Last Tuesday night Libreria, the tiny bookshop with the labyrinthine trompe d’oeil opposite the Second Home Incubator on Hanbury Street, owned by SH founder Rohan Silva and journalist Sally Davies, was the setting for the launch of journalist Ivo Spigel’s new book “The European Startup Revolution”. Ivo was interviewed by Joe Schorge, Managing Partner at Isomer Capital, who helped fund the writing of the book by backing its crowdfunding campaign.
When Cameron Crowe wrote and directed the film Almost Famous in 2000, general consensus at the time was that jobs don’t get much better than being a journalist covering the rock star super-groups of the 1970’s.
Fast forward a decade or so, however, and there is an entirely new kind of “rockstar” in town. There are many reasons why millennials fell in love with entrepreneurs – their vision, their ambition, perhaps most importantly, the changes they brought to the everyday lives of everyday people. Millennials grew up wanting to be a different kind of superstar.
Nowadays it seems we’d rather get up close and personal with Uber’s Travis Kalanick or Tesla / Space X’s Elon Musk, for example, or closer to home, a Michael Acton Smith or a Taavet Hinrickius.
Granted, this new breed of “rockstar” startup founders are less about excess and wild parties, and more about being lean and agile, mastering UX and UI, and producing drop dead gorgeous metrics. But millennials have made their choice, and judging by the range of new terms and expressions infiltrating our lexicon, “unicorns”, “superheroes”, “pivots” and “pitching”, the change is a permanent one.
So, does this mean that Ivo Spigel can claim to have the greatest job in the world – following the fortunes of Europe’s premier startup founders, and documenting their ups and downs through a series of one-to- interviews?
In the introduction to his new book, “The European Startup Revolution”, the journalist who has written for Forbes Croatia, Tech.eu (which he helped to found) and The Kernel amongst other publications (for good measure, he also runs his own tech startup), describes London in the aftermath of the collapse of the financial markets; grey, disillusioned, corporate, dull.
Or at least it is until he finds himself at the Royal Institute of British Architects, at a conference called GeeknRolla, organised by the always-on Editor-at-Large of Tech Crunch, Mike Butcher. Spigel remembers a video playing which “featured startup founders from all over Europe jumping about and playing air guitars, symbolizing the energy and optimism of the startup world.”
It turns out many of the people who would go on to help shape the future of the nascent startup eco-system in Europe, and feature as one of the 28 interviewees, from VC investors, to angels, to founders, to influencers and academics, to make it into Spigel’s book, were either at that conference or others like it.
Fanduel founder Lesley Eccles, for example, was there talking about Hubdub, which would eventually become FanDuel, raise $360m dollars, and become a leading player in one of the fastest growing markets in the US – fantasy sports gaming. In his book Spigel interviews Hubdub / Fanduel’s founders at the beginning, and end of that process, as he does with all of the founders he profiles.
Fred Destin was there also; a celebrated VC in the US, at the time he was non-plussed by the start-up scene he encountered in Europe. “Work harder, be more ambitious, believe you can compete”, was his mantra.
Slowly, things started to change. Founders reached out to fellow founders, not just locally, but internationally. Conferences, events, and “meet-ups” began to spring up everywhere; Valuations started to creep up to a point where Europe had some pretty serious players on its hands. Soundcloud, Skimlinks, Last.fm, Huddle, SuperCell, Deezer.
Today, it’s not surprising anymore to read about the latest tech unicorn to come out of Europe, or the disruption of an entire industry at the hands of a radical new business model that began as a few guys (and hopefully girls) just hanging out and shooting the startup breeze.
A lot of that is down to the effort and energy of journalists like Spigel; arriving on the start-up scene when it was a mere jumble of ideas and vague aspirations, seeing the potential, experiencing the growth first hand, creating a can-do culture of cool, and most importantly, documenting it all through a series of tight, to the point and yet utterly inspiring interviews with Europe’s startup movers and shakers. The European Startup Revolution, in a nutshell.
We’ll be reading every interview – as well as wondering about who will make the next edition.
Of course, every great book needs somebody to fund it – a generous benefactor, and in the shape of Isomer Capital, Spigel found one.
Like many entrepreneurs Spigel decided to launch a crowd-funding campaign to help fund the book – when Isomer Capital heard about the campaign, they wanted to lend their support. Joining Spigel at the Book Launch on Tuesday evening was Joe Schorge, Managing Partner at Isomer.
“It is time to champion our own maturing startup scene instead of seeing Silicon Valley as the only model and home for tech success. Ivo’s book is an excellent case-based chronicle of the rapid development of Europe’s innovation marketplace, much of which remains unknown to outsiders,” Schorge said.
Readers, it could be well worth your while getting stuck into this meaty tome.