The train ride from Madrid to Zaragoza was very enjoyable even after an overnight flight from New York (I will be posting something about Zaragoza and getting some pictures in the gallery later). The purpose of the trip was to participate in the Innovate!Europe: A Catalyst for Change conference. Innovate!Europe has brought together European investors, entrepreneurs, technology executives, researchers, public administrators, and various people who ae key players in the global technology industry.
The conference was organized by Guidewire Group (where I serve on the board of advisors). The entire agenda is here. After welcome messages from the Minister of Science & Technology and the Mayor of Zaragoza, Chris Shipley – Executive Producer of Innovate!Europe gave an opening talk about the origins and goals of the conference. She is passionate about the potential for technology companies in Europe and i have no doubt that she will be running conferences there again. Then Sven Ingjaerde from Vision Capital gave a professional and comprehensive presentation about the status of venture capital investments in Europe and about why there is a big opportunity but yet relatively few successful technology company startups there. He pointed out the many strengths of Europe and also the shortcomings — most of which are cultural in nature and none that can not be overcome.
One point I saw slightly differently than what Sven presented was about the size of the market that should be addressed by a startup. In my experience, too many startups focus on a target market which is everywhere/everybody/global/everything. I believe a more proven method is to be highly focused and address a market segment that can be addressed and dominated — and then branch out from there to more segments, dominating one at a time. I have posted this thought to the Innovate Europe wiki which you can find here.
Next was a panel called “Working Capital: Empowering Europe’s Investment Community” moderated by Jeff Clavier from SoftTech Venture Consulting (a fine Frenchman who loaned me a nice tie for dinner) did a deep dive on venture capital issues and ideas for Europe. It was everyone’s day to beat up on the French for perceived attitudinal issues. Ironically, Bruno Uzzan, CEO of Total Immersion — a French technology startup — totally blew away the audience with his demonstration of augmented virtual reality. He showed a heliopter flying around the auditorium on the screen. Needless to say, there was no helicopter in the room — but it looked like there was. You had to be there to believe it.
After the break, Simon Brown from Microsoft gave a presentation about independent software vendors in Europe and how Microsoft hoped to help them use the Windows platform. A Q & A session was then led by José Cervera. José opened up with blazing guns asking Simon why Microsoft doesn’t acknowledge open Internet standards and open source software. Dan Bricklin — inventor of the spreadsheet — asked why Microsoft was able to grow from nothing to the biggest software company in the world with virtually no patents. I have to admit, some of Simon’s responses sounded like IBM in the 1970’s when asked about OEM peripheral attachments to IBM mainframes.
Then it was my turn. My task was to lead a panel discussion about innovation issues in Europe — the panel was the audience — or as they say in Europe, the delegates. Here is the outline I used to make my opening comments.