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  • Thierry Spanjaard

US or Europe, mafias for business

TNW Valencia brings together founders, investors, corporates, and governments interested in high tech. It is the opportunity to discover new technologies, new projects and to confront them with different ideas. An idea that never wears out is the question about the three most essential factors in commerce; the answer is “location, location, location!”



This was demonstrated yesterday by Phill Robinson, founder of Boardwave, in his session focusing on creating the next generation of European tech companies. He compared the Silicon Valley ecosystem with the European one. He established four key conditions for success in the European software market: government support, access to capital, patience and resilience, and a supportive community.

This is where the comparison gets the most interesting. Phill Robinson pointed out the Silicon Valley is 40 miles long while Europe is 4,000 miles wide. In the Silicon Valley, people involved in software know everyone, they have their kids in the same school, they go to the same tennis or mountaineering club, etc. Conversely, Europe is fragmented by different languages, different regulations, different levels of government bureaucracy, etc. While Europe has got talents, it is still missing capital. His example was the PayPal mafia, people who were at PayPal at its very beginning, when it was still Confinity, combined with Elon Musk’s x.com, until the acquisition by eBay in 2002. These PayPal mafia members know each other quite well, they have expanded to multiple tech companies all over the Silicon Valley and across a wide spectrum of businesses including YouTube, LinkedIn, Yelp, Stripe, Palantir, Square, etc.

Now instead of talking about Europe, let’s consider our own clusters in our own secure transactions industry. The PayPal mafia can be compared in our Gemplus mafia, Oberthur mafia, STMicroelectronics mafia, Infineon mafia, etc.…. The phenomenon is the same: people who have worked together, even two or three decades ago, know each other and build nowadays technology developments together. If we consider the current startup and scaleup secure transactions industry ecosystem, these so-called mafias are at the top of creativity and innovation, developing businesses of today and tomorrow. In addition, those who were working in the secure transactions industry, even before it was called so, and living under the sun of Provence, where among the most innovative: they wanted to keep on creating and developing technology without leaving from the region. This how the “Provençal Silicon Valley” was created with a strong fabric of innovative companies of all sizes, representing the most geographically concentrated hotbed of innovation in the secure transactions industry, most of them having their roots in Gemplus or STMicro.


So, Europe may not have the leadership of Silicon Valley in software, but in the secure transactions industry, as well as in many others, we have no reason to be ashamed!

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