Decoding Ambition / Secrets of Start-Up Success

We're pleased to share research from 300 tech founders and co-founders in Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden and the UK. The research, which is hosted on a dedicated microsite for entrepreneurs, was conducted with founders running established fintech, enterprise tech and consumer tech businesses with a minimum of $1m in revenue. It includes interviews with the entrepreneurs behind BlaBlaCar, iZettle, Made.com, Mr & Mrs Smith, Shazam, Treatwell and Zoopla.

The aim was to better understand the common ambition of Europe’s tech founders, their attributes and influences, and their approach to tackling shared scale-up challenges.

It showed that contrary to popular belief, entrepreneurs in Europe are not a rebel force instead they were model pupils who attended university, and 75% said “I got on well with my family”. The majority of respondents said they were inspired to become entrepreneurs by those around them; 65% had people in their close family or friendship group who had started a business.

It also investigated the challenges founders face as they scale their companies, this included building a distinctive culture, securing access to finance and consumer education. The hunt for talent came out on top with 68% citing that it this the most important for growth. Culture and leadership measures became more important for companies with a value of more than $50m. The data also scrutinised the need for more reliable scale-up advice and business building support. The findings suggest relationships between founders and boards are not straightforward, 61% of entrepreneurs said, “finding the right balance of skills for my board has been difficult to achieve”. Reliable sources of advice can also be hard to come by with 63% of first time founders saying that business leaders did not give good advice. When asked about the future ambition for their business, 44% of founders said that they were thinking about an IPO compared to 23% who would opt for a trade sale.

Davor Hebel said: “We hope that we’ve started to demystify the concept of ambition so founders who want to give it a go can, and those already on the journey can lean on some practical advice. Europe is a highly fragmented market geographically but we’ve found there’s more that binds entrepreneurs in Europe together than divides them. Most had happy childhoods, were extremely hardworking and have faced similar challenges as they’ve grown their companies. Scaling a company in Europe is hard, as an ecosystem we need to encourage more entrepreneurs to keep sharing their stories to inspire the next generation.”

Over the next 12 to 18 months we will collect the experiences of European entrepreneurs through this survey and host a series of events to discuss and advise on key scaling pain points from board management to talent acquisition.