EU vs US: MessageBird founder on why Europe's tech scene is set for 2020 glory

With a flurry of billion-dollar valuations and a serious venture capital surge, 2020 could be the year that Europe makes some big gains on the US when it comes to tech.

In days gone by, growth-hungry technology companies who looked to scale towards billion-dollar valuations simply wouldn't have been able to do so without at least a major presence within the United States and Silicon Valley. The US has long been the unquestioned leader in the technology space, with SV serving as its massive global hub of innovation, hosting a wealth of both start-up and powerhouse companies alike.

Other ‘tech-hubs', like those within Europe, have traditionally had to play second fiddle to their US counterpart, especially when it comes to tech investment. As Blossom Capital founder Ophelia Brown told Forbes, "Everyone would push back: Europe was a little travel, a little e-commerce, a little gaming… they felt there was nothing of substance."

However, there is now evidence to suggest that the tide is changing for the European tech scene, with some substantial growth in high-value tech firms and an influx of venture capital investment. According to Atomico's latest "State of European Tech" report, the region now hosts at least 174 tech companies that have scaled to a valuation of more than $1 billion (USD), with 99 of these being venture-backed firms. This figure has been rising sharply over the last decade, from just 18 companies in 2010 and 117 in 2017.

Significantly, the total amount of capital invested in the region's tech firms has risen from 24.6 billion in 2018 to 34.3 billion in 2019, bucking the downtrend experienced in both the United States and (more severely) Asia. An undoubtable contributor to this being the trade war that is still being fought-out between the US and China. The increase of venture capital support in Europe has also been felt on the ground, as many more high-profile VC firms investigate their options in the region. Some of these players have even felt the need to do this on the down-low, wishing to explore tantalising investment opportunities without tipping off their competitors.

The immense gains being achieved by new and existing tech-hubs within Europe as well as the increased cash flow has led many to forecast a big breakthrough in the Euro tech sector in the coming years. One proponent of this view is Robert Vis, CEO of in-app communication platform MessageBird, who provide cloud-based APIs to facilitate VoIP, SMS, voice messaging, and chat communication between companies and their customers.

Founded in Amsterdam, MessageBird recently set up its fourth European office in Dublin, with existing offices in other regions including San Francisco, Singapore, Shanghai, Sydney, and Bogotá (amongst others). We spoke to Vis about why he thinks the European tech scene will really flourish this year and where the region still needs to improve.

2020 the year of European tech?

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