The other day, I was reminded of how ignorant some cocky Silicon Valley aficionados can be when it comes to the rest of the world, when one of our posts hit Hacker News and promptly garnered a comment to the tune of "seriously, does Europe have any tech companies other than Skype and maybe Spotify? I can't name any others lol."
It was amusing at first, because there are of course many more, and perhaps this person was simply trolling. Besides, many in Silicon Valley and other places around the world are well aware that there are plenty of excellent and fast-growing tech companies coming out of Europe. Being able to name but two is a testament of one's stupidity, at best.
The more I thought about it, though, the more I figured it was part of our mission here at Tech.eu to give people some insights about what's happening here in Europe.
We're not looking to become uncritical cheerleaders, and we'll be the first to point out that the European technology industry has many crosses to bear and mountains left to climb, but we would like to set the record straight and hopefully open some eyes here and there.
While it's most definitely true that Europe has been unable to produce many global tech behemoths the size of SAP, and that you'll have to look elsewhere to find the companies owning the major platforms and networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), we'll be happy to challenge any assumptions you may have. Just so that next time someone says he or she can't name more interesting tech companies in Europe than there are fingers on their hands, you have somewhere to direct them to.
We'll even do you a favour and leave out most of the publicly-listed European tech giants like Yandex (Russia), Nokia (Finland), Opera Software (Norway), Mail.ru (Russia), Criteo (France), Ericsson (Sweden), StoneSoft (Finland - now part of McAfee), AVG Technologies (Czech Republic / The Netherlands), bwin.party (Gibraltar/UK) and F-Secure (Finland). Let's pretend they don't count.
Playtime in Europe
So you've heard of Spotify. Well, at least that's a start. What about music streaming rival Deezer (France), which may or not become available in the United States next year but has meanwhile managed to attract over 12 million users - 5 million of which are paid subscribers?
Or what about SoundCloud (Germany), the increasingly popular service for sharing all things audio, with more than 200 million users? Or Songkick (UK), which lets millions of people track their favourite bands and artists, and provides them with personalized news about live music events?
Or maybe you're one of the 400 million+ people around the world who've used Shazam (UK) to tag songs heard you've on the radio or television? Maybe you discovered a ton of new music on Last.fm (UK), or moved on to much younger, fresher services for that purpose, to places like Rushmore.fm (UK), Soundwave (Ireland), 3Plet (Estonia/Russia), Soundrop (Norway), or Mixcloud (UK).
Perhaps you're more into games, though. That's cool.
Are you a Minecraft fan? You can thank indie video game developer Mojang (Sweden) for that one.
Or do you prefer playing games on Facebook, your tablet or smartphone? Then you may have heard of Angry Birds, made by Rovio (Finland); or Candy Crush Saga, made by King (Sweden); or Diamond Dash, made by Wooga (Germany); or Clash Of Clans, made by Supercell (Finland); or Cut The Rope, made by Zeptolab (Russia/UK); or Dragon City, made by Social Point (Spain); or Total Domination, made by Plarium (Israel); or Criminal Case, made by Pretty Simple Games (France); or Rummi Plus, made by Peak Games (Turkey); or Top Eleven, made by Nordeus (Serbia); or Talking Tom, made by Outfit7 (Slovenia/Cyprus); or Subway Surfers, made by Kiloo (Denmark); or ...
To wit, the list goes on and on, and these aren't companies mucking about somewhere in the margins: they are some of the most successful developers on the Facebook platform, and among the makers of the highest-grossing games on the iOS App Store and Google Play.
And then there are the online betting, gambling and social casino games companies in Europe, many of which are growing like crazy. It would be nearly impossible to list all of them, but take a look at Betfair, Plumbee (UK), Akamon (Spain), Betable (UK) and Ongame (Gibraltar) for starters.
But perhaps you're more into video. Well, then meet Dailymotion (France), which attracted over 112 million unique monthly visitors and served more than 2,5 billion videos views worldwide last time it shared statistics (nearly a year ago). It's no YouTube, but it's nothing to sneeze at, either.
It's not just fun and games
Setting aside entertainment, let's take a look at what Europe has to offer on the business front.
In the enterprise file sharing and team collaboration space, there's Huddle (UK), which has over 100,000 organizations using its software today, and its lesser-known but fast-growing rivals Teambox (Spain) and Flowdock (Finland), while Podio (Denmark) continues to grow under Citrix's wings.
Then there are product management tools like Blossom (UK) and Readdle (Ukraine), great software that helps your organize your life like 6Wunderkinder (Germany) and Any.do (Israel), services that lets your organize and communicate within groups, such as GroupSpaces (UK), and solutions for connecting and integrating business-oriented applications like CloudWork.
There are applications like Datahug (Ireland), which helps people inside organizations better visualize and leverage relationships, and cool tools like Traity (Spain) that helps people measure and share their reputation. Apps like doo (Germany) let people find and access documents across platforms.
