Is This The Solution To Get ‘Lonely’ Europe Out Of Tech Rut?

It’s pretty evident that, when it comes to tech, two top dogs rule the global stage – China, and the US. 

The last few years have seen the tech sector produce a consistent line of exciting breakthroughs (just think back to the last year of Artificial Intelligence advancements). 

But the tech developments happening in China and the US are continuing to trump anything the rest of the world has to offer. So, where exactly is Europe in this tech arms race? 

It’s a question on everyone’s mind, including Leo Apotheker – leader of the German business software company SAP. Fortunately, the BBC reports that Mr Apotheker thinks he knows just the thing to get European entrepreneurs out of their tech rut. 

“A bunch of incompetent Europeans”

Mr Apotheker has an impressive portfolio in all things tech. He ran SAP, a business software company that rose to dominate its field and, additionally, became chief executive of US tech giant Hewlett-Packard. 

But today, Mr Apotheker is embarking on a new challenge. The aim – to bring Europe’s underwhelming track record of producing giant tech firms to an end. 

Mr Apotheker believes that, despite its history, Europe has a lot of offer in the technology sector. “We’re not just a bunch of incompetent Europeans who are only good for going to the beach”, he says. 

Mr Apotheker, now partially retired, has spent the last ten years advising small software companies. Now, this tech veteran is part of what he sees as Europe’s solution to its poor track record. 

This solution is Boardwave – an executive networking programme for European software CEOs, Founders, Chairs, and the like. 

The purpose of this platform is to bring together and nurture software leaders across Europe. This is done in the hopes that tech entrepreneurs from across the continent will help each other to build stronger businesses in the sector. 

Boardwave’s founder Phill Robinson and Mr Apotheker hope that this will elevate Europe’s tech scene to the likes of that in California and Silicon Valley. 

Why Is Europe Dragging Its Feet?

Boardwave is the newest solution to Europe’s tech problem. But what has been causing this continental lull in the first place? 

Of course, the idea of a total lull would be false. Europe has had varied success in the technology sector. Mr Apotheker points out that in specialist fields such as financial software (fintech), the UK is in the lead. But why aren’t there more? 

Mr Apotheker rejects the idea that money is easier to find in the US than in Europe, and instead puts forward the argument that European tech entrepreneurs are struggling due to a lack of peers. 

“I lived in Silicon Valley and there’s always a group of people around who can give you advice. When I ran SAP and needed advice I talked to the wall!, ” says Mr Apotheker.

There were a lot of decisions I struggled with at SAP and I wish I could have talked with someone who’d been there before me, someone I could bounce ideas off.”

Mr Apotheker believes that Boardwave could end what he sees as a central issue that stands in the way of his youthful successors: “Boardwave is trying to mentor other company bosses to help them grow. Being in charge can be a very lonely job. You worry about something in the middle of the night and it keeps on chewing at you.”

“The value of picking up the phone and talking to someone is huge.”

Boardwave: A Delve Into Its Solution

Mr Robinson, the founder of Boardwave, is just as candid in his reasoning for kicking off this interconnective space. 

Mr Robinson is a British former software boss who has lived in Silicon Valley. His brainchild Boardwave came after his retirement from Silicon Valley after a diagnosis of Parkison’s Disease. 

The diagnosis left Mr Robinson driven by a pressing sense of time and a desire to spare future tech pioneers the pains he endured in the sector, a desire shared by Mr Apotheker. 

After an impressive career in business software, Mr Robinson hopes that Boardwave will be his rallying cry to bring Europe’s entrepreneurs together in the tech industry. 

“I believe Europeans have a great talent pool but it’s fragmented. We’re 1,000 miles across while Silicon Valley is 40 miles long.” 

To bring European tech pioneers together, start-ups that register with Boardwave can connect with mentors. Boardwave then aims to aid these companies towards the critical stage of a £100m turnover. After this point, these companies can go on to make a name for themselves on the global stage. 

Elsewhere in Europe, initiatives can be seen trying to bring together the continent’s top tech minds. For example, in Finland, the annual gathering Slush provides a place for tech start-ups to meet potential investors. Furthermore, European airline makers came together to make Airbus – a planemaker that overtook American company Boeing as the largest in the world. 

Both Mr Robinson and Mr Apotheker see Europe as too fragmented. It does not have a huge home market to tap into as the US does. Nonetheless, European achievements such as the Slush gathering, the hugely successful Airbus, and now Boardwave, are all guiding lights leading the way for the future of the continent’s technology scene. 

Founded on a kitchen table in 2022, Boardwave now has 800 members, chief executives and founders across Europe.