York to ensure fast U.S. expansions for high potential startups. I strongly support this idea, and we recently opened our own office in New York with more and more of our startups willing to take this opportunity. A startup hub in New York would effectively help European founders find local investors and strategic partners as well as get connected within the NY startup scene. With its fiscal policy, good strategic location, and its globally operating companies, New York could become the new leading startup hub, attracting ambitious European startups.
Berthold Baurek-Karlic is founder and managing partner of Venionaire with offices in Vienna, Austria, and New York City. Venionaire is a registered European Alternative Investment Fund Managers (AIFM) and is currently setting up a EUR 100 Million Venture Capital Fund under the European Venture Capital Regulation (EuVECA) in Luxembourg.