Monday, 7 June 2010

Yes. Europe Does Produce Big Tech Companies.

Last night on the way back from this weekends launch48 I spent a bit of time thinking about Mike Butcher's tweet from earlier that evening:

"Name 10 *big* tech companies to come out of Europe. Let's see: Skype, Nokia, SAP... er, help me out here..."

After spinning through a few in my head I came to the same conclusion as he did following a few responses. That most of them are b2b.

There are the big enterprisey giants like SAP and Sage, and then there are the industry specialized ones. There's no shortage of big chip manufacturers (STMicroelectronics, ARM, CSR, Wolfson Microelectronics) and in the financial sector you can't throw a stone without hitting a British tech company (Reuters, ICAP and Markit all have billion dollar+ revenues from their technology arms). The open source sector also seems to have flourished in Europe (Canonical, MySQL AB, Trolltech). Yet apart from Canoncial, none are consumer facing, and none have large consumer brands.

However after much needed sleep I realized that there are indeed large European consumer tech companies, but we miss them because they're either so ingrained into our lives we don't think of them as tech companies or because they're so large we don't even associate them with a particular country.

Both IMDB (now owned by Amazon) and Gumtree (now owned by eBay) were originally British start-ups that built global consumer brands which fall into the later category.

There are in-fact entire sectors which are European dominated. In the gaming (in both the video and gambling sense of the word) and telecoms sectors there's no shortage of hugely successful companies.

European gaming companies like Rockstar Games, Media Molecule, Lionhead Studios, Rare, Codemasters, Crytek, Criterion, Rebellion, Traveller's Tales and Eurocom (and many more) have produced a significant percentage of the best selling computer games of the last decade. Big online players such as Playfish and are also European.

And when it comes to online gambling, pretty much every major gambling site in the world from Betfair to is British, and those few that aren't are mostly European.

The European telecoms sector has produced Vodafone, O2, Orange, T-Mobile, Skype, Nokia, and Ericsson all globe trotting European giants.

Europe may still be well behind the Valley in producing large tech companies, but maybe not as far behind as some people think.


  1. What about Siemens?

    420,000 employees. Or did I get the definition of "Tech Company" wrong?

  2. don't forget Telefonica, "Operating globally, it is the third largest provider in the world, behind China Mobile and Vodafone"

  3. Javier, Telefónica and O2 (which I mentioned) are the same company. They just trade under different brands depending on the country.

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  5. Just for the record Skype was bought by eBay in 2005, and Trolltech is part of Nokia since 2008.

    Anyway, good article and good record of companies. We're not so behind from US or Asia when it comes to IT as we tend to think.

    In any case, what I see is a shortage of big web companies in Europe. You mentioned examples acquired by bigger names. Some other few come to my mind, (British) bought by CBS and Dopplr (Finnish) bought by Nokia. Maybe that's inevitable but with a lack of big SW companies targeting the consumer market (with the exception of Nokia maybe), I'm afraid something like Amazon, eBay, Google or Apple could ever come up in Europe, and we need something like that for the long term.

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  7. Looking at the fact that we are about to step in into another recession (I really think that this is exactly what we are getting closer to each day, I do not think that Europe is going to be that much about tech companies. I mean they do require a big financing for sure and this is what Europe is not capable of these days. Reading the latest news makes me even think that the entire erozone is falling apart. Look at Cyprus, Greece, Spain and many other countries which are bailing out on their loans?! Even I am about to give up on my online no fax payday loans pretty soon