An Interview with Alfredo Coppola, Executive Director of US Market Access
Q.┬á Where are the ÔÇ£hot spotsÔÇØ in this cooling global economic trend?
A.┬á Eastern Europe in particular is a stronghold for innovation.┬á┬á We are now reaping the benefits of the fall of the Berlin Wall.┬á┬á Estonia and Latvia, for example, are countries no one had heard much of before, but now along with Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, are producing some of our more interesting startups.┬á┬á The new ÔÇ£openÔÇØ culture since the fall has allowed what are now 20 somethings to see a brighter future leveraging their historically strong academic training.┬á Because of the phenomenal engineering and mathematical programs in these universities we see great technology in search of sales and marketing skills to grow the business, an expertise that we offer through US Market Access.
Q.┬á What are the attributes driving their success?┬á Government? Ecosystem? Talent?
A.┬á It starts with the education system and optimism from the more open culture.┬á ItÔÇÖs seasoned with growing support from governments and the start of ecosystems tailored after Silicon Valley.┬á Each country is unique and they will need to find their own version of the Valley to make it work for them.┬á There is still much to do here which is why many companies look to the US, specifically Silicon Valley, as their model.
Q.┬á Where is their growth coming from?┬á How are they getting their start?
A.┬á Seed funding is coming from governments and local investors in many cases although with the web services startups the capital needs are less intensive and many startups are able to bootstrap their way to market.┬á┬á The investment community in most other countries needs time to mature because this sector lacks the experience and metrics to know how best to value a company in order to select the winners.┬á The UK has come the furthest thus far with their investment community infrastructure.┬á The investment needed to scale still comes largely from the US.
Q.┬á Why US vs. other large markets such as China, India, Africa, or the EU?
A.┬á China is appealing because itÔÇÖs large, but it is difficult market for newcomers because of many economic problems, including slower economic growth and lower consumer spending.┬á India is challenged with stalled political reforms.┬á Africa is the second fasting growing economy but the majority of the population still lack stable jobs.┬á Europe, while large, is overwhelmed with Euro issues.┬á Despite fears over the impact of the Euro, the US economy has trudged along.┬á When companies want to grow big and fast they frequently choose the US over any other region, regardless of economic conditions.┬á┬á The US, and specifically Silicon Valley, has┬á the best ecosystem for entrepreneurs┬á and moves more quickly than anywhere else in the world.
Q.┬á Would you care to give a prediction about how things will unfold over the next couple of years?
A.┬á WeÔÇÖll see a significant increase in success stories from the ÔÇ£New EuropeÔÇØ (Central and Eastern Europe) than companies from the ÔÇ£Old EuropeÔÇØ (France, Italy, and Spain).┬á Innovations from Old Europe will eventually re-align themselves, but it will take some time. They will continue to struggle with risk taking relative to other countries because of antiquated bankruptcy policies and cultural perceptions of failure.┬á And, weÔÇÖll start to see more international-friendly VC funds ÔÇô those willing to invest in non-US companies.┬á Overall, Europe will become a more dominant supplier of entrepreneurs.