Why we’re welcoming the ex-Silicon Valley community in Europe

Balderton opens its doors to the ex-Silicon Valley community in Europe

In September of this year, we hosted a special event at Balderton’s HQ, where we invited people in our immediate circle of colleagues and business friends who had previously worked in technology in Silicon Valley (and also in other tech hubs of the US), and who now, for a variety of reasons, live and work in technology in Europe. For some, this was a move 'back home' to Europe. For others, it's was a first-time move to Europe.

Why did we decide to host this event? 

There is a short answer: we believed this community in Europe would benefit from meeting one another, sharing stories and supporting each other. And, we wanted to put the word out this community that now is a great time to encourage more people in a move from the Valley to Europe.

This event was a door opener for that.

But there is a longer answer too, and it centres on the exciting opportunities available right now to Silicon Valley talent in Europe. We've summarised highlights of those opportunities in the series of articles listed on the right.

Articles in this series

Why we're welcoming the ex-Silicon Valley Community in Europe (this article)

Today's European technology ecosystem —by the numbers

Our research into European founders' Silicon Valley experience

Ex-Silicon Valley tech leaders in Europe — the stories

What's next? Connect with us.

The return of Silicon Valley leaders to Europe

For a number of years now we’ve personally observed, and read articles about, an anecdotal ‘trend’ of Silicon Valley technology leaders moving back, or moving to, Europe from the Valley.

The leadership of our own firm at Balderton — Partners Bernard Liautaud, Suranga Chandratillake and Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen — all Silicon Valley leaders who moved back home to Europe.

And Balderton’s heads of marketing, Alice Lankester, and talent, Kiana Sharifi, both forged careers in the Valley but are now committed to their new European-based careers.

Read Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen in the Financial Times: Silicon Valley’s European stars are returning home, by Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen. (September 2016)

Read Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen in The Telegraph: The Telegraph - Why Silicon Valley veterans are booking one-way tickets to Europe, by Lars Fjeldsøe-Nielsen (September 2018)

Read Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen on this site: Bringing it all back home: How Silicon Valley veterans are transforming European tech, by Lars Fjeldsoe-Nielsen. (October 2018)

Connect with us

Considering the move to Europe from the Valley? Ex-Silicon Valley now in Europe?

Join the Community

Read the stories of who has made the move

We have gathered stories of other ex-Silicon Valley technology leaders now living and working in Europe. Read their stories here.

Outside Balderton, Tony Fadell, as another prominent example, has spoken passionately about his permanent move to Paris, indicating he’d never have written the business plan for NEST if he hadn’t been outside what he called the ‘echo chamber’ of Silicon Valley.

"Frankly, after being in Silicon Valley for 26 years, it was like: There’s a lot of life to live all around the world, so let’s go live life and be where other interesting people are. Because there are interesting people all around the world. And let’s learn from them in their space and learn about the need of that country or that territory to try to generate new businesses there that can actually go across the world. So, it was one part selfish curiosity. Let’s go live in other places in the world than Silicon Valley.” Tony Fadell, Q&A, VentureBeat, December 2017.

Tony Fadell

Frankly, after being in Silicon Valley for 26 years, it was like: There’s a lot of life to live all around the world, so let’s go live life and be where other interesting people are.

Tony Fadell

But is it really 'Peak Valley'?

So if we believe, as we do, that Europe is an attractive destination for talent from Silicon Valley, and other tech hubs in the United States, does it mean the Valley losing talent?

This very question came to a head in an Economist cover story in August of 2018 titled “Peak Valley: why startups are leaving Silicon Valley.”

The article (rightly in our opinion) affirms there remains no rival to the worldwide leadership position the Valley holds as the best place in the world to start, and work at, a technology company. It remains the most prestigious place to work in tech.

After all, of the ten most valuable companies in the United States, five are technology companies, and all are based on the West Coast.

The Economist, 'Why startups are leaving Silicon Valley. Its primacy as a technology hub is on the wane. That is cause for concern.' August 2018

However, the article points to three significant reasons why startups are looking elsewhere to grow their companies:

1/The dominance of tech leaders in the Valley (Facebook, Apple, Google) make it hard to compete for talent, as these companies are able to pay such high salaries;

2/The cost of living in the Bay Area is so steep; and

3/Immigration policy — it's harder to hire the best people, particularly when immigration policies are increasingly unwelcoming to non-citizens.

The Economist: Peak Valley, 30 Aug 2018. Alexandra Suich Bass, U.S. tech editor for "The Economist," explains why Silicon Valley is driving away startups. "Increasingly, it's going to matter less to build your whole company [in Silicon Valley] any more. Companies will have a presence here, but they are not going to be able to afford to scale their startup in the Bay Area. They're going to look elsewhere really early on in their development."

