High-tech start-ups aiming to expand globally usually face one main, immediate barrier - the lack of business and strategy knowledge needed to drive growth for the technology they have built, says Bitdefender’s founder, Florin Talpeș, in a panel about innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe hosted by DLD (Digital-Life-Design) in Munich.
“When we talk about scaling up a hi-tech company, regionally or globally, the main barrier is having business skills", Talpeș says. “When you have the opportunity to attract funds for business development from investors, a large part is used on expanding in mature markets – i.e. US, Western Europe, Japan -, places with a very high level of competitiveness in business skills. In order to succeed in those markets, you need business talents with proven record to help you achieve the main objectives.
“In Europe, the more you go from the West to the East, the less you find this kind of skill,” he says. “Moreover, Europe acts differently in terms of buyer behavior from a country to the other. If the US can be targeted as a unitary whole, Europe is more diverse and mixing this kind of DNA together can be an important leverage for a business, yet difficult to target as a market for a start-up without the specific skills.”
He finds major differences between American and European start-ups. The Europeans have a strong culture in research and development but the mindset of American entrepreneurs of growing unicorns from scratch and their forward-thinking come from focusing and prioritizing. Europeans tend to put all their efforts into creating the technology and avoid marketing campaigns during the first steps of development and design. Start-ups should also focus on marketing during the design to increase the chances of success. Business development also means product management, so entrepreneurs can understand from the beginning if the product feeds the market’s needs. All business ingredients, including the marketing plan, have to be ready in the initial phase, because reality proves success is not only about R&D but also about business strategies.
“The business skills shortage prompts start-ups that gain external investments to immediately move from the country of origin to London or the United States, the main honeypots where the entrepreneurs are able to add a business layer over the technical one,” Talpeș says. “Even if the technical leaders from the company are relocated in this business global hubs, the tech teams will continue to work in the country of origin. We have to build this kind of business skills all over Europe to break down the migration phenomena.”
The entrepreneur thinks it is essential for thigh tech start-ups to get this kind of knowledge from the headquarters, because there is a major difference regarding the business intelligence between the HQs and the subsidiaries. “In the US, we observe very highly skilled executives in fast growth and business tech trends which are keen to provide advice. One way for a start-up to earn knowledge is to give a few shares for free to get the best consultancy in terms of business development.”
The panel moderated by Jennifer Schenker adressed the growing digital market in Europe. Florin Talpeș was joined in the debate by Neelie Kroes, founder of StartupDelta, Katja Speck, from DigitalMarketExpert, and Nikolay Kolev, from Deloitte Digital.
Bitdefender is a global security technology company that delivers solutions in more than 150 countries through a network of value-added alliances, distributors and reseller partners. Since 2001, Bitdefender has consistently produced award-winning business and consumer security technology, and is a leading security provider in virtualization and cloud technologies. Through R&D, alliances and partnership teams, Bitdefender has raised global standards of security with its #1-ranked technology and its strategic alliances with the world’s leading virtualization and cloud technology providers.
The US market is the most important for Bitdefender in terms of revenue and number of employees outside the home country –from a total of 900. Bitdefender has earned the trust of US customers - from the home user to the largest corporations - and focuses on staying ahead of the competition and helping clients reinvent security to meet the challenges of today. Some 7% of the planet’s population places trust directly or indirectly in Bitdefender every day through the companies they work for.