A European web incubator has opened an office in the US in an attempt to lure back expatriate entrepreneurs to Europe.
Internet Incubator was set up in the UK in February and has offices throughout Europe. Its US office, based in San Francisco, will help US web startups set up shop in Europe and will work to attract experienced European nationals back to the region with promises of chief executive posts at web companies.
Philip Crawford, Internet Incubator chairman and former head of Oracle UK and EDS International, said European expats in Silicon Valley would get a better chance of landing chief executive roles in Europe than they would if they stayed in the US.
"Silicon Valley is in the doldrums - everything's stalled. But the dotcom wave hasn't even started in Europe. A few European entrepreneurs will get top jobs in the Valley, but if they came back they would stand head and shoulders above their peers in Europe," said Crawford, adding that European startups would offer much the same remuneration as their US counterparts, such as attractive salaries and stock options.
Internet Incubator's US office is headed up by Herve Pluche, who most recently was president of Silicon Valley-based Telecom Italia Ventures. Pluche said the company would look to invest in and help early US startups launch into Europe, operating in markets such as ecommerce infrastructure, mobile communications and online industry exchanges.
Pluche believes it is never too early for young startups to think about expanding internationally and that they should consider pan-European expansion rather than country by country.
"In the past, companies could wait until after their initial public offering and then concentrate overseas, but they can no longer afford to do that. Europe is waking up to the internet, and as soon as the startups have proven technology they should begin to consider expanding into Europe," he said.
Nicole Weber, analyst at researcher IDC, agreed it is a good idea to try to tempt European talent back into the region, but said it would be hard work for the company to build a brand name in Silicon Valley where there are an abundance of web incubators.
"Incubators need to have a golden contacts file and be able to leverage those contacts. They should also have a credible name and be able to identify key partners," she said.
Internet Incubator, which received a $20m first-round funding in March, has already invested in three UK and one US startups. They are Click4home, which aims to build the UK's first online exchange for the building sector; broadband satellite specialist Espresso Productions; unified messaging supplier Coms.com; and Cresta, a US-based developer of video compression software that is expanding into Europe.
Financial details of each of the investments were not disclosed, but Pluche said the average investment is £1m.
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