There are website-building service providers used by millions of businesses and people every month, such as Wix (Israel), which recently went public, and Jimdo (Germany) which has managed to compete against them and a host of other rivals with a mere $500,000 in funding.
There's also InvisibleCRM (Ukraine), an enterprise application integrator that has designed and delivered solutions for Salesforce, Oracle, NetSuite, EMC Documentum and many more.
Riding the waves
Let's look at 3D printing, one of the major tech trends of the hour, and you'll find companies like Materialise (Belgium - see our profile), iMakr (UK), 3D Hubs (The Netherlands), GrabCAD (Estonia) and Leapfrog (The Netherlands). This is anything but anecdotal, by the way - some reports in fact predict that Europe could become the world leader in 3D printing by 2020.
That other trend, connecting everything to the cloud? If you're interested, you're well-advised to keep track of companies like Option (Belgium), Gemalto (The Netherlands) and startups like Tado (Germany), Cloud Your Car (Poland), BERG Cloud (UK), Libelium (Spain) and Lock8 (UK).
Oh, and that other continuing tech trend, motion sensoring and gesture-controlled systems and interfaces? Israel has spawned not one but two innovative companies in this space that have been acquired (Omek Interactive by Intel, and PrimeSense by Apple) and we have an eye squarely fixed on SoftKinetic (Belgium) for a potential future strategic purchase.
You may have heard personal activity and health trackers are hot these days. Well, we're keeping our good eye on Withings (France), which is building and shipping Wi-Fi enabled body scales and baby monitors, alongside smart heart rate and activity tracking devices.
Buying and selling online
E-commerce is another oft-ignored strongpoint of many a European tech company.
Just look at the online payment and store solutions provided by the likes of Klarna (Sweden), GoCardless (UK), Adyen (The Netherlands), Leetchi (France) and Paymill (Germany), or mobile payment products such as iZettle (Sweden), SumUp (Germany) and payleven (Germany), or services that let anyone launch their online store in minutes, such as Tictail and Osom (Sweden).
It's not just service providers, either: I wonder how many people are aware of the size of the likes of Ozon (Russia), ASOS (UK), Zalando (Germany), Net-a-Porter (UK) and Spartoo (France), to name but a few, or the growth potential of sites like Bottica (UK), Navabi (Germany) and Shoply.
That whole flash sales e-commerce model that has blown up in recent years? Vente-Privée.com (France) pioneered that, thank you very much, and there are a ton of companies building massive businesses in their respective home markets: check out KupiVIP (Russia), Markafoni (Turkey), modnaKasta (Ukraine) and Privalia (Spain) for some examples.
Meanwhile, so-called 'conversational marketing' technology provider Neolane (France) was recently acquired by Adobe Systems for $600 million.
Other innovators you may have heard of
- Community-based traffic and navigation app Waze has many users, but also many suitors: it was finally picked up by Google for more than $1 billion.
- Perhaps you've used travel search site Skyscanner (Scotland) to research and/or book a trip? The company is growing fast, and recently raised funding from Sequoia Capital at a $800 million valuation.
- Did you know Kaspersky Lab (Russia) provides IT security solutions to over 300 million users and over 250,000 corporate clients worldwide?
- Ever used Prezi (Hungary) to spice up your presentation decks?
- Replaced your Android phone's stock keyboard with the SwiftKey (UK) app yet?
- Are you one of the dozens of millions of people using Viber (Israel/Cyprus) to message and call your friends free of charge?
- Farming may be none of your business, but Farmeron (Croatia) is turning it into a big business for them with their cloud-based farm management software products.
- In the fashion business? You might want to check out EDITD (UK) for your big data needs.
- Before the sharing economy was even a thing, Fon (Spain) was already trying to create a global free Wi-Fi network by letting people share their wireless Internet connections with others.
- Ever needed to transfer money to another country? Who needs banks - let me introduce you to TransferWise (Estonia/UK) and Kantox (Spain), my friends. Speaking of banks - don't be surprised if they're warily eyeing the progress Holvi (Finland) is making these days.
- Tired of Instagram yet? There are millions of people using alternative app EyeEm (Berlin).
Europe is terribly fragmented, and it's hard to see the forest for the trees sometimes. But this shouldn't be an excuse for anything to call the continent a giant wasteland for technology companies.
If you care to look, there are software and hardware pioneers, innovators and fast-growing tech startups in exciting spaces aplenty all across Europe. Heck, I've listed and linked to roughly 120 of them above, and this is only a fraction of what you can find if take a looking glass across the many regions that make up the European continent.
Evidently, this list is anything but exhaustive. There are many innovative and big technology companies missing from the list. Guess what: that's the point. Nevertheless, feel free to indicate which ones you would also include above - the comment floor is yours.
Oh, and seriously: next time someone tells you they don't know of any European tech companies apart from Skype, Spotify and 'that company that made Angry Birds', kindly share this article with him or her.
Featured image credit: Edel Puntonet / Shutterstock