Competing with Silicon Valley

People have scratched their heads for many years, as to why Europe can't compete with Silicon Valley, in building world class software businesses. People used to say that there wasn't the same access to capital. And whilst that might have been true 10 years ago, it's not true today. So why aren't we being more successful?


My belief is its the "connectedness" of people in The Valley that gives them an unfair advantage. Silicon Valley is at best 40-50 miles long. Everyone goes to the same restaurants, the same parties, their kids go to the same schools. Leaders and Investors know each other rather well.


When I worked for Marc, the CEO of salesforce.com, sometimes we shared a ride to work. He was always calling people we regard as household names, to get their support, or ideas, or advice - all the time. Core to the DNA of Silicon Valley's leaders is sharing ideas and best practice, and helping each other.


Turns out Europe occupies 10 million square kilometers, a rather larger space than Silicon Valley. We have many highly talented and experienced software leaders today, with all the attributes you need to build world-class software businesses. There is no lack of talent, its just hidden! isolated by distance and geography, separated by sector focus (e.g. fintech vs medtech vs enterprise s/w etc), or by investor portfolio and scale.


The common expectation is that PE and VCs speak a different language and neither talks to the other. PE write much bigger cheques for large mature, slow growing but profitable businesses, whilst VCs are investing in potential and the future, putting their money to work by investing in highly dynamic, fast growing, disruptive, next generation technologies. VCs saw PE invested firms as old fashioned and last years news, whilst PE looked down their nose at the sub-scale highly risky investments VCs make. But my recent experience couldn't be more different.


I wanted to ensure that Boardwave appealed to all software leaders, from start-up thro

ugh to large multi-nationals. My network is in PE, and so we have been working hard to broaden our horizons and attract members from other stages of growth.


A guy starting a software business and at the beginning of his journey, is not going to have much in common with Leo, one of our patrons, but he would probably find it valuable to talk to another Founder who has successfully got product to market, and started generating revenue. He in turn would get huge benefit from talking to someone with a $20m ARR, and finished an "A" round investment with a VC. And that CEO would be delighted to chat to the CEO with a $100m ARR with offices around the world.


60% of leaders signed up to Boardwave have agreed to donate their time to mentoring. To helping each other. And pretty much everyone has walked in someone elses shoes before them, so can give helpful tips and advice of what to do and what not to do. At one level of another we are all Mentors to one another.


I was particularly delighted to be invited to a Partners meeting at Index Ventures, one of our Partners, and a pre-eminent VC in Europe and the USA. We talked about the concept of a continuum of growth for software businesses, and the need to support them along that journey. They all really valued what Boadwave could do for their invested businesses and their exec teams. Giving them a more three dimensional view of the industry beyond the Index portfolio, and provide a breadth of advice and access to know how that will help them to scale perhaps even beyond Index's ownership.


Boardwave's members are Founder Owned, Venture backed, early stage PE, Private Equity and Publicly owned. Independent of ownership structure, they continue to grow and need access to talent and experience that can help them be successful


So Boardwave's goal is to unlock the pockets of experience fragmented across Europe, at all stages of a software businesses evolution. It's job is to pull all this experience together and make it cohesive, so that any software leader has others around him/her to gain valuable knowledge and experience from, someone who has been on their journey before and knows all the tips and tricks for success.


If we can harness the wealth of experience in Europe, along with the capital that is available today, we start to compete without one hand tied behind our backs.


And perhaps the continuum of growth i've just described is actually more like a circle. As what you will discover is that the older more experienced executives, who have built highly successful businesses, perhaps now semi-retired or "plural" and also angel investors in the next round of start-ups. Many of them are our Patrons, they really enjoy helping new Founders and CEOs, and watching them flourish.