Europe’s Success Stories On Scaling Globally

By Charmaine Niewerth // 24 November 2020

Hot off the back of their hugely successful IPO, Matthew Moulding, Co-Founder and CEO, The Hut Group joined Poppy Gustafsson, Co-Founder & CEO of UK Unicorn Darktrace and Bernard Liautaud, Managing Partner at Balderton Capital for the latest FF Live event entitled “Europe’s Success Stories & the Path to Scaling Globally”.

Taking a look behind the curtain of the UK’s largest tech IPO, we were delighted to have London Stock Exchange Group Group Director of Capital Markets Murray Roos moderate the discussion and facilitate the dynamic Q&A with +300 participants.

Historically Europe has been slow to realise the potential of tech

“We Europeans traditionally haven’t fully understood the importance of tech”
Bernard Liautaud

  • The disparity between the numbers of European and US tech giants is in part down to under-appreciation of the potential value of technology through both the software and internet waves of the past two decades, especially by later stage investors 
  • This has been frustrating for founders and tech-focused investors given the fact Europe does have many of the most brilliant minds and institutions
  • Conditions are improving however; there are growing tech hubs in London, Berlin and Paris, more unicorns emerging, improving government support, and more people founding businesses across the continent
  • The future looks positive, as long as Europeans keep starting businesses, investing in tech companies, and spreading the gospel of technology

“What we have now are founders who are true captains of industry; folks who have a true planetary vision, and want to build 100bn dollar giants as a life mission”
Bernard Liautaud 

Launch where your customers are, but scale globally as quickly as possible

“Maintaining proximity to your customers, especially in the early days, helps generate key feedback loops that are essential to growth” – Poppy Gustafsson

  • In launching a customer facing business, especially one that requires high-touch account management, being physically close to your customers is key to ensure ease and regularity of check-ins
  • However, look to launch internationally as early as you can, as it forces you to learn how to innovate to serve international markets. For example, Darktrace had an international office in the US from when the business was just 9 months old
  • In pushing for global scale, be sure to maintain the underlying principles of the business, such as ensuring consistent quality in your executive team, good board governance, and a razor-sharp focus on revenue or profit

Focusing on Diversity & ESG isn’t just right; its good for business

“My focus as a CEO is to combine growth with shareholder value maximisation. For me, this directly aligns with the goal of making a diverse organisation – they are one and the same” – Poppy Gustafsson

  • Darktrace’s unusual approach – building a 40% female workforce in tech – has served them well since the early days, bringing in new perspectives and a different profile to traditional tech businesses
  • Having diversity as a core principle from the early days has made excellent business sense, and now the business is large, giving back to the industry by working with grassroots initiatives to keep pushing diversity is key

“Our whole group is carbon neutral, and being able to stand apart from other brands is essential” – Matt Moulding

  • The Hut Group operates as carbon neutral at group level, and this has helped to sell the platform technology to new clients, and raise new capital, as ESG becomes a hygiene factor for many businesses and investors 
  • In fact, a business is limiting itself if not ESG focused in 2020, as increasing numbers of asset classes and investors are moving towards ESG funds, limiting available capital to those businesses that do not prioritise sustainability

It’s lonely at the top, especially as you scale, but a great team are key to supporting you

“As a founder, you have to understand that nobody else can ever walk in your shoes”
– Matt Moulding

  • A founder has to understand that it’s a lonely journey, especially as your business grows beyond 100 employees and scales internationally, and that while others can support, no one else can make those big decisions for you
  • As your organisation scales, ensuring you have a great exec team is key to remaining connected to the business, and not getting isolated

Owning the comms around your company’s IPO is key for influencing public perception 

“I haven’t reported my IPO nearly as well as I should’ve done. My advice is to really educate people about what is different about your IPO” – Matt Moulding

  • Golden shares and dual-class voting structures are relatively uncommon in Europe, and are most commonly connected with US big-tech founders looking for preferential voting rights
  • In his recent IPO, Matt Moulding explained his preference for to have a dual-class system with was largely to prevent hostile takeovers for a fixed period of time, not to give himself preferential voting rights in day-to-day business decisions
  • His advice to founders of growing businesses was to ensure you prepared when communicating the details of your IPO to the market, because there are a myriad of opportunities for miscommunication
  • The panelists agreed that the upcoming review of listing guidelines & free float rules is welcomed by entrepreneurs to ensure that European exchanges are seen as the first port of call for technology companies and as attractive as listing in the US or Asia.

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FF Live is the home of Founders Forum’s online event series, including fireside chats, brainstorm sessions, Q&As, panels and founder-focused advice. Run independently and as collaborations with our partners, FF Live seeks to recreate the magic of Founders Forum, wherever we are in the world. To keep up with the FF Live series,  subscribe to Founders News for weekly updates and the latest tech news delivered to your inbox.