(Editor’s note: This post by Rob Gordon includes takeaways from our Eyes Wide Open event, part of our Tech Sister Cities program. Rob and Miriam Frosi attended our event. Eyes Wide Open brought American private equity investor Jonathan Blue from the United States to Eindhoven. Jonathan discussed how Americans approach risk, and what investors expect from startups looking for early stage capital.)
BY ROB GORDON
Miriam and I are city council members in Eindhoven and we’re not entrepreneurs or investors.
Our role is different:
Our goals and interests are to ensure economic development of this Brabant region and, of course, our city.
Economic growth in Holland is strong: Our local growth rate in the Brainport Region is one of the highest in Europe and within this country. The city of Eindhoven is outperforming.
In general, we believe in meetings between entrepreneurs and investors such as Eyes Wide Open. They are very important because they offer opportunities for both sides. New ideas are being put forward and business models and strategies are discussed.
American investors are more than welcome in our region to participate in our economy. They clearly contribute to a more diverse approach in investments and bring a strong willingness to invest in young companies.
Jonathan Blue gave a clear picture of the focus on investments and the stages of development of new companies. He was direct and to the point. We liked that very much.
Dutch investment companies mostly start discussions by mentioning their long history, control of their own management, amount of certificates and their contribution to social and environmental problems. They say you must realize there are long procedures: three to six months if lucky before your proposal is evaluated.
So Jonathan’s presentation was very different.
Beside the possibility of investments, which are themselves useful, of course, Jonathan clearly expressed the value of his commitment to bring contacts in from other regions of the world and offers on an almost daily basis advise how to manage and focus on entrepreneurship; eg, be prepared for exits at several stages.
This doesn’t come to mind for most young people when they start a company.
He advised [entrepreneurs] to bring in true partnerships. So we learned new contacts are absolutely necessary to enhance growth in a short time and to stay on top of your marketplace.
Dutch engineers are very often oriented only on new studies, tech, prototypes and in the meantime, they’re running a company.
They start with almost no knowledge of business administration.
So there is a huge risk … and there Jonathan brought in invaluable advice.
From the entrepreneurs, I heard they were very committed to their own city and region. “Here is where we live and operate. Our friends are here, etc.” They don’t want to leave this area.
And to my surprise, they said they wouldn’t like the intellectual property to leave the area as well.
We learned that for fast growth, we should look at more markets. We need access to those other regions and we need more focus on business, not just engineering.
For us, it is important this region benefits from working together not only short-term but in the long run. My suggestion is that in working together, the local partner should bring in strong partnerships with other locals and local expertise, and American investors bring in partners from other areas around the world.