Exactly a year ago, we decided to go on a European tour with The Family. A bit like rockstars (but without the screaming fans), we headed to 13 cities over 9 months and explored their respective tech ecosystems. Lisbon, Tallinn, Copenhagen, Bucharest, Amsterdam, Budapest, Kyiv, Warsaw, Prague, Brussels & Madrid; we learned a lot.

But we realized Europe doesn’t exist. What? Let me explain 😄

We’ve been on the run… 🏃🏻‍♂️

We wanted to meet the right people to have the real picture. To be honest, years of attending WebSummit, Slush & Tech Open Air didn’t mean we had a European network, it just meant we knew a lot of Tech Tourists (and not enough Tech Locals). That’s exactly what we wanted to change. So when we started to map out the different ecosystems, we decided to start from scratch, reading a lot and cold-emailing people we thought were key.

Then we developed a recipe to maximize the impact of a 2-day trip. Here’s the 5-step recipe we applied for each of the 13 cities:

  1. bring a full-stack commando team (Mathias, Emilie, Lorenzo, Balthazar, Oussama & I)
  2. meet with 15 top VCs, angels & community people
  3. host an event with 150+ guests about how to leverage Europe’s strengths
  4. host Office Hours with 30 local founding teams and
  5. host a small 10-person dinner with post-Seed/Series A founders.

That’s how we started relationships with ~800 new people across Europe and met an additional ~500 founding teams.

Like any good Mediterranean guests, we came bearing gifts! Small gifts, sure, but thoughtful ones. We didn’t know anyone in Bucharest, Lisbon or Kyiv, but we knew loads of great people in Paris, London & Berlin. So we offered intros, advice, opinions & good food, since we believe good relationships start by ‘Paying it Forward’ without knowing where that will lead! At The Family we say a great entrepreneur can come from anywhere, but that’s true for a great European friend as well 🙂 We were not looking for transactional relationships, we were looking for people we liked and felt we could do business with for the next 15 years.

Europe doesn’t exist (yet) 😭

We met lots of amazing people in every city, but quickly realized that the only mutual friends we had were American, not European… The best people in each ecosystem knew our friends from San Francisco but almost no one from Paris or Berlin. For founders from 2nd-tier hubs, that means it’s easier to launch the US as a second market than any other country in Europe. That got us a bit irritated, especially because there wasn’t one city were we didn’t meet truly amazing people, and that was just by spending a couple of days in each place. Why is that and what can we do?

  1. We need to travel *way* more. For lots of Americans, NYC/SF trips are a bi-weekly habit. Meet people, explore unknown markets, start building relationships, even if just during a couple of days while on holiday! We have no common European myths yet, but those will start with having more European friends. And let’s be honest, there are no ugly cities in Europe, so the downside is limited (at worst you have a nice leisurely time) and the upside unlimited (new business and friendships). And if you don’t know who you should meet, ask us 🙂
  2. We need to align incentives to help founders operate faster in terms of distribution and execution. Europe is fragmented? Let’s change the DNA of our companies by getting investors from multiple countries on board as soon as Series A. This way, the types of opportunities and intros founders are exposed to will drastically change. They’ll have “friendvestors” with skin-in-the-game, ready to pave the best way to their markets.
  3. We need to stop complaining. Yes, tax, corporate, and hiring laws are all different across Europe. But if we’re obsessed over the things that don’t work , we’re never gonna build anything, that’s for sure. We need to realize that’s it’s *way* easier to do business between two European countries than between two Indian states. True story, India has 22 different official languages, no unified Goods and Services tax in between the 29 (very) different states, a super fragmented market and yet has produced more unicorns than Europe in the past 15 years.

European VC Unconference Series 💸

To accelerate these cross-European friendships and aligning of incentives, we’ve decided to host a series of exclusive VC Unconferences. The concept is simple: 25 selected VCs from mature hubs (Paris, London and Berlin) learn from 25 selected investors from up-and-coming ecosystems (Tallinn, Copenhagen, Lisbon, Bucharest, etc.) during highly-interactive roundtable sessions.

The 1st session was hosted last week at The Family’s Paris office, and was a success for a few reasons:

  1. The format: The Unconference isn’t organized around a panel where a passive audience is listening to a few speakers; instead it’s designed to spark highly interactive conversations between 8–10 people accompanied by a moderator. It helps to tear down the boundaries between attendees, to go deeper on topics and to keep everyone involved.
  2. The food: From breakfast to lunch and then dinner with 50 French seed-stage founders, the day was also organized around sharing great food with great people. Building trust and genuine connections with like-minded European tech lovers is something we thrive on.
  3. The Family: I had to find another “F”, and this one was too tempting to pass up! As one of our co-founders recently tweeted, people think our business is spending time advising startups, but really our business is to build a network of people who love each other so much that they’re ready to do irrational things because of those connections. Founders, now VCs, and that’s just the beginning…

None of this means we’re bearish on Europe. Au contraire, our co-founder Nicolas Colin just issued a newsletter on the 10 reasons why he’s bullish on Europe, give it a read 💖 We think the past few years have been amazing in Europe AND that there’s still a long way to go for Europe to become a truly integrated ecosystem that’ll support the growth of giants.

Onwards! 🚀

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PS: Special thanks to our friends at Adara, Aglaé, Angular, Anterra, Armilar, AVentures, Backed, Balderton, Blossom, Breega, ByFounders, Change Ventures, Connect, Credo, Daphni, Eventures, Endeit, Enern, Felix, Fly, Frst, Gecad, GR Capital, Heartcore, Hummingbird, Idinvest, Index, K Fund, Karma, Kerala, Kima, La Famiglia, LauncHub , Market One, Nordic Makers, NorthZone, Point Nine, Prime, RTA, Runa, Samaipata, Samsung Next, Seedcamp, Seeya, SpeedInvest, Stride, SuperAngel, Tera, & Xange.