To compete with Silicon Valley, European startups need to grow fast

If European tech companies want to make it big, they should go international as soon as possible, says BlaBlaCar's COO

Europe is still lacking real tech giants like Google, Facebook or Amazon, but it looks like things are slowly changing. However, if European companies want to start competing with Silicon Valley, they have to start thinking internationally from the beginning, says BlaBlaCar COO Nicolas Brusson.

BlaBlaCar is a French ride-sharing startup. It has about 20 million users and is active in 18 countries, where its users can offer empty seats in their cars on a trip for a fee, allowing them to save costs while others can arrange a relatively cheap trip.

Brusson, who spent years in Silicon Valley and worked as a venture capitalist before co-founding BlaBlaCar, is responsible for the international growth of the company. At The Next Web Conference in Amsterdam on Thursday he gave fellow European entrepreneurs some tips on how to become a big company.

First of all, European startups have to understand they should use a different scaling model than U.S. companies, Brusson said. The U.S. is a large unified market with a single language and a single culture, which allows companies to grow big before they can start thinking of international expansion, he said.

"In Europe that doesn't work," he said, because France, Germany, the U.K. and other countries are just too small to focus on a single market. "If you define that as your market, you are never going to be able to be a big company."

Quickly scaling internationally worked for BlaBlaCar. The company defined its market as Europe and started looking at Europe as a unified market even though it isn't.

That plan helped it land bigger investments than if BlaBlaCar would have just focused on France as a market, he said.

As part of that quick expansion strategy, BlaBlaCar also acquired other European startups that were offering similar ride-sharing services in Italy, Germany, Poland and the Ukraine, Brusson said. These acquisitions helped enthusiastic entrepreneurs, who had knowledge of the local markets, join the company.

But why should anyone care whether Europe has big tech companies? "The reality is that it is pretty risky to be a small fish," Brusson said. If European startups keep getting acquired by companies outside of Europe, there will be no sustainable startup ecosystem, which is bad for the economy, he added.

The good news is the fish in Europe are getting bigger, with companies like Spotify, Skype, JustEat and payments company Adyen becoming high-profile companies in their fields, Brusson said. European startups looking to do the same should have the same international mindset as these companies, he said.

Loek is Amsterdam Correspondent and covers online privacy, intellectual property, online payment issues as well as EU technology policy and regulation for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags internetNicolas BrussonBlaBlaCar

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Loek Essers

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?