The research: ex-Silicon Valley founders in Europe

Earlier this year we chose to commission initial research, in collaboration with Startup Heatmap Europe, to ask questions of European startup founders about their connectivity to the United States, and find out just how many of them had also forged careers in the Valley or in other tech hubs in the United States.

This research is shared in the article on this site ‘Research into European founders’ Silicon Valley experience.’

While the United States — specifically the Valley — continues to be unrivalled in terms of prestige in the tech industry, The Economist article pointed to a rising tide of opinion that the Valley has become (cliché alert) a victim of its own success.

Research published by the Bay Area Council in 2018, stated that close to half (46 percent) of voters in the Bay Area indicate that they plan to leave the region, not because the area is any less attractive as a tech talent magnet, but because of exorbitant housing costs and commuting burdens.

Further, research done by California Association of Realtors said a San Francisco household needs to make over $333K a year to afford a median-priced home, and the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city is now over $3K/month.

In our own look at housing ‘affordability’, the Silicon Valley Bay Area topped the tables when compared to the tech-hub European capital cities and New York.

City / AreaMedian Household IncomeMedian Home PriceRatio
Silicon Valley$105,700$1,354,00012.5x
New York$71,897$669,7005x
London (UK)$55,837*$559,42710.7x
Cambridge (UK)$43,926*$421,2939.5x
Paris (France)$49,390*$525,578**5.69x
Berlin (Germany)$54,306*$454,770**8.3x
Copenhagen (Denmark)$61,737*$772,91412.5x
Stockholm (Sweden)$58,062*$629,48010.8x

**Approx based on avg surface per household and avg sq m price in the town centre

What we can take away from the ‘Peak valley’ article in The Economist is the Valley is no longer the ‘only’ place to start up and hire; it can be done in other parts of the US, and certainly across Europe.

In their words: “There is less reason than ever for a single region to be the epicentre of technology. Thanks to the tools that the Valley’s own firms have produced, from smartphones to video calls to messaging apps, teams can work effectively from different offices and places.” (Economist, August 2018.)

There is less reason than ever for a single region to be the epicentre of technology. Thanks to the tools that the Valley’s own firms have produced, from smartphones to video calls to messaging apps, teams can work effectively from different offices and places.

The Economist, Why startups are leaving Silicon Valley, August 2018

Europe's 'Livability' ranking

Putting aside weather (no arguments can possibly be found…) the Global Liveability Index from The Economist’s Intelligence Unit attempts to offer a measurement of how ‘livable’ a city is — covering stability, healthcare, culture, environment, education and infrastructure of cities worldwide.

Of the 50 most livable cities in the world — half are in Europe

In the 2018 ranking of the world’s fifty most ‘livable’ cities, 25 are in Europe. Only two cities are in the United States, with the city highest being Honolulu at number 32, and San Francisco at number 49.

Of the 100 most livable cities in the world, half are in Europe:

1 - Vienna
9 - Copenhagen
11 - Zurich
12 - Frankfurt
14 - Geneva
16 - Helsinki
17 - Amsterdam
18 - Hamburg
19 - Paris
21 - Berlin
24 - Luxembourg
25 - Munich
27 - Oslo
28 - Dusseldorf
29 - Brussels
30 - Lyon, Barcelona
32 - Stockholm
34 - Budapest
35 - Manchester
39 - Madrid
41 - Dublin
43 - Reykjavik
46 - Milan
48 - London

See ranking here

Europe as a destination for talent

The Economist article did not point to Europe, or indeed anywhere else in the world, as an alternate destination for those leaving the Valley. Only cities in the United States.

In fact, a month later, another Economist article presented a negative view of Europe: ‘Waiting for Goodot: Europe’s history explains why it will never produce a Google.”

This was a call to arms for us at Balderton.

We believe we should dispense, once and for all, with talking about how Europe is ‘failing’ to recreate Silicon Valley or ‘failing’ to create another Google. But instead focus on how Europe is succeeding at creating a vibrant, diverse, and expanding network of unique technology hubs, all of which are home to world-class technology companies with global impact.

For Silicon Valley-trained talent looking to make the leap to Europe to found, or join, a European high-growth startup, the doors at Balderton in London are open. Balderton is Europe's leading early-stage venture capital firm — investing in the best European-born technology startups.

We invite you to browse and apply to the opportunities on our career portal, where we have hundreds of positions open all across Europe — in London, Cambridge, Paris, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Berlin, and more. 

Our office at Balderton HQ in London hosts very early-startups, as well as visiting tech VIPs looking for a place to plug in while visiting London startups. We extend this offer to those interested in making the move.

So you're already in Europe, and used to work in Silicon Valley, or thinking about moving to Europe, let us know!

What talent does Europe need?

Read Balderton's head of talent, Kiana Sharifi, on Why Scale Up Experience Is the Growth Catalyst Europe Needs

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