Leo Apotheker throughout his brief reign at Hewlett-Packard in 2011
By Michael Dempsey
Know-how of Enterprise reporter
Why can’t Europe replicate the dazzling achievements of Silicon Valley?
“We’re not only a bunch of incompetent Europeans who’re solely good for going to the seashore,” says Leo Apotheker.
Mr Apotheker ran SAP, a German enterprise software program firm that rose to dominate its subject. He additionally had a brief interval as chief government of US big Hewlett-Packard.
He believes Europe has received so much to supply.
Partially retired, the 69-year outdated divides his time between Paris and London and has spent the final decade advising small software program firms.
Right now he has a brand new position, as considered one of a staff of tech veterans decided to finish Europe’s underwhelming document of manufacturing big expertise corporations.
Mr Apotheker is a part of Boardwave, the brainchild of Phill Robinson. Mr Robinson is a British former software program boss who has lived in Silicon Valley and retired after a prognosis of Parkinson’s Illness.
Boardwave grew out of Mr Robinson ruminating on what he may do to carry Europe’s tech scene to Californian ranges.
Mr Apotheker joined Boardwave the day after its web site went dwell. As Mr Robinson places it, “we’re grateful for the careers we’ve had and the chance to share what we all know.”
Each are pushed by a urgent sense of passing time and a need to spare future generations of tech pioneers the pains they endured.
Mr Apotheker factors out that Europe does have some leaders. He highlights specialist fields resembling industrial design packages and the UK’s lead in monetary software program. London’s monetary expertise (fintech) scene wins his approval.
However why aren’t there extra?
Silicon Valley is the house to Apple, Alphabet, Fb, eBay and lots of others
He rejects the normal argument that discovering cash is way simpler within the US.
“I don’t suppose that is about elevating capital, Europe is awash with enterprise capital firms.”
Traders will sink $50bn into European tech companies in 2023, in line with enterprise capital agency Atomico.
One downside for European tech entrepreneurs is an absence of friends.
“I lived in Silicon Valley and there’s all the time a bunch of individuals round who can provide you recommendation. After I ran SAP and wanted recommendation I talked to the wall!, ” says Mr Apotheker.
“Boardwave is making an attempt to mentor different firm bosses to assist them develop. Being in cost is usually a very lonely job. You are concerned about one thing in the midst of the night time and it retains on chewing at you. The worth of choosing up the cellphone and speaking to somebody is big.”
He sees Boardwave’s staff saving his youthful successors from these sleepless nights and guiding the massive concepts to fruition.
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Mr Apotheker nonetheless needs he may have had a sympathetic information to share issues with when he ran SAP. “There have been lots of choices I struggled with at SAP and I want I may have talked with somebody who’d been there earlier than me, somebody I may bounce concepts off.”
Boardwave was additionally born out of a way that point isn’t on the facet of smart older guys. “Of the few hairs I’ve left numerous them are gray. So I’m keen to spend the time I’ve left on this.”
That features speaking about choices that didn’t work out.
“We speak about errors we’ve made. We’ve made lots of errors, and received a couple of issues proper!”
European scepticism is commonly cited as a poor distinction to the overwhelming optimism of Silicon Valley.
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But Mr Apotheker values the power to ask penetrating questions in an business with its fair proportion of fraudulent ventures resembling Theranos, the Silicon Valley start-up whose founder Elizabeth Holmes has simply begun an eleven-year jail sentence for defrauding buyers.
“I’m of combined German/French heritage and I could be cynical and sceptical however I flip that to a bonus.”
His colleague, 58-year outdated Mr Robinson, is candid about how Parkinson’s Illness motivates him. “I’ve amassed lots of data of the software program sector and I need to share it with others earlier than my mind will get mushy.”
He took one of many first laptop science levels within the UK and labored in Silicon Valley on the age of 23, starting a powerful profession in enterprise software program.
“I consider Europeans have an ideal expertise pool nevertheless it’s fragmented. We’re 1,000 miles throughout whereas Silicon Valley is 40 miles lengthy.” He based Boardwave on his kitchen desk in 2022 and it now has 800 members, chief executives and founders throughout Europe.
Europe’s tech scene is fragmented says Phil Robinson
Begin-ups registered with Boardwave can join with these mentors. Boardwave goals to shepherd them in direction of the vital stage of £100m turnover after they can unfold their wings on the worldwide stage.
Different established initiatives echo Boardwave’s drive to broaden Europe’s prime tier of tech. Finland hosts an enormous annual gathering, Slush, the place tech start-ups can meet potential buyers.
The boss of Finnish success story WithSecure, a cybersecurity enterprise that confronts the worldwide menace of malware, hacking and ransom calls for, is Juhani Hintikka.
He too does professional bono teaching for native start-ups and agrees with the idea behind Boardwave. “Folks do ask for recommendation and I attempt to do my bit.”
However he admits innovators are curbed by Europe’s fragmentation, with a number of enterprise cultures versus the huge house market US firms can faucet into.
Ever bold, Mr Apotheker cites planemaker Airbus as an ideal European guiding gentle. “European airline makers got here collectively to tackle Boeing and Airbus is now the biggest on the planet.”