Sander Arts

Sander Arts worked for or with a variety of European and US tech companies. Currently, he’s an independent investor and consultant.

2 June

The Dutch and European tech scenes have different working dynamics than Silicon Valley, but that doesn’t mean they’re inferior. They just need to start attracting and spending more capital, argues Silicon Valley resident Sander Arts.

Being a Dutchman with ‘legs’ in both the Netherlands and Silicon Valley brings an interesting perspective. I see many developments and collaborate with the smartest people in the world on both continents. Having worked for both European and American companies, I can say that talent and smart people are pervasive.

For many years, I was stationed at the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. I worked with very talented people there. As a matter of fact, the region is home to some of the smartest people I know. It’s where companies like Philips and ASML were born.

For the last 11 years, I’ve lived and worked in San Jose, right in the heart of Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley with its smart people, Stanford University and known for the leading technology companies marketing brands we all use or, at the very least, recognize. All these businesses were also founded by very smart people.

I believe that both continents house incredibly smart people, but whenever I get a question about funding, company valuations or talent, it’s European people asking me about Silicon Valley. It’s never the other way around. There’s a term for it in the Netherlands: the Calimero effect. People seem to think that everything great comes from Silicon Valley. That’s probably why regions refer to themselves as “the Silicon Valley of Europe.”

This annoys me to no end. Honestly. Here they are incubating CERN technologies, building companies and growing them with the smartest people ever, and then they have to compare themselves to areas that are perceived to be better.

Do I see differences between Silicon Valley and Europe? Yes, I do. But they have nothing to do with the quality of the people. The one thing missing in Europe is capital, which should get broadly deployed into startups and great ideas. Get rid of the ‘Calvinistic’ approach holding back new ideas and new companies. It slows things down and it’s blocking speed and execution by smart people with great ideas. Money is a great lubricator.

I happen to consult with a few companies that recently raised large rounds of funding here in California. Next-generation semiconductor startup Groq received 300 million dollars, taking the company’s valuation to over 1 billion. Syntiant recently raised 35 million euros in Series C. Money talks! It helps scale. It helps accelerate roadmaps and it helps build teams – fast. It helps build a large brand and it helps grab market share very quickly.

Capital also helps to attract talent. Here in the US, employees get skin in the game; they’re being paid in cash and stock. It makes them feel alive and it helps them align with business goals. Sometimes, people make a lot of money at successful exists. Some of them turn around and make angel investments in new business ideas.

So, here’s some advice to my home country: stop saying things like: “we’re the Silicon Valley of Europe.” Stop comparing yourself to Silicon Valley. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in Europe. It just has its own ecosystem with its own dynamics. But do start to deploy money and do create incentive schemes that pay for performance and allow employees to have skin in the game when they join and work for a startup. It’s great if people can make a lot of money. It will help them fund future businesses.