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Europe’s Plan to Beat Silicon Valley at Its Own Game

by Ronaldo Derric
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In 2001, company attorneys arranged meetings with the RIAA and MPAA. This is a large team of lawyers who will fly from the East Coast to a Beverly Hills law firm on Friday. On Wednesday, they discovered a leaked internal memo from an organization they were supposed to meet. It called them “Public Enemy No. 1 operating offshore.” “It was imperative that we set an example,” the note said.

Courtesy of Atomico

“Instead of attending meetings, we drove around while the lawyers were at work. When we went to the lawyer’s office late in the evening, we saw two lawyers on their team. After that, we moved from one seedy motel to another nightly, paying cash until we bought our tickets at the airport an hour before our departure. rice field.

Zennström and Friis sold Kazaa at the end of 2001 on a loan of €600,000 (approximately $600,000 at current exchange rates). Then, in 2003, he founded Skype, an app that allows users to connect and talk directly to each other using his P2P backend from Kazaa. However, the early days of Skype seem to have revealed something unexpected: European VCs weren’t interested in innovation.

“We were all turned down,” he says simply. “We wanted to disrupt the world’s phone networks with this peer-to-peer technology. That’s a big challenge. Many of them had been burned down by the dotcom crash. The model they preferred was , was to do in the local market what worked in the United States.” He pauses and smiles. “Of course, we were also involved in large multi-billion dollar lawsuits…”

Nonetheless, Skype soon became one of the first European start-ups to challenge the hegemony of the American internet giants in the early 2000s. Zennström faced a crucial decision in 2004 when he one of Sandhill Road’s large VCs offered to fund the company, but only if it moved to the United States. . “At that point we had already built a world-class team in Tallinn, London and Stockholm and I didn’t want to leave the team,” he explains. “We knew then that we were dedicated to building Skype as a globally successful technology company based in Europe,” he declined the offer.

A year later, Skype became a unicorn after being sold to eBay for $2.6 billion. This is the world’s largest technology M&A since the dot-com demise, and in 2002 he surpassed PayPal, which eBay bought for his $1.5 billion.

All of this led to Zennström’s next move. In 2006 he launched Atomico to destroy venture capital. European VCs were not taking risks. Founders used to come to him for advice. VC funds were inviting him to board meetings to look good. “During that time, the only place in the world that had a functioning tech ecosystem was Silicon Valley. I set out,” he says.